Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet has approved a new Tobacco License Regulation which will mean cafes and restaurants in the Kingdom will have to pay up to 100,000 Riyals annually to sell tobacco products in their premises and outside them. It is the latest move to tackle smoking in the Kingdom. The Kingdom has signed up to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which aims to reduce smoking rates from 12.7 to 5% by 2030.
Saudi Arabia’s Centre for Special Residency Permits is currently working on drafting the Implementing Regulations to the Special Residency Permits Law. The Regulations will include the conditions and procedures for applying for these permits. The Centre will announce details of the Implementing Regulations and how applications from applicants who are already in Saudi Arabia or from abroad will be handled. The aim of the law is to diversify the Saudi economy.
Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council has approved a draft special residency permits law and has submitted it to the Government to consider. The aim of the law is to provide various benefits to those who hold special residency permits including the right to recruit foreign worker, own property and transport vehicles and obtain visitor permits for family members. There are two types of special residency permit. The first is unlimited while the other is only available for one year but can then be renewed. It is similar to the Green Card system in the US and if approved will mean applicants will not have to have a Saudi sponsor or employer. To be eligible, applicants must have a valid passport with a credit report, a health report and no criminal record.
The Saudi Justice Minister Dr. Walid Al-Samaani has launched the ‘Najiz’ online portal which will cover 177 first instance courts in all regions of the Kingdom.
The portal is part of efforts to unify judicial proceedings, enable digital transformation to the judiciary and speed up the litigation process. It was set after restructuring of procedures were adopted in all Saudi courts and a new judicial procedure system document was issued and digitized.
The portal is being considered a step towards a full digital transformation in all sectors. A service called ‘appeal without transcript’ has been introduced which enables first instance courts to send a case file to the court of appeal electronically in just a few minutes, and automatically receive the court’s reply. Task forces have also been formed to carry out the proceedings of the courts and compare them to legal proceedings, criminal court proceedings and related regulations, and proceedings in other countries.
The portal will be rolled out in four stages, and there will further updates to facilitate services.
Saudi Arabia’s Trade and Investment Minister has announced a new bank for Small and Medium Enterprises will be established. The Minister confirmed permission to open the bank has been issued and relevant bodies will have to cooperate with the International Bank to prepare the necessary study. He added the law for Competition and Procurement are being finalised and will empower SMEs.
Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Zakat and Tax has issued the updated Zakat Regulations in Arabic.
The Regulations are subject to certain exceptions, effective for financial years beginning on or after 1 January 2019 and supersede the provisions of all the previous Regulations and any conflicting circulars, instructions and Decisions.
The key changes include, amongst other things, new rules on how finance activities will be treated for Zakat purposes and a change to the Zakat rate applicable to the Zakat base. A permanent establishment of a non-resident Saudi or GCC national will be treated as a Zakat payer subject to a certain condition being met.
Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Zakat and Tax has issued guidelines on transfer pricing in Arabic and English. They cover the basic concept of transfer pricing and arm’s length principle. The Authority provides specific guidance on financial transactions, intangibles and business restructuring. The guidelines also provide guidance on selection of transfer pricing method, transfer pricing documentation, valuation, transfer pricing adjustments and details on audits.
Saudi Arabia’s Labour and Social Development Ministry (MLSD) has issued a draft Decision on the mandatory requirement for private sector employers to upload their entire workforce’s employment contracts to the General Organisation for Social Insurance’s (GOSI) electronic portal. The draft law has been sent for public consultation and is expected to come into effect in the next couple of weeks. Depending on the total number of workers, companies will have to upload contracts for a specific portion of their headcount within deadlines set out in the Ministerial Decision. The uploading process must be completed for the whole workforce by the end of 2019.
Saudi Arabia has launched a new anti-corruption office to monitor state spending as part of its ongoing anti-corruption fight. The Financial Reporting Office will be part of the state General Auditing Bureau. It follows the end of an anti-corruption drive which raised more than $100 billion and saw tens of people arrested.
According to local newspaper reports, Saudi Arabia has promulgated a new law to tackle terrorism and terrorist funding. The new law which is now in effect aims to protect the Kingdom from terrorist attacks and maintain national security. It also clamps down on the use of charities and non-profit institutions as facades to cover the funding of terrorist activities. Under the Law, prosecutors will be able to request records or documents from suspicious institutions and compel charities to implement provisions of the law.