Oman’s Manpower Ministry has announced a professional visa ban for sales and marketing professionals has been introduced. The ban is contained in Oman Decision No. 268/2019 and means the visa ban will continue for another six months from 31 May. It will not apply to visa renewals but will apply to new visa applications.
Oman’s Secretariat General for Taxation has announced selective tax will be introduced in the Sultanate on 15 June. It will apply to tobacco, pork meat and energy and soft drinks. 50% tax on soft drinks will be levied and 100% on tobacco, pork meat and energy drinks. Manufacturers, importers and those selling these goods in the country will have to pay the tax. By 14 June they will have to have to submit a declaration stipulating they deal with these goods. The tax will have to be paid by 30 June.
The UAE’s Federal Tax Authority has announced tax agents in the country must comply with the five professional standards for tax agents. It follows the publication of a new professional standards guide by the Authority. It provides a detailed explanation of the five standards and conditions tax agents must comply with. These standards are integrity, objectivity, professional competence, confidentiality and professional behaviour. The Authority can strike a tax agent off if they consider it appropriate. They must notify the agent within five working days of their decision and give the reasons. In addition, agents can only practise if they have been approved by the Authority and will be accountable to the Authority.
Oman’s Capital Market Authority has announced it has issued new Takeover and Acquisition Regulations. Oman Decision No. 2/2019 will apply to public joint stock companies listed on the Muscat Securities Market (MSM). It has been published in the Official Gazette.
Oman’s Sultan has issued three Decrees including a Decree establishing the Credit and Financial Information Centre. Under Oman Sultani Decree No. 38/2019, a Credit and Financial Information Centre will be established. It will report into the Sultanate’s Central Bank. It will be independent legally as well as administratively and financially. All of the assets, data and their systems from the Banking Credit Information Statistics Department and the Central Bank will be transferred to the new Centre. The Board of Governors of the Central Bank will issue the regulations and decisions necessary to enforce Oman Sultani Decree No. 38/2019. Until they do, the relevant Central Bank regulations and decisions will continue to be enforced unless it contradicts or contravenes the new Decree.
Oman’s Central Bank has issued a Bank Resolution Framework which sets out the recovery and resolution regime for the Sultanate’s banking sector. It will apply to all banks who are designated as important domestic banks by the Central Bank. The Bank at its discretion may apply all or parts of the framework to any other bank licensed by it. The aim is to prepare banks for self-recovery and in the relevant circumstances allow the authorities to help them with minimal disruption to them and the wider banking sector and at the lowest possible cost.
Oman’s Capital Market Authority has announced the new Companies Law. Oman Sultani Decree No. 18/2019 will be enforced from 1 April 2019 and Oman Law No. 4/1974 will be repealed. The Authority also announced they will be responsible for enforcing all its provisions, except the registration of listed companies. The new Law was issued through Oman Sultani Decree No. 18/2019. Under the Law, a holding company will take the form of a joint stock company unlike previously where a holding company could be a limited liability or joint stock company. A new Article on establishing professional firms has also been introduced and special rules for how they are regulated will be issued in due course as will the Implementing Regulations to the Law.
Elsewhere, Oman’s Sultan has issued a Decree approving the Selective Tax Law which will come into force 90 days after the issuing of the Sultani Decree. It will see tobacco product, alcohol, energy drink and pork product prices increase 100% and carbonated drink prices by 50%. Oman Sultani Decree No. 23/2019 will come into force in June 2019 and the Sultanate is the fifth GCC country to introduce it. Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have already introduced the tax.
Oman’s Shoura Council is considering a new social media law. The head of the Council’s Media and Culture Committee said the law will not limit freedom of speech. They added the aim is to protect individuals, institutions or the country from rumours about them on social media. As part of this, where rumours are posted, the affected entity will be able to lodge complaints directly against them.
Oman Official Gazette, issue 1281 has included Oman Sultani Decree No. 18/2019 and at the same time some of the company law changes have become clearer. According to legal experts, Oman Sultani Decree No. 18/2019 has amended the company ownership rules for small firms. It also replaces individual institutions with sole proprietorships who will be regulated differently. Previously companies in the Sultanate could only be established with two proprietors.
Other changes include facilitating the process for companies to turn into SAOGs without the need to have a capital of 2,000,000 Riyals. In addition, these companies will now be regulated by the Capital Market Authority. It will also be easier for companies to merge and there are measures to help struggling companies, so they don’t have to declare bankruptcy. There are various guarantees including a public mandate for insurance to ensure bankrupt companies are insured. Voluntary liquidation must also be completed within three years now and judges can oversee liquidations.
Elsewhere the Government is considering a new Foreign Investment Law. If it is approved, it will allow foreign companies or individuals to increase their ownership in local companies to up to 100%. Currently foreign companies must have a local partner to do business in the Sultanate. The local partner must own 33% of the company. Additional restrictions on foreign entities having property assets or minimum capital requirements could also be introduced. Disputes will also be able to be settled by international arbitration.
Oman Official Gazette, issue 1280 has included Executive Regulations clarifying provisions in the Income Tax Law. The new Regulations are found in Oman Ministerial Decision No. 14/2019 and the amendments include changes on withholding tax, deductibility of expenses, tax exemptions, administrative procedures and the tax ability of enterprises. They also detail new forms for providing or updating taxpayer information and procedures for obtaining a tax card, electronic filing and onsite inspection. The changes generally apply from 11 February 2019, although some have retroactive application to tax years beginning on or after 1 January 2018. Taxpayers should check these amendments for implications they may have on their tax returns.
Oman’s tax authorities are also expected to begin issuing Tax Cards for all corporate entities, including LLCs, SAOCs, SAOGs, branches of foreign companies and permanent establishments operating in the Sultanate shortly. The Cards are mandatory for companies following amendments to the Income Tax Law which were issued last year. The cards will be either chip-based or take the form of an electronic document with a Unique Identification Number. Card applications will have to be submitted on the Tax Department portal once the forms are available online.
Preparations for VAT in Oman are continuing. Comments made by a representative of the Finance Ministry in a seminar organised by the Oman Chambers of Commerce and Industry indicate VAT implementation could be introduced as early as 1 September 2019. Industry body meetings, including the financial sector and the telecoms industry, are now starting, with a view to the Government devising practical guidelines for dealing with VAT compliance requirements.