The Federal Tax Authority (FTA) said yesterday it has extended the period for filing VAT returns for some companies, a move that will give those struggling with the implementation of the 5 per cent levy time to correctly comply with procedures.
The authority has extended "the accounting tax period by one to three months for some businesses", among other measures, said Khalid Al Bustani, the director general of the FTA. He did not specify the companies that will benefit from the new measures.
"The tax period for some businesses will, therefore, be four months, and five months for other businesses while businesses with a three-month tax period ending in March will not be affected by the amendments," he added.
The UAE began implementing VAT on January 1, but experts say many companies especially small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have struggled with the introduction of the 5 per cent tax, particularly those that delayed registration until the last minute. SMEs account for more than 60 per cent of the country’s GDP.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia are the first Arabian Gulf states to introduce VAT as part of numerous reforms aimed at shoring up dwindling government income from oil. The two biggest Arab economies also implemented excise tax on tobacco and energy and sugary drinks to create new sources of revenue.
The UAE expects to generate Dh12 billion in VAT revenue in 2018 and Dh20bn in the second year of implementation, according to government officials. The levy, however, is expected to increase consumer prices by about 1.4 per cent, officials have said.
Tax experts said the extension of the period for filing tax returns will help companies get it right.
“Based on what we have seen with a few of our clients, it looks like the FTA’s announcement reflects targeted outcomes for different companies. It is not a one size fits all,” said Bruce Hamilton, a partner of indirect tax at Deloitte Middle East. “It appears that it is a fairly well targeted move by the FTA to address the needs of the different entities to give them the best chance of ensuring that their first VAT returns are carefully prepared.”
Mr Al Bustani said in August that an estimated 350,000 companies were subject to VAT and should register before December 4, but many failed to do so. Online registration for VAT began in September, but experts say many businesses waited until the publication of the VAT executive regulations in November before they began the registration process.
The FTA has yet to say how many companies have registered for VAT, but it did this month urge those that have yet to do so to act quickly to avoid paying penalties.
“The extension of the tax periods will give businesses additional time to identify the correct VAT treatment and make the necessary adjustments before the VAT return is due,” said Shiraz Khan, senior tax adviser at law firm Al Tamimi & Company.
“The Federal Tax Authority have taken on board feedback and are keen to work together with the business community to help them be compliant with the VAT law.”