The value added tax is being introduced in the Gulf from January. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
The value added tax is being introduced in the Gulf from January. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

VAT approaches and with knowledge comes power

There hasn’t been a crisis or uncertainty in human history that has failed to suck in swathes of snake oil salesmen. What I hadn’t considered was that in the case of value added tax, the GCC would also attract the wacky sandwich-board men so beloved by tourists at Speakers Corner in London.

Sounding off from atop soap boxes to anyone who will listen to them are the deniers. "It will never happen. Remember income tax in Saudi Arabia in 1988? Sixteen days before it launched they cancelled it and no one has seen sight nor sound of it since."

They have a point. That said, many good points lead to the wrong conclusion. VAT is happening and will begin on the January 1, 2018.

Better organised and properly funded are those looking for believers, particularly those panicking because they’ve left it late to get started on their VAT compliance project. Offering universal cures, these hucksters bang their drums to attract and congregate worriers.

Have you received an invitation to attend a VAT training course? There are quite a few on offer in the UAE and they are not cheap. A couple of days will set you back up to US$2,000. Out of curiosity why are these quoted in dollars when we have dirhams?

Do I have a personal angle? As an accountant, I hate to see money potentially wasted. I’m not here to diss training, its important, but there is a queer attitude to it in the UAE. A reluctance to invest in human capital that is likely to stem from having a transient population. Another one of those good points that is ultimately counter intuitive.

You wouldn’t delay buying a new delivery truck just because it might break down. In any case, you can always safeguard training expense via time-tapered chargebacks if the trainee resigns.

Courses offer a good, but expensive, general introduction to VAT. As an area of study VAT is fiendishly complex. As light refracts producing rainbows, so do many VAT rules when interrogated. Unlike rainbows, the leprechauns at the end of these are collecting gold in the form of fines, not handing over pots of it.

Today it’s too late. You’ve already booked the course and made an upfront payment. Don’t worry about how lost your delegate might get among the other attendees, you have bigger issues.

Swishing around inside, being diluted among the others, is your industry sector with its specific VAT rules. Some sectors are more interesting or have amusing stories. Presenters often use these as a method of keeping audiences awake.

You may have conceived the idea of creating an organisational VAT champion but there is a possibility of unwittingly weaponising this employee’s knowledge. After all there is a critical shortage of skilled personnel in the GCC.

This champion could take advantage of their newly acquired skill premium and up sticks to a better package elsewhere. While this can leave an immediate bad taste in the corporate mouth, what can truly linger is the following. By applying Guru status to one individual, this risks the construction of an unassailable position within the organisation, its ramparts reinforced with VAT arcana.

You might think that it would only be a matter of time before unmasking. There are two reasons why this doesn’t happen, beginning with the leveraging of their relationship with the entity’s external auditors.

Auditors function affirm the material accuracy of an organisation’s financial results while validating their systems and controls more generally. The depth of this is dependent on the contracted engagement. Within the fee structure, your VAT champion might negotiate continuing first or further line support for VAT issues, thus acting as a last port of call when the individual’s knowledge, wider peer circle or Google search fails to satisfy a query.


Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

Voy! Voy! Voy!

Director: Omar Hilal
Stars: Muhammad Farrag, Bayoumi Fouad, Nelly Karim
Rating: 4/5

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8


Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

The biog

Family: wife, four children, 11 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren

Reads: Newspapers, historical, religious books and biographies

Education: High school in Thatta, a city now in Pakistan

Regrets: Not completing college in Karachi when universities were shut down following protests by freedom fighters for the British to quit India 


Happiness: Work on creative ideas, you will also need ideals to make people happy

About Tenderd

Started: May 2018

Founder: Arjun Mohan

Based: Dubai

Size: 23 employees 

Funding: Raised $5.8m in a seed fund round in December 2018. Backers include Y Combinator, Beco Capital, Venturesouq, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Paul Buchheit, Justin Mateen, Matt Mickiewicz, SOMA, Dynamo and Global Founders Capital

The specs

Engine: 3.6 V6

Transmission: 8-speed auto

Power: 295bhp

Torque: 353Nm

Price: Dh155,000

On sale: now

Going grey? A stylist's advice

If you’re going to go grey, a great style, well-cared for hair (in a sleek, classy style, like a bob), and a young spirit and attitude go a long way, says Maria Dowling, founder of the Maria Dowling Salon in Dubai.
It’s easier to go grey from a lighter colour, so you may want to do that first. And this is the time to try a shorter style, she advises. Then a stylist can introduce highlights, start lightening up the roots, and let it fade out. Once it’s entirely grey, a purple shampoo will prevent yellowing.
“Get professional help – there’s no other way to go around it,” she says. “And don’t just let it grow out because that looks really bad. Put effort into it: properly condition, straighten, get regular trims, make sure it’s glossy.”

Water waste

In the UAE’s arid climate, small shrubs, bushes and flower beds usually require about six litres of water per square metre, daily. That increases to 12 litres per square metre a day for small trees, and 300 litres for palm trees.

Horticulturists suggest the best time for watering is before 8am or after 6pm, when water won't be dried up by the sun.

A global report published by the Water Resources Institute in August, ranked the UAE 10th out of 164 nations where water supplies are most stretched.

The Emirates is the world’s third largest per capita water consumer after the US and Canada.