Abu Dhabi to introduce 30 per cent alcohol sales tax

The charge will come into force after Ramadan

Rows of wine glasses
Powered by automated translation

Abu Dhabi will introduce a 30 per cent tax on alcohol sold in off-licence outlets.

Retailers have received a circular informing them about the introduction of the new tax.

The levy will come into force on June 15 after Ramadan, bringing it in line with Dubai, which already imposes a 30 per cent municipality tax on alcohol sold in off-licence outlets.

A Dh230 fee will also be introduced for special licenses, which enable non-Muslims to purchase alcohol. The licenses were previously free.

Retailers were informed about the changes, which are being brought in by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, several weeks ago.

Many have displayed notices in stores to inform their customers of the changes, and some, such as Spinneys, are offering discounts in the run up to the introduction. The chain is offering a 15 per cent discount on the price of non-promotional items from tomorrow until the end of the month, according to staff at one of its stores.

News of the 30 per cent hike has been the subject of much discussion on social-media among expatriates – many of whom have said they will be stocking up before June 15.

A lot of the reaction has been negative, but it has garnered some support.

“Calm folks! It could have been 100 per cent just like tobacco. Especially as they’re taxing these ‘drugs’ for your own benefit and health,” wrote one member of the Abu Dhabi Q&A Facebook page.

It is not yet clear if the fee is inclusive of or additional to the 5 per cent VAT that applies to goods and services in the UAE.

Some outlets are offering pre-tax discounts this week before the fee introduction.

In the UAE, alcohol is available across most of the country – but there are very strict rules regarding the sale of wine, beers, spirits and other alcoholic drinks.

Sharjah is the only “dry” emirate in the UAE. Elsewhere, people can drink in specially licensed bars and restaurants and purchase alcohol from off-licenses, which are often, but not always, located near supermarkets.

Only Dubai and Abu Dhabi issue licences that can be used to purchase alcohol at special retailers.

A licence is obligatory for non-Muslim residents in the UAE who wish to consume alcohol at hotels, bars, restaurants and at home. These licences are valid only in the emirate that issued the licence.


Read more:

UAE legal Q&As: is there any limit to how much alcohol I can buy?


To obtain an alcohol licence, applicants must prove they are non-Muslim, are over the legal drinking age of 21, earn more than Dh3,000 a month and possess a UAE residency.

It is illegal to acquire, drink, supply, sell or offer alcoholic drinks to those without a valid licence, with a possible penalty of imprisonment for six months, a fine of Dh5,000 or both.

Tourists can consume alcohol in venues that are licensed, but if they commit a criminal offence while under the influence they may also face charges of consuming alcohol.