Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) – Non- Designated Zone

Set up in 2004, DIFC was established to oversee the strategic development, operational management and administration of Dubai’s financial companies. The Authority is committed to creating value for its various stakeholders.

This commitment is expressed in DIFCA’s four-tiered management strategy:

  1. Dubai Vision: Contribute to Dubai’s reputation as a global business hub by maintaining international standards, developing international relations, business and employment creation, and economic development.
  2. Infrastructure development: Provide world-class physical, legal and regulatory infrastructure, which has been tailor-made for the requirements of the financial and professional services community.
  3. Financial sustainability: Ensure the financial sustainability of DIFC and the companies established in the centre through a programme of resource alignment, financial risk management, and competitive benchmarking.
  4. Client centric: Support client growth through authority business process streamlining, service improvement, and enhanced management structures geared towards a superior client experience.

Business advantages of setting up a company in DIFC:

  • 100 percent foreign ownership.
  • Zero percent tax rate on income and profits for a period of 50 years from inception.
  • Potential access to the UAE’s wide network of double taxation treaties.
  • Freedom to repatriate capital and profits – without restrictions.
  • A world-class, independent, regulatory agency working alongside other financial regulatory agencies located in major global jurisdictions.
  • International legal system based on Common Law of England & Wales (the only Common Law jurisdiction in the region).
  • A wholly transparent operating environment, complying with global best practices and internationally accepted laws and regulatory processes.
  • An international stock exchange with primary and secondary listings of debt and equity instruments.
  • A variety of legal vehicles that may be established with capital structuring flexibility.
  • A pool of skilled professionals residing in Dubai and the region.
  • A modern transport, communications and internet infrastructure.
  • A responsive one-stop shop service for visas, work permits and other related requirements.

Regulatory bodies operating in DIFC:

  1. DIFC Authority:The DIFC Authority, established under Dubai Law No. 9 of 2004 as a juridical entity attached to the Government of Dubai, is the body charged with overseeing the operation and administration of DIFC. Its responsibilities include developing overall strategy and providing direction, promoting DIFC and attracting licensees to operate in DIFC.
  2. Dubai Financial Services Authority(“DFSA”): Created under Law No. 9 of 2004 and entirely independent of the DIFC Authority and the DIFC Judicial Authority, the DFSA is the integrated regulator responsible for the authorization, licensing and registration of institutions and individuals who wish to conduct financial and professional services in or from DIFC.
  3. DIFC Judicial Authority(“DIFC Courts”): The DIFC Courts’ statutory function is that of administering and enforcing the civil and commercial laws of DIFC.
  4. Registrar of Companies(“ROC”): The ROC operates under the Companies Law as a separate legal body established as a “Corporation Sole”. The ROC is responsible for advising on, receiving, reviewing and processing all applications submitted by prospective DIFC registrants seeking to establish a presence in DIFC in accordance with the Companies Law, the General Partnership Law, the Limited Liability Partnership Law, or the Limited Partnership Law, and the implementing regulations applicable thereto.
  5. Registrar of Securities(“ROS”): The ROS is responsible for recording and registering, and thereby establishes priority of, security pledged against loans, guarantees and other financial transactions.
  6. Registrar of Real Property(“RORP”): The RORP protects the rights of buyers, sellers and leaseholders.
  7. DIFC Investments(Company): LLC DIFC Investments operates and manages a diverse portfolio of investments in line with the development of the Centre’s investment strategy and policies. It works to form strategic alliances to further the goals and objectives of DIFC.
  8. Hawkamah Institute of Corporate Governance: Hawkamah Institute of Corporate Governance is an international association of corporate governance practitioners, regulators and institutions whose primary mandate is to develop corporate governance best practices in the Middle East.
  9. Mudara – Institute of Directors(IOD): Mudara – Institute of Directors (IOD) is a membership organization serving directors, professional leaders and governance professionals in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
  10. DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre: In early 2008, DIFC positioned itself as an international arbitration jurisdiction with the establishment of the DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre. A joint venture with the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), the centre offers dispute resolution services to business and commercial organizations worldwide.

Primary sectors of focus:

  • Banking & Brokerage Services
  • Wealth Management
  • Reinsurance & Captive Insurance
  • Islamic Finance
  • Ancillary Services
  • Capital Markets

Value Added Tax (VAT):

Value Added Tax (VAT) has been introduced across the UAE on 1 January 2018 at a standard rate of 5%.

Who should register for VAT?

A business whether situated in designated zone or non-designated zone or outside free zone should register for VAT if the taxable supplies and imports exceed the mandatory registration threshold of AED 375,000 within preceding 12 months or it is anticipated  that the total value of taxable supplies exceed AED 375,000 in the next thirty 30 days. Upon registration, a tax registration number (TRN) would be issued to business by the Federal Tax Authority.

What is a designated zone?

A Designated zone is a specified fenced geographical area having security measures and customs controls in place to monitor entry and exit of individuals and the movement of goods to and from the area. Following free zones are declared as designated zones.

a. Free Trade Zone of Khalifa Port
b. Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone
c. Khalifa Industrial Zone
d. Jebel Ali Free Zone (North-South)
e. Dubai Cars and Automative Zone (DUCAMZ)
f. Dubai Textile City
g. Free Zone Area in Al Quoz
h. Free Zone Area in Al Qusais
i. Dubai Aviation City
j. Dubai Airport Free Zone
k. Hamriyah Free Zone
l. Sharjah Airport International Free Zone
m. Ajman Free Zone
n. Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone in Ahmed Bin Rashid Port
o. Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road
p. RAK Free Trade Zone
q. RAK Maritime City Free Zone
r. RAK Airport Free Zone
s. Fujairah Free Zone
t. FOIZ (Fujairah Oil Industry Zone)

What is a non-designated zone?

Any free zone which is not declared as designated zone is a non-designated zone. In other words a non – designated zone is any geographical area within UAE which does not have any security measures and custom controls in place to monitor entry and exit of goods and individuals. Eg. DMCC, Dubai Media city, DIFC and Dubai Internet city.

What transactions are subject to VAT within Designated zones?

a) Goods transferred between designated zones shall not be subject to VAT. However goods supplied by an entity in the designated zone to entities outside the designated zone are subject to 5% VAT.
b) Services provided by an entity to other entities inside the designated zone or outside the designated
zone are subject to 5% VAT.
c) Professional fees for services are subject to VAT @ 5%.

What government/free zone fees (License/Visa/rent) are subject to VAT?

In case of designated zones the trade license fees, visa fees, lease rentals will not be subject to VAT. And in case of non-designated zones the trade license fees and visa fees are not subject to vat however rent is subject to 5% VAT.

If you need additional assistance or have any questions, please contact the following:
Tel: +971 4 343 8022