The Ministry of Finance (MoF) and the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), in cooperation with the Federal Tax Authority (FTA) and the International Tax and Investment Centre (ITIC), is organising the Arab Regional Tax Forum on 31 March, 2019 and April 1, 2019 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Dubai. H.E. Dr. Abdulrahman Al Hamidy, Director General of AMF; and H.E. Khalid Al Bustani, Director General of the FTA attended the ceremony. Senior officials from the Ministry of Finance, top tax policy and administration officials from all AMF member states, senior tax and finance executives from multinational enterprises, tax experts from international organisations, and renowned public finance academics also attended the event.
H.E. Dr. Abdulrahman Al Hamidy opened the forum with a welcome speech, following which Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Honorary Co-Chairman of ITIC and H.E. Khalid Al Bustani, Director General of the FTA gave the keynote addresses. The meeting deliberated ways of balancing tax policies, Arab countries' competitiveness in managing them, as well as the challenges facing these nations in pursuing their tax policies.
In his speech, H.E. Khalid Ali Al Bustani stressed the importance of holding meetings with senior officials and experts, especially in light of the great economic transformation the region is undergoing. He expressed hope that the Arab Regional Tax Forum will benefit all Arab countries through the discussions and knowledge-sharing on key issues.
H.E. Khalid Ali Al Bustani highlighted the UAE's example in taxation, pointing out that the country's strategy to diversify sources of income is what supports the development of its services and infrastructure. The Federal Tax Authority, in cooperation with relevant entities, has been able to implement a comprehensive and balanced tax system. The UAE is one of the first countries in the world to have a fully electronic tax system without any on-paper transactions. The system encourages voluntary compliance with business procedures, based on the highest standards of transparency and accuracy. This achievement is the result of the guidance of the wise leadership to make the UAE one of the best countries in the world by 2021, and to retain its competitive standing globally.
H.E. Khalid Ali Al Bustani said: “The selective tax in the last quarter of 2017 and VAT in early 2018 were part of the agreements between the GCC countries. These taxes are among the lowest in the world and thus have minimal impact on society, but we expect this move to have a highly positive impact on economic and social development."
On the first day, several meetings deliberated topics related to taxation and related policies in Arab countries. These included subjects such as, Meeting the Challenges of the Future; Tax Base Protection in the Arab Region: New Perspectives and Implications and Implementing Global Tax Arrangements in Arab Countries; Harmful Tax Competition and Undertaking the Peer Review Process, and Tax Administration Automation in the Arab Region – Implementing the Next Wave.
Meanwhile, the second day of the forum will delve deeper on topics related to the application of tax systems in the Arab world, including application and enforcement of VAT and GST in the Arab region; innovations in tax administration: showcasing the UAE VAT administrative solution (subject to UAE FTA agreement); application and enforcement of indirect taxation regimes in Arab countries; international taxation of service companies and application of a transfer pricing regime in Arab Countries. The forum will also hold a public-sector only session on performance improvement for tax administrations.
The UAE began the application of selective tax in late 2017, which was followed by the Value Added Tax system in the beginning of 2018. The Ministry of Finance is currently conducting a joint technical study with officials in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the addition of new goods to the selective tax list, as well as to determine tax rates on certain harmful substances.