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Dubai’s Free Zones

Articles October 11, 2018

Dubai was the first emirate to pioneer the free zone model, offering foreign businesses attractive concessions and a number of investment incentives, including 100 percent ownership of a subsidiary and zero taxation. There are currently 22 free zones in operation, developed for specific sectors and industries including ICT, media, finance, gold and jewellery and health care. Jebel Ali Free Zone is now one of the world’s largest free zones allowing for 100 percent foreign ownership with no recruitment or sponsorship restraints. There is full corporate tax and customs duty exemption on imported raw materials and equipment, with no levy on exports and imports.

The major freezones in Dubai are:

Jebel Ali Free Zone

As one of the fastest growing free zones in the world, Jebel Ali Free Zone has achieved the following during the last four years:

  • Grown its customer base by over 60 percent o Increased its revenue at an average of 34 percent year-on-year
  • Increased contributions to Dubai’s GDP by 25 percent year-on-year
  • Sustained more than 160,000 jobs in the UAE
  • Accounted for more than 50 percent of Dubai’s total exports
  • Accounted for 25 percent of all container throughputs via the Jebel Ali Port
  • Accounted for 12 percent of all air freight at Dubai International Airport

Attracted 20 percent of all FDI inflows into the UAE

  • Doing business in Jebel Ali Free Zone offers the following benefits:
  • 100 percent foreign ownership o 100 percent repatriation of capital and profits o No corporate taxes for 50 years
  • No currency restrictions
  • No personal income tax
  • No custom duty o Streamlined, quick company set-up procedure
  • Company can own real estate property on Palm Islands or any properties owned by Nakheel Company LLC or real estate properties approved by the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority.

Dubai Airport Free Zone

Dubai Airport was established in 1996 and has become the premium free zone destination for a number of international blue-chip companies. Industries range from aviation, automotive, fashion and beauty to FMCG, ICT and telecoms. The Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZ) prides itself on its state-of-the-art facilities and location. Its unique facilities include connectivity and proximity to Dubai’s International Airport. Among the many key benefits, DAFZ-based businesses benefit from round the clock support, a 24 hours custom service and rapid cargo clearance through a dedicated logistics centre. Other exceptional advantages include:

  • 100 percent foreign ownership o 100 percent repatriation of capital and profits o No corporate taxes for 50 years
  • No currency restrictions
  • No personal income tax
  • No custom duty o Streamlined, quick company set-up procedure

Dubai Internet City

Dubai Internet City (DIC), the Middle East’s largest ICT infrastructure built inside a Free Zone, was established to support the business development of ICT companies.

DIC is a strategic base for companies targeting emerging markets in a vast region extending from the Middle East to the Indian subcontinent, and from Africa to the CIS countries.

Many of the world’s leading technology and communications firms are operate within DIC, including Microsoft, Oracle, HP, IBM, Dell Siemens, Canon, Logica, Sony Ericsson, Schlumberger and Cisco. The DIC free zone has been specifically developed to help ICT business explore and expand their worldwide business opportunities from a Middle East base. DIC offers the following benefits to its members:

  • 100 percent exemption from personal income tax for 50 years
  • 100 percent exemption from corporate taxes for 50 years o 100 percent foreign ownership o 100 percent repatriation of profits
  • Dynamic international community
  • Opportunities for business interaction and networking
  • Opportunities for channel and market development o Communications infrastructure based on next-generation technologies
  • Digital voice and high-speed data services offered at competitive rates

Dubai Silicon Oasis

Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) is a technology park established by the Government of Dubai to provide high-tech companies with dedicated platform to grow their businesses. The community covers more than 75 million square feet, with state of the art offices, research and development and industrial facilities plus housing and schools that complete this unique social and commercial environment.

The technology park is supported by advanced telecommunications and a hi-tech utility infrastructure including the latest fibre-optic network. Among others, Dubai Silicon Oasis focuses on the following sectors: o Mobile technologies o Internet o Data centre o Arab technologies o Software/SAAS o Semiconductors DSO offers the following incentives for its members:

  • 100 percent foreign ownership
  • No personal income tax
  • No corporation tax o Full repatriation of capital
  • No import/export tax
  • Strong IP protection
  • Entrepreneurs Business License
  • Business support services
  • Preferential leasing rates
  • Subsidised staff accommodation

Dubai Healthcare City

Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) was designed and built to combine quality healthcare and an integrated centre of excellence for clinical and wellness services, medical education and research. It is the world’s first healthcare free zone and consists of two phases.

The first phase of the 4 million square feet project is now operational with a medical cluster of day-care and outpatient clinics, diagnostic centres, rehabilitation centres, transplant centres, hospitals and pharmaceutical and equipment suppliers. DHCC is home to more than 80 highly respected facilities, operating to the highest international standards including: City Hospital, Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, Dr. Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Centre, American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital, Drs. Nicolas and ASP, London Centre for Aesthetic Surgery, Dubai Gynaecology and Fertility Centre, Mughrabi Eye Centre and the German Heart Centre.

Several global pharmaceutical companies are also based in DHCC, including Wyeth, Sanofi Aventis, Novartis, AstraZeneca, and Novo Nordisk.

The second phase of DHCC will feature a dedicated wellness cluster comprised of wellness centres, nutrition centres, resorts, spas, and sports medicine facilities.

DHCC offers the following benefits to its members:

  • 100 percent tax free
  • 100 percent foreign ownership
  • No corporate tax or income tax
  • No customs duty
  • No restrictions on capital, trade barriers or quotas
  • Competitive pricing o Clinic lease/purchase option
  • Low operating costs o State-of-the-art facilities
  • Flexible real estate designed to suit the industry (laboratories, pharmacies etc.)
  • Integrated healthcare community providing specialised first-class medical care
  • Access to network of regional healthcare professionals
  • One-stop shop for government services (visa service, permits etc.)
  • Easy company registration, company laws and legal framework
  • Quick access to knowledge workers due to fast track immigration process

Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park

The Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotec) is the leading life sciences cluster in the Middle East. It was set up in 2005 as a free zone platform for life sciences companies to access the region’s fast growing emerging markets.

DuBiotech offers unique services that include regulatory affairs management, partner development, leasing, registration and licensing, and government services to drive growth of local and international companies. Over 85 life sciences companies operate from the DuBiotech, including Pfizer, Genzyme, Merck-Serono, Amgen, Maquet, National Reference Lab and Firmenich.

DuBiotech provides the following benefits to its members:

  • 100 percent tax exemption
  • 100 percent repatriation of capital
  • Tax free salaries for all employees
  • 100 percent foreign ownership
  • Streamlined, quick company set-up procedure
  • Government Services Division (including registration, fast track immigration and customs procedures)
  • Guaranteed 30-50 years exemption from personal, income and corporate taxes
  • Long term land leases

Dubai International Financial Centre

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is a dedicated free zone launched to harness the potential of the region’s financial services industry. Ideally located to bridge the gap for a global financial centre in the time zone between London and Hong Kong, DIFC has developed into a gateway for regional capital and investment and a platform for tapping into the largest emerging market for financial services. Today, DIFC is a community of over 750 companies, including some of the world’s largest financial services businesses.

Companies with a presence in DIFC can benefit from the following:

  • 100 percent foreign ownership
  • No tax on income and profits for a period of 50 years
  • 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 agencies located in major global jurisdictions
  • International legal system based on Common Law of England and Wales (the only Common Law jurisdiction in the Middle East)
  • A fully 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 wider region
  • A modern transport, communications and internet infrastructure
  • A responsive one-stop shop service for visas, work permits and other related requirements

Dubai International Financial Centre Dubai Multi Commodities Centre

Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) is a Government initiative established to create a commodity market place in Dubai. DMCC provides industry specific market infrastructure and a full range of facilities for gold and precious metals, diamond and gemstones, energy and other commodity sectors. Recently, DMCC expanded its outreach beyond commodities-related companies to include service companies and representative offices of foreign companies.

DMCC was launched in 2002 and includes three purpose built towers providing trading facilities to its members.

Membership of DMCC offers the following benefits:

  • 100 percent business ownership
  • 100 percent exemption on personal and corporate tax
  • Purpose built infrastructure
  • Ability to purchase property
  • World-class security systems
  • Single Window clearances
  • Preferential freight rates
  • Regulated environment
  • No foreign exchange controls or barriers to entry
  • No restrictions on capital repatriation

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