The UAE is home to thousands of businesses requiring the service of accountants, auditors or tax consultants. In some sectors, submitting to an independent annual audit is a prerequisite of holding a license, making the use of such services compulsory.
This presents a great opportunity for entrepreneurs in the UAE with a head for figures. Although there are some additional steps required, applying for a license to practice as an accountant, tax consultant, bookkeeper or auditor is still relatively straightforward.
As well as a business license, you may also need to hold specific qualifications in your field. Here’s everything you need to know to get started.
Whether you wish to start a chartered accountant (CA) firm in Dubai, start an audit firm or are considering starting your own bookkeeping business. There are a few steps that you’ll need to take before making your license application.
The first is to specify your business activity. Every activity you wish to carry out – tax consultancy, auditing, accountancy etc. – must be specified to ensure that you are licensed correctly.
The next step is to choose a company name. This takes a little more thought in the UAE than in other parts of the world. Why? Because the UAE has a strict, yet easy to follow, set of naming conventions. An expert in company formation can help you make sure you adhere to them.
In short, you should avoid any offensive or blasphemous language. Avoid names of well-known organisations and avoid abbreviations if naming your company after yourself – i.e. Dave Mann Consulting, rather than D Mann Consulting. You must also check that your chosen name is available to register.
Next, you should decide whether you wish to set up in the mainland or in a UAE free zone.
There are many advantages to both. Free zones such as Fujairah Creative City offer benefits such as a quick and easy incorporation process, ongoing business support and financial incentives such as tax exemptions and zero currency restrictions.
Mainland setup, on the other hand, allows you to trade directly with the UAE market and take on potentially lucrative government contracts.
The setup that works best for you will depend largely on the nature and size of your business. A company formation expert can advise on the best approach.
Once you have chosen the right setup, outlined your activities and chosen your company name, you can make your business license application. In most cases you will require a professional services license to trade as either an auditor, accountant or tax consultant in the UAE.
You can apply for a professional services license either directly to the Department of Economic Development (DED) or direct to one of the UAE’s many free zones.
Free zones are often the most straightforward and cost-effective way to set up in the UAE, and offer many attractive benefits including zero percent personal and corporate income tax and 100% exemption from customs tax. Also, unlike in many other countries, UAE free zone businesses benefit from the freedom of being able to repatriate all invested capital and profits. There are also no foreign exchange controls or currency restrictions.
As well as your license, you will also require further accreditation to work in finance-related professions. The exact requirements will differ depending on the nature of your business.
The requirements to open an accounting firm in Dubai and the UAE are relatively straightforward. As well as undertaking the steps above, you’ll also need to hold a relevant qualification in accounting.
This could be an accounting degree or similar qualification. If you do not have such a qualification, you can sit exams in the UAE to increase your chances of being approved for your accounting license or bookkeeping license.
In order to get an audit license in Dubai, UAE, you’ll once again need to hold an accounting degree or similar qualification. You should also be able to demonstrate relevant experience in the financial/auditing sector. Finally, you must pass an exam before you can obtain your auditing license.
The steps required to start a tax consulting business in Dubai are similar to those outlined above. As well as holding a professional services license, you’ll also need to prove that you hold a degree in accounting or a similar field of expertise. You will also be required to pass an exam to become a licensed tax consultant.
The cost of starting an accountancy, audit or tax consultancy firm in the UAE will depend on several factors such as specific business activities, and company size and location.
Should you choose to set up in Fujairah Creative City Free Zone, for example, you can expect to pay in the region of AED 19,000 – AED 25,000 to secure your license and visa. More specifically, the approximate cost for setting up as a tax consultant in Fujairah Creative City as a single shareholder with eligibility for one visa, plus use of the co-working space would be AED 20,575.
On top of this, you’ll also need to cover the costs of any additional qualifications and accreditations that may be required.
While the steps needed to start a business in the UAE are not overly complex, it does require a level of prior knowledge of the process. What’s more, it is important to note that the application process is only straightforward if your business application is complete at the time of submission and free from errors.
To help you ensure that this is the case, it’s a good idea to work with a company formation specialist when establishing a new company in the UAE.
As well as handling your license application, a company formation expert can also assist with the opening of corporate bank accounts and advise on the most appropriate financial institution to suit your specific needs.
Many also offer visa and immigration services and can handle all government formalities, permissions, work permits and visas applications that are required to trade in the UAE.
In short, company formation experts can establish your company on your behalf, make your license and visa applications, and take care of all the necessary admin – leaving you free to concentrate on what you do best.