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Corporate Tax Anti-Abuse Rules in the UAE

As part of its commitment to international tax transparency and compliance with evolving global standards, the UAE has implemented robust measures to combat corporate tax abuse. At the forefront of these efforts are the Economic Substance Regulations (ESR), designed to ensure that businesses operating in the country have a genuine economic presence. We will explore the UAE’s corporate tax anti-abuse rules that contribute to the nation’s commitment to fair tax practices.

What is Tax Abuse?

In the realm of taxation, abuse refers to the “misuse” of tax laws, albeit within the legal framework. This distinction sets it apart from tax evasion. Tax abuse typically occurs when a taxpayer secures tax advantages through a transaction that adheres to the literal text of the statute but subverts the intended purpose behind it. Most democratic societies acknowledge the right of taxpayers to engage in acceptable tax planning to minimize their tax burden. However, there is a consensus that such a right does not extend to transactions characterized as tax abuse. Unchecked tax abuse can be likened to a “fiscal and moral termite,” eroding tax revenues and undermining tax systems. Consequently, it becomes imperative for governments to devise mechanisms to distinguish these abusive transactions from legitimate tax planning. Even though defining tax abuse precisely poses challenges.

Corporate Tax Anti-Abuse Rules in the UAE

In the UAE, the tax law, specifically Article 50, details anti-abuse rules that determine a transaction to be tax-abusive. Let’s discuss important elements of the tax law.

Corporate Tax Abuse:

It (tax abuse) is when considering all relevant factors, it can be reasonably concluded that:

a) The initiation or execution of the transaction or arrangement, or any part of it, lacks a valid commercial or other non-fiscal reason reflecting economic reality.

b) The primary purpose or one of the main purposes of the transaction or arrangement, or any part of it, is to gain a corporate tax advantage inconsistent with the intention or purpose of the tax law.

Corporate Tax Advantage:

It encompasses, but is not restricted to the following:

a) A refund or an augmented refund of corporate tax.

b) Evasion or reduction of corporate tax payable.

c) Postponement of a corporate tax payment or acceleration of a corporate tax refund.

d) Bypassing an obligation to deduct or account for corporate tax.

The Authority holds the right to determine that one or more specified corporate tax advantages obtained through the transaction or arrangement should be offset or adjusted. However, in the case of a determination, the Authority must issue an assessment giving effect to the determination. This may include:

a) Granting or disallowing any exemption, deduction, or relief in calculating the taxable income or the corporate tax payable, or any part thereof.

b) Allocating any such exemption, deduction, or relief, or any part thereof, to any other individuals or entities.

c) Re-characterizing, for the law, the nature of any payment or other amount, or any part thereof.

d) Negating the effect that would otherwise result from the application of other provisions of tax law. Furthermore, they have the authority to make compensating adjustments to the tax liability of any other individual or entity affected by the determination.

Applicability of Anti-Abuse Rules:

To determine the applicability of anti-abuse rules as per Article 50 to a transaction or arrangement, one must consider the following factors:

a) How the transaction or arrangement was initiated or executed.

b) The form and substance of the transaction or arrangement.

c) The timing of the transaction or arrangement.

d) The result of the transaction or arrangement concerning the application of the tax law.

e) Any change in the financial position of the taxable person resulting from the transaction or arrangement.

f) Any change in the financial position of another person resulting from the transaction or arrangement.

g) Whether the transaction or arrangement has established rights or obligations that would not typically occur between individuals or entities dealing at arm’s length for the relevant transaction or arrangement.

h) Any other pertinent information and circumstances.


In conclusion, the UAE’s commitment to combat corporate tax abuse is evident in the comprehensive and stringent anti-abuse rules. These rules stand as a testament to the nation’s dedication to fostering fair and transparent tax practices. Tax abuse, akin to a “fiscal and moral termite,” threatens the foundations of government tax revenues, the integrity of tax systems, and the efficiency of economies. The outlined anti-abuse provisions empower the tax authority to scrutinize transactions lacking valid commercial reasons or aiming for undue tax advantages, thus allowing for necessary counteractions and adjustments.

As governments globally grapple with the challenge of distinguishing abuse from planning, the UAE’s proactive stance sets a crucial precedent. Thus these regulations serve as a beacon for responsible tax practices in a globally interconnected business environment.

Creative Zone Tax & Accounting (CZTA):

Our dedicated team of tax professionals understands corporate tax regulations, including the robust anti-abuse rules in the UAE. With a client-centric approach and a wealth of experience, CZTA is your trusted ally for fostering financial growth and sustainability. Let us be the architects of your financial success as you focus on what you do best—building your business. Elevate your financial journey with Creative Zone Tax & Accounting.