Dubai’s tax regime is famous around the world. And, still standing at 0% for corporate and personal earnings, it’s not hard to see why.
This favourable rate, along with a great location, world-class infrastructure, and encouraging business environment, has attracted entrepreneurs to the emirate for many years.
But a zero tax rate does not mean a free for all. Most businesses in Dubai are required to submit returns, audits, and other financial bookkeeping. And with a population mainly comprised of expatriates, many entrepreneurs will need assistance when making these filings.
That’s why accounting and tax consulting are big business in this part of the world. And with around 30,000 new businesses launching in the Emirates every year, demand shows no signs of slowing any time soon.
So, if you’ve got the skills and qualifications for the task, here’s how to get started in Dubai.
How do I start an accounting business in Dubai?
First things first, you’ll need to decide on the type of business you wish to operate. In Dubai, this is known as choosing your business activities. There are many subsectors in the accounting space. You could start a tax consulting business in Dubai, start an audit firm, or start a accounting business.
You’ll have to list every activity that you wish to undertake on your business license. Your chosen field may also have a bearing on the setup type that’s right for you.
On this point, now is also a good time to familiarise yourself with the lay of the land in Dubai. There are two common business types out here – mainland and free zone.
Mainland businesses can be established anywhere in the UAE. They require additional approvals and permissions but can usually be owned outright by overseas entrepreneurs.
Free zone businesses, on the other hand, can only operate within their designated zone. They require no additional approvals and permissions and can always be owned 100% by foreign entrepreneurs.
Free zones offer benefits such as 100% customs tax exemptions and capital and profit repatriation. Most also offer office and coworking space, reception cover and access to meeting and conference rooms, as well as the use of telephones, broadband and the like.
On top of this, each free zone will bring its own benefits. Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus (Dtec), for example, is a technology-focused free zone offering a supportive environment for tech and financial industries, as well as workspace packages at a scale and price to suit all budgets.
Whatever setup you opt for, there is another important step before making your license application. You’ll need to choose your company name. There are a few naming conventions that you must comply with. They include:
How to get an audit license in Dubai
The application process is essentially the same whether you’re looking to obtain an audit license, an accounting license, or a bookkeeping license.
You can make your application yourself, but it is advisable to work closely with a free zone or company setup agent at this stage. We can make sure your application is correct and prevent any undue hassle further down the line.
If you’re setting up in the mainland, you should apply to the Dubai Department of Economic Development. Alternatively, you can apply directly to your chosen free zone.
As part of your application, you will be asked to provide some basic documentation such as a passport copy and business plan. Depending on the type of license you are applying for, you will also need to show proof of your bookkeeping, auditing, or accounting qualifications. This would typically take the form of a recognised degree in finance, accounting, or another relevant field.
As finance-related industries are heavily regulated in the UAE, you may also need to apply for additional approvals. These approvals can be obtained from the UAE Ministry of Economy and the UAE National Accountants and Auditors Association (UAE AAA).
As free zones are self-regulating, these additional approvals are not required when setting up in a free zone. This is yet another reason why so many international entrepreneurs opt for this type of setup.
Visa and license costs
Whether you are working under an accounting license or a bookkeeping license, you’ll need a visa to operate in Dubai. If you are setting up in the mainland, you should make this application to the relevant immigration department.
When setting up in a free zone, the visa application forms part of the company formation process. The price of your visa application is usually included in the package price too.
Dtec offers several packages inclusive of multiple visas. The flexi desk package, for example, includes a service license, the use of a workspace in a common area and eligibility for two visas. This package starts at AED 18,000 per year.
Dtec also offers a license with fixed desks and eligibility for three visas for AED 24,200 per year, plus furnished private offices, inclusive of two visas per desk, for AED 47,820 per year.
Starting your business at Dtec
If you’re looking to start an accounting or bookkeeping consulting business in Dubai, UAE, there’s no better base than Dtec. Apply with us, and we’ll handle every step of the process for you – helping to outline activities, register your company name, applying for your license and visas, and supporting you once you’re up and running.
If you’re looking for flexible coworking or office space in Dubai, Dtec offers a nurturing, supportive community from which to set up your new business.
As well as a great workspace, Dtec is home to a vast network of mentors, advisers, and educators, with many receptive to collaboration, pitches, and investment opportunities. The 10,000 sqm facility is home to an integrated ecosystem for hundreds of startups, SMEs and entrepreneurs from around the world.
Along with organic opportunities to engage and collaborate, Dtec also runs a range of formal events, including Partner Labs, the Corporate Partner Network, an annual pitch competition, and several acceleration programmes.
So, have you got a great idea you want to see realised? Everything you need can be found in Dtec.
Our coworking space encourages collaboration. Our accelerator programs and funding arm give a young business set up in the UAE a head start. Our networking events ensure you get your name out there and stay on top of industry trends. We take care of everything, leaving you to take care of your business.