United Arab Emirates - Country Commercial Guide
Customs Regulations

Includes customs regulations and contact information for this country's customs office.

Last published date: 2022-01-09

There is distinct customs treatment for goods depending on whether they are destined for Mainland Commercial Zones or FTZs.

Goods destined for the UAE’s mainland are subject to duty under the GCC’s Common Customs Law while goods destined for FTZs are exempt from duty. The UAE has approximately forty-five Free Trade Zones.

Goods imported into FTZs are exempt from duties. Also, re-exports from UAE Free Trade Zones to third market destinations beyond the GCC Customs Zones are also exempted from any duty. However, when such goods are imported with the intention of re-exporting them as a whole or partially to another country, a deposit or guarantee equivalent to the applicable tariff amount on the goods is secured in lieu of customs duty. For this procedure, the Declaration Type “Import for Re Export to Local from ROW” needs to be cleared.

Goods destined directly for Mainland or to a FTZe for sale in the UAE and/or re-exports to GCC Countries are subject to customs import tariffs as per GCC Common Customs Law and the Federal Customs Authority. Accordingly, goods can be moved intra-GCC Customs Offices which allows passage of the foreign goods from one member state to another. A Statistical Export Declaration needs to be cleared from the exporting GCC country for inward movements of such goods and a copy of this declaration must be submitted to the Customs Office of the importing country carrying the “Makasa Stamp” (set-off mechanism) on the Declaration in order to avoid duplicate payment of customs duties at the destination country. 

VAT: Effective January 1, 2018, the UAE started applying a 5% Value Added Tax (VAT). A business must register for VAT at https://www.tax.gov.ae/en/vat/vat-topics/vat-registration if its taxable supplies and imports exceed $102,000 per annum. It is optional for businesses whose supplies and imports exceed $51,000 per annum. Businesses not registered for VAT cannot charge VAT on their sales and cannot claim any tax-related fees incurred on their inputs. 

Under a VAT system, a business pays the government the tax that it collects from its customers while receiving refunds from the government on tax that it has paid to its suppliers. Foreign businesses can recover the VAT they incur when visiting the UAE.