01 May 2024

Arushi Dhawan

Going through the Economic Substance Regulations (ESR) within the UAE becomes an indispensable task for businesses striving for compliance and operational clarity. The ESR framework is an integral part of the UAE's endeavor to meet international business standards and enhance transparency in corporate practices. Tailored to ensure businesses genuinely contribute to the local economy, these regulations set forth criteria that entities must fulfill to validate their economic presence in the UAE.

Dubai: This detailed guide aims to dissect the nuances of the ESR in the UAE, shedding light on its importance, implications, and the proactive measures businesses must undertake to align with these regulations. Whether you're a seasoned expert in the UAE market or a new entrant looking to carve out your niche, understanding the ESR is fundamental to successfully steering through the regulatory landscape and promoting enduring business operation.

ESR in the UAE: An Overview

The UAE's Economic Substance Regulations represent a pivotal framework initiated to bolster the nation's adherence to global tax transparency and equity norms. Introduced as a response to the OECD's directives, the ESR mandates entities engaging in specified economic activities to demonstrate a substantial economic footprint within the UAE.

Entities subject to the ESR are expected to undertake core income-generating activities within the nation, uphold sufficient physical premises, hire aptly qualified staff, and adequately manage operational expenditures. Compliance with these regulations requires entities to annually report their activities, affirming their commitment to the economic substance criteria.

Incurring penalties for non-compliance, including financial repercussions and potential suspension of licenses, underscores the imperative for businesses to thoroughly grasp and adhere to the ESR mandates. Thus, delving into the ESR's requirements is crucial for businesses aiming to uphold the UAE's standards for a transparent, globally-integrated business environment.

Due to the light taxation regime, the UAE has been a preferred choice for many businesses as a jurisdiction in which to form their operations. The UAE is a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (‘OECD’) and as such, it is subject to the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (‘BEPS’) regime. The BEPS initiative focuses on implementing globally accepted measures to combat tax avoidance, enhance the consistency of international tax regulations, and promote greater transparency in taxation. In alignment with its commitment as a member of the OECD Inclusive Framework, and following an evaluation of its tax framework by the European Union Code of Conduct Group on Business Taxation, the UAE introduced the Economic Substance Regulations (ESR) on April 30, 2019, through Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 31 of 2019, along with guidance for its application.

On August 10, 2020, the UAE Cabinet of Ministers issued Resolution No. 57 of 2020, which superseded the previous legislation, particularly Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 31 of 2019. This Regulation applies retrospectively to licensees, covering financial years commencing on or after January 1, 2019.

Following this, on August 19, 2020, the Ministry of Finance released revised guidelines under Ministerial Decision No. 100 of 2020.

Key Requirements under ESR

Article 5 of the Resolution designates the Federal Tax Authority as the National Assessing Authority, entrusted with several responsibilities outlined in the Resolution. These include conducting assessments to determine compliance with the Economic Substance Test as per Article 7, imposing administrative penalties in accordance with Articles 13, 14, and 15, and adjudicating appeals as per Article 17. Additionally, the Federal Tax Authority is tasked with fulfilling reporting requirements specified in Article 10, exercising any other powers or functions necessary to implement the Resolution, and carrying out any other powers or functions mandated to implement decisions of the Competent Authority or the Minister of Finance pursuant to the Resolution.

Adhering to the ESR in the UAE, particularly for entities in Dubai, involves meeting specific standards that affirm substantial economic activity and adherence to international benchmarks:

Engaging in Core Income-Generating Activities: Entities must actively partake in essential operations that are central to their field, conducted within the UAE's jurisdiction.

Upholding Adequate Physical Premises: The regulations stipulate that entities must possess appropriate physical facilities in the UAE that correspond to their operational scale and nature.

Hiring Qualified Personnel: The essence of proving economic substance also lies in employing a skilled workforce within the UAE capable of executing core operations.

Overseeing Operational Expenditures Locally: Entities are also tasked with managing their financial dealings within the UAE, emphasizing the local management of costs related to their primary activities.

Fulfilling Reporting Obligations: The submission of annual notifications and detailed reports is crucial, showcasing the entity's alignment with the economic substance stipulations.

Revenue-Generating Functions and Compliance

Understanding Revenue-Generating Functions is paramount for entities aiming to comply with the ESR. These functions are pivotal operations that directly influence an entity’s income, necessitating that core business activities are substantially performed within the UAE. This approach aims to deter profit shifting and base erosion by advocating for more than a nominal presence in the UAE, reinforcing the entity's genuine operational activities.

Incorporating Business Conferences within ESR Compliance

The ESR's applicability to business conferences highlights the need for entities involved in organizing or participating in these events to comply with the established economic substance requirements. This entails demonstrating substantive local activities related to conference management, thereby aligning with the UAE’s regulatory expectations.

Adapting to Staffing and Resource Needs

Entities must exhibit flexibility in staffing and resource allocation to conform to ESR demands, ensuring an operational setup that reflects the business's scale and activities accurately. This dynamic approach underscores the necessity for entities to maintain a substantive presence, through both human and physical resources, within the UAE.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

Failing to comply with the ESR can lead to significant consequences, from financial penalties to reputational damage and operational hindrances. Businesses must, therefore, rigorously evaluate their compliance status, undertaking necessary adjustments to align with the ESR framework.

Staying Updated with Regulatory Changes

Keeping abreast of the latest regulatory developments pertaining to ESR is critical. Entities should closely monitor updates from UAE authorities, adapting their operations and compliance strategies to reflect any changes, ensuring continuous alignment with the regulatory landscape.

For further insights into ESR or to explore our range of services, visit our insights section or reach out through our contact page.

In Conclusion

Understanding and complying with the Economic Substance Regulations in the UAE is non-negotiable for businesses committed to maintaining transparency, sustainability, and international competitiveness. As the regulatory environment continues to evolve, staying informed and responsive to changes in the ESR framework will be key to navigating the challenges and opportunities presented by the UAE’s dynamic business ecosystem.


Our team of professionals can provide you with further insights into ESR or you can explore our range of services, visit our website and/or reach out through our contact page. If you request further guidance or you have concerns and queries, Let us know!

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