Dubai – MENA Herald: CFA Society Emirates, the association for financial and investment professionals in the UAE, has today unveiled the results of a survey which assessed the impact of introducing Value Added Tax (VAT) across the GCC. The survey provided market insights from CFA members and charterholders in the United Arab Emirates.

With the UAE set to become the first country to introduce VAT by 2018, 82% of the respondents said that this will lead to higher inflation rates. They noted that demand for luxury goods will be affected the most by additional VAT costs followed by cars, then tobacco and real-estate. Meanwhile, CFA professionals saw healthcare as the sector which will be least impacted by the additional VAT costs.

Another significant finding was that 80% of the respondents said that they would consider moving abroad if an income tax were to be introduced, since 59% of them revealed that the GCC’s tax-free environment was a key factor in their decision to reside here. On the corporate level, employers will not consider relocating if corporate tax is introduced as per 59% of the respondents, although 41% of them believe otherwise.

According to the survey, consumers in the region will have to bear the additional costs VAT will introduce, instead of retailers, as it is ultimately paid by the end consumer. Furthermore, CFA members also affirmed that there are various hidden or indirect taxes already in place, highlighting hotel taxes as the most obvious example, followed by road tolls as well as car registration and parking fees.

Amer Khansaheb, CFA, President of CFA Society Emirates, commented on the findings: “CFA professionals see VAT as a paradigm shifting reform in the GCC’s fiscal policy and are unanimous that it will lead to higher inflation. Although inflation rates are also heavily influenced by interest rates and economic growth, the immediate effects will pose challenges to both consumers and businesses. The additional costs will only be marginally felt by the day to day consumer, but it will have a bigger effect on higher budget purchases. 73% of the professionals surveyed stated that consumer good are more expensive in the GCC than their home country; hence VAT will add an additional burden to consumers, leading to higher prices and resulting in inflation.’’

Mr. Khansaheb added: “However, the short-term impact will be offset by the long-term benefit VAT will bring to the regional economies. There is an urgent requirement to diversify government revenues, which are currently still largely dependent on income from oil and gas, and VAT is a measure that will allow more stability given that the outlook for crude prices remains volatile. Additionally, VAT would encourage more responsible consumer spending patterns and prices would have to be reduced in order for demand to match this trend; which would eventually lead to a decrease in inflation rates.”

The UAE is expected to generate around Dh10 billion to Dh12 billion as a result of introducing VAT in the first year of its implementation. In this context, 66% of respondents said that the GCC countries will be able to efficiently manage the extra revenues received from VAT.

Top ten key findings from the survey:

1. 82% were convinced that the introduction of VAT would increase inflation in the region.
2. 100% stated that consumers will bear the cost more directly than retailers.
3. 79% felt that the car and automobile industry will be affected the most by the implementation of VAT, 77% believed that luxury goods will feel the impact more than other industries. Healthcare is expected to be least affected, as only 16% thought it would face significant brunt.
4. 76% did not feel that the oil and gas industry will receive special treatment under the new tax policy.
5. 66% are optimistic about the GCC countries efficiently managing the extra revenue generated from the introduction of VAT.
6. 59% of the professionals stated that the GCC’s tax-free environment was an influential factor in their decision to move to the region.
7. 80% said that they would consider moving abroad if an income tax is introduced in the GCC.
8. 59% were confident that the introduction of a corporate tax would not cause companies to relocate.
9. 51% were of the opinion that the number of expats living in the region will stay the same once VAT is applied, 47% thought that the number of expats will decrease.
10. Many of the respondents believe that forms of indirect taxation already exist; 86% sighted hotel taxes as an example, 79% affirmed road tolls were another, while 60% identified parking and car registration charges as one.

Methodology
An online survey was conducted from 1st May to 31st May 2016. Participants included 68 CFA Society Emirates members, as well as those with charters pending, in the United Arab Emirates.