Vat on commercial property in UAE

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The United Arab Emirates, renowned for its skyscrapers and expansive commercial hubs, witnessed a significant transformation in its financial and taxation landscape with the introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT) in 2018. As with any major policy change, there were both proponents and critics. However, the main focus of many investors and property owners turned towards the implications of VAT on commercial properties. Let’s delve deeper into understanding the nuances of this tax regime.

Introduction: The Basics of VAT in the UAE

VAT, or Value Added Tax, is a consumption tax placed on a product whenever value is added at each stage of the supply chain, from production to the point of sale. While VAT isn’t new to the world, its introduction in the UAE marked a considerable shift for a region predominantly known for its tax-free environment.

What is VAT?

Value Added Tax is essentially a tax on consumption. Unlike direct tax, which is levied on income or profits, VAT is collected by businesses on behalf of the government and is paid by the end consumer. This ensures that the tax burden is distributed across various stages of production and supply.

Why VAT was introduced in the UAE?

The primary reason behind the introduction of VAT in the UAE was to diversify its sources of revenue. As the nation looked to reduce its dependence on oil revenues, the introduction of VAT emerged as a robust alternative. Moreover, it was also seen as a measure to bring more transparency and accountability into the business ecosystem.

Application of VAT on Commercial Properties

Understanding VAT’s application requires distinguishing between different types of properties. Not all properties are treated the same under this tax system, making it vital for investors and businesses to understand these distinctions.

Differentiating between Commercial and Residential Properties

Key Characteristics of Commercial Properties

Commercial properties are primarily used for business purposes. These could range from office spaces, warehouses, retail outlets to more specialized facilities like hotels and service apartments. Typically, transactions related to commercial properties are subject to VAT.

Property Type Characteristics Subject to VAT?
Commercial Business purposes, office spaces, hotels Yes
Residential Personal living, apartments, villas No (with exceptions)

Key Characteristics of Residential Properties

Residential properties refer to those used for personal living, like apartments, villas, or townhouses. While most transactions involving residential properties are exempt from VAT, there are specific exceptions, especially if it’s the property’s first sale or if it’s being leased out.

VAT Rate on Commercial Properties

The standard VAT rate applied to commercial property transactions in the UAE is 5%. Whether you’re buying, selling, or leasing a commercial space, this rate is typically consistent. However, there are some exceptions and nuances which we’ll explore in the later sections of this article.

Implications of VAT on Commercial Property Transactions

Delving into the realm of property transactions, it’s pivotal to discern how VAT molds the processes and financial aspects of these dealings. From the nascent stages of contemplation to the final handshake, VAT permeates various transaction phases.

Buying a Commercial Property

The purchase of a commercial property in the UAE isn’t just about scouting the right location and sealing the deal. With the introduction of VAT, a buyer has to factor in an additional 5% cost. For instance, a property valued at AED 10 million would attract an additional AED 500,000 as VAT. However, businesses can usually reclaim this VAT, provided they meet specific criteria set by the UAE’s Federal Tax Authority.

Leasing/Renting a Commercial Property

When it comes to leasing or renting, commercial properties again face the 5% VAT imposition. Landlords are expected to charge this amount over the rent, and tenants should be prepared to pay this additional cost. However, for businesses that lease these properties, the VAT becomes a part of their operational cost, which they can often offset against the VAT they collect from their customers.

Exemptions and Refunds

Not all commercial property transactions are painted with the same VAT brush. Some have nuances, exceptions, and potential avenues for refunds.

Are there any exemptions?

While the majority of commercial property transactions are subject to VAT, there are specific scenarios where exemptions apply. For instance, the sale of a business as a going concern (essentially the sale of a business that’s operational and not just its assets) is often considered outside the scope of VAT or is exempted.

How to claim a VAT refund?

Businesses can claim a VAT refund on their commercial property transactions through the UAE’s Federal Tax Authority’s online portal. The process involves submitting relevant documents, including purchase or lease agreements and proof of VAT payment. Once approved, the refund can be significant, especially for large-scale commercial enterprises.

Conclusion: The Impact of VAT on the UAE’s Real Estate Market

The introduction of VAT in the UAE’s real estate sector, especially concerning commercial properties, marked a notable shift. While it presented an added cost for businesses and investors, it also opened avenues for potential refunds and strategic financial planning. The policy’s primary intent—diversifying the nation’s revenue streams—has, in many ways, been achieved. Yet, it’s essential for individuals and businesses to remain informed, ensuring they navigate this VAT landscape efficiently.


  1. What is the standard VAT rate for commercial properties in the UAE?
    Answer: The standard VAT rate applied to commercial property transactions in the UAE is 5%.
  2. Can businesses reclaim the VAT paid on commercial properties?
    Answer: Yes, businesses can typically reclaim the VAT paid on commercial properties, provided they meet the criteria set by the UAE’s Federal Tax Authority.
  3. Are residential properties in the UAE subject to VAT?
    Answer: Mostly, residential properties are exempt from VAT. However, there are specific exceptions, such as if it’s the property’s first sale or if it’s being leased out.
  4. How can one claim a VAT refund in the UAE?
    Answer: VAT refunds can be claimed through the UAE’s Federal Tax Authority’s online portal by submitting relevant documents and proofs of VAT payment.
  5. Are there any exemptions from VAT for commercial property transactions?
    Answer: Yes, there are specific exemptions, like the sale of a business as a going concern, which may either be considered outside the scope of VAT or be exempted altogether.