The Essential Guide to Starting a Business in Dubai

Starting a new agency can seem daunting, but this concise guide breaks down the sincere steps any entrepreneur needs to observe to legally release their venture and capture the possibilities that Dubai’s enterprise hub offers. It is advisable to seek the guidance of a Tax consultant in Dubai (TCD) like Corporate Tax UAE to understand compliance and tax implications of different business structures based on business needs.

Business Setup Process in Dubai

The steps to legally establish a new company in Dubai usually include:

The main body governing company setup and registration in Dubai is the Department of Economic Development (DED). Here are the typical steps to establish a business:

1. Select the Business Activity

Choose an allowed commercial activity that matches your business goals and aligns with Dubai’s economic vision. Some regulated sectors may require additional licenses.

2. Decide the Legal Structure

Popular options in Dubai include sole establishment, branch, and freezone companies. Each has different ownership, regulatory and tax implications to consider.

Table: Business Structure Options

Structure Ownership Taxation Suitable For
Limited Liability Company (LLC) Local or foreign ownership No corporate tax on profits within UAE Most business activities
Free Zone Company Foreign ownership Tax exemptions and incentives Import/export, trading, services
Offshore Company Foreign ownership Tax exemptions International business activities
Branch Office Foreign parent company Corporate tax on UAE-sourced income Local representation for foreign companies


3. Reserve a Company Name

Check name availability and reserve your preferred company name with the DED for 30 days.

4. Obtain Trade License

With the approved name, apply for a trade license by submitting documents like memorandum of association, articles of association, and ownership details.

5. Setup Bank Account

Open a company bank account in Dubai after receiving initial trade license approval. This facilitates financial transactions.

6. Obtain Other Permits

Sector-specific commercial licenses from the DED or other regulators may be required depending on your activities.

7. Register for Value Added Tax (VAT)

Register for VAT with the Federal Tax Authority once operations commence if annual revenue exceeds AED 375,000.

8. Obtain Final Trade License

Receive final trade license from the DED upon fulfilling all registration requirements. At this stage, your company is fully licensed to operate in Dubai.

Working with a legal TCD throughout this process ensures all requirements are met smoothly and on time

Business setup tax planning Dubai 

Tax planning for starting a business in Dubai outlines the key considerations, which includes:

  • Corporate Tax: While the UAE introduced a 9% corporate tax in 2023, smaller businesses can still avoid it – as companies earning under AED 375k profit or AED 3 million revenue annually are exempt until at least 2026. Free zone companies may qualify for 0% corporate tax on “qualifying income activities”


  • Income Tax: The UAE has a very favorable tax system for employees with 0% personal income tax. 


  • Value Added Tax (VAT): While a 5% VAT applies in the UAE, businesses only need to register if annual revenues surpass AED 375k. Exemptions also exist for some industries, providing potential savings on this consumer tax for eligible startups in their early phases.


  • Import/Excise Duties: Applicable on certain imported products like tobacco, energy drinks and luxury goods. Rates vary between categories.


  • Municipal Fees: Charged 5% annually on rented properties and is calculated based on location, size of space and usage type.


  • Other Indirect Taxes: Other indirect taxes in Dubai may include a daily tourism fee for hotels, which ranges from AED 7-20 per occupied room depending on the hotel’s class.


A thorough tax evaluation during startup ensures full compliance with regulations while availing applicable exemptions and incentives. This is where a tax consultant in Dubai like Corporate Tax UAE can provide valuable guidance.

Corporate tax advice for new businesses in UAE 

For startups looking to take advantage of the UAE’s tax environment, it is crucial to understand the options around:


  • Consider setting up in a freezone as qualifying freezone companies can benefit from 0% corporate tax on eligible income activities. This can significantly reduce taxes.
  • If setting up on the UAE mainland, explore if annual revenues or profits can be kept below the AED 3 million or AED 375,000 thresholds respectively to qualify for full tax exemption until 2026.
  • Maintain adequate bookkeeping records as required by tax authorities even if currently exempt, as this will facilitate tax compliance and planning in the future.
  • Evaluate corporate structures and profit allocation methods to maximize use of available small business relief provisions where possible.
  • Consult with tax experts to understand implications of operating cross-border and establishing permanent establishments to minimize double taxation risks.
  • Carefully determine qualifying versus non-qualifying income streams to properly assess applicable tax rates of 0% or 9% for relevant activities.
  • Consider long-term growth plans when selecting a business location to take advantage of stable and favorable tax policies for the future as the business expands.
  • Complying with requirements and leveraging UAE’s low-tax advantages can help new companies minimize corporate taxes in the start-up phase. Seeking professional advice is also recommended.

By handling all regulatory paperwork and liaising with officials, TCD make business setup and licensing a hassle-free process.


  1. What tax considerations should new businesses in Dubai be aware of?


  1. Key taxes include VAT, municipal fees, withholding tax and customs duties. Optimal registration thresholds, available exemptions and reliefs need assessment. Consulting reputed tax advisors ensures tax compliance and optimization strategies.
  1. How can a tax consultant facilitate a smooth business setup in Dubai?
  1. Tax consultants validate license requirements, support documentation preparation, facilitate approvals and provide ongoing compliance support and advisory. Their expertise navigates complex regulations smoothly and allows focus on core operations. This eases establishment challenges substantially.

In conclusion, while Dubai aims to offer a business friendly environment, navigating regulatory requirements can be complex for new ventures. By partnering with a reputed tax advisory firm like Corporate Tax UAE, entrepreneurs have expert support throughout their startup journey to ensure hassle-free operations and compliance in the emirate. Our specialized services simplify business establishment procedures while optimizing tax obligations for long term success.