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MENA Tax Reforms Explored

by Lorys Charalambous,, Cyprus

15 December 2010

Middle Eastern and North African governments’ implementation of new tax regimes and expansion of commercial laws relating to inward investment were the topics under discussion at the Ernst & Young MENA Tax conference held this month in London. The sessions were aimed at informing senior finance and tax executives who have operations or are planning investments or operations in the MENA region, of the fiscal and associated regulatory developments that impact business decisions.

Commenting on the challenges and opportunities arising out of the evolving tax landscape in the region, Sherif El-Kilany, Mena Tax Leader, Ernst & Young said: “The region has witnessed a series of tax reforms in the last two years and more are expected in 2011. Changes in the regulatory environment have forced businesses to plan their tax strategies in advance to mitigate risk resulting from fiscal changes. In addition to tax reform, there is a significant increase in the number and size of investments being made in the region.”

He went onto say that Mena countries have demonstrated a sense of renewed interest in encouraging and promoting inward investments. They instituted investment incentives such as relaxation of restrictions on foreign investment, tax incentives for research and development expenditures, special tax breaks for small and medium-sized enterprises etc. Further, most countries focused their efforts in promoting foreign direct investment in sectors such as energy, health, education, manufacturing and value-added industrial investments. Mr El-Kilany pointed out that some of the most prominent fiscal changes were seen in the tax regimes of Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

He added: “As both local and multinational companies expand their geographic horizons, they are exposed to a new array of cross-border tax and regulatory issues and opportunities. It is critical for companies to understand the importance of tax optimization when evaluating acquisitions and operational-related costs.”

TAGS: tax | investment | business | Kuwait | Saudi Arabia | tax incentives | law | Iraq | Qatar | education | manufacturing | tax breaks | tax reform | Oman

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