Custom Duty in the UAE has been in existence since a very long time. After passing through several phases, an institutional was given to Customs during the age of the late Sheikh HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and HH Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum. In order to attain better economic understanding and integration among member Emirates as well as to boost public finance and fulfill certain international and regional obligations, there were calls for a creation of a unified Customs law much before it came into actual realization and steps were taken to establish such law by the Federal Tax Authority (FTA) by 2002.
The introduction of the Custom duty has been a significant boost to a country’s economy since it raises revenue for the government. The revenue raised is used for development projects and other social welfare schemes. The international border that is seen between two countries is that of Customs duty. The act of imposing a tax (Customs duty) is done by the respective countries from where these goods are being imported or exported. Customs duty is imposed on the imported goods which are the main sources of revenue for the government.
Custom duty has been in practice since time immemorial and is levied by almost all countries around the world. The UAE government takes Customs duty very seriously and has implemented several policies in order to ensure that the same is collected and actually reaches the exchequer. The UAE Customs department is in charge of collecting and managing the same. The UAE Government has imposed Custom duty on certain goods imported into the country. The government uses this to raise revenue and safeguard the local industry. This is done by equalizing the duties paid upon entry of an item to any member state regardless of the country of destination within the GCC.
With effect from January 2003, UAE duly acceded to the GCC Customs Union which regardless of the destination within the GCC, equalizes Customs duty paid on entry of a good to any member state within the GCC. For e.g.: A good which is imported into the UAE but is destined to reach the markets in Saudi Arabia is subject to the application of the Customs duty once such good enters the UAE.
The UAE Customs department is in charge of the managing and overseeing the aforesaid processes. The question on who actually pays the Customs duty is the first thing that comes to the minds of most people who are unaware of how the system works. The fact is that it is the importer or exporter who pays the Customs duty. The importer or exporter is responsible for paying any import or export duties levied on goods being imported into or exported out of a country.
In theory, the trader need not pay customs duties again to take the item across the border into Saudi Arabia. Those with acquired trade license from the government can indulge in such activities of importation. However, this does not apply to goods imported by free zone companies. The calculation of Customs duty on most goods is based on Cost, Insurance, and Freight (CIF) value at the rate of five percent (05%), while certain categories of goods are exempted. Alcoholic products are assessed a 50% duty, while tobacco products are assessed a 100% customs duty. Calculation of CIF value is normally done by referencing invoices covering related shipments. It is to be noted that Customs duty is not bound to accept the figures shown therein and may set an estimated value on the goods, which shall be final.
The GCC Common Customs Law has provided guidance exempted goods from the provisions of the Customs law and payment of Customs duty. Every member state to the GCC Common Customs Law has its list of goods exempted from customs duty payment. Guidance on goods exempted from tariff upon entry to the UAE can be found at The UAE FCA Unified Customs Tariff provides guidance on goods exempted from tariff upon arrival to the UAE.
The government of UAE is very strict in dealing with the import of banned items as well as the illegal import of restricted items into UAE borders. A broad list of banned items includes (not limited to):
- Controlled/recreational drugs and narcotic substances.
- Pirated content.
- Counterfeit currency.
- Items used in black magic, witchcraft or sorcery.
- Publications and artwork that contradict or challenge Islamic teachings and values.
- Exotic protected and endangered animals and vicious dog breeds.
- Gambling tools and machines.
Necessary and obligatory permits from the competent Authorities are required for importing and exporting certain goods into the UAE such as animals, medicines and weapons. For e.g., One can import pets or domesticated animals into the UAE only pursuant to receiving all necessary and appropriate permits from Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. Certain requisites to be provided when seeking approval would be the pet’s or domesticated animals vaccination card, health certificate, and passport. Some pets or domesticated animals might need to test for rabies before entering the UAE. Import, export, release, and seek transit of horses and import live animals, birds, and ornamental fish into the UAE are allowed provided one receives a permit from the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.
According to the UAE Ministerial Resolution No. 14 of 2016 pertaining to control on imported food for non-commercial purposes, one can bring in a maximum of the following:
- 20 kg of yoghurt.
- 50 litres of oil (including olive oil).
- 10 kg of various types of vegetables and fruits.
- 100 kg dates.
- 10 kg sweets and bread.
- 30 kg of grains, cereals and red meat.
- 10 kg of fish and seafood.
- 500 gm of caviar.
- 11 kg of eggs.
- 20 kg for honey and sugar products.
- 5 kg for herbs and spices including vinegar, orange blossom water and rose water.
- 500 gm of saffron.
- 10 kg of special-purpose food such as children’s food is allowed.
- 20 litres of drinks and syrups including water.
- 5 kg of juice concentrates.
- 25 kg of canned food.
Restrictions also extend to importing cooked duck eggs (called balut) without permission from the Customs duty authorities. Still if one desires to import the eggs, a health certificate indicating the production and expiry dates of the eggs and that the eggs have been produced in farms that are free from salmonella and bird flu would be a mandatory requirement.
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