Accounting income is the base for calculating taxable income

Calculating taxable income can be classified into direct and indirect methods

By Mahar Afzal/Compliance Corner

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The taxable persons will be liable to prepare the financial statements as per applicable accounting standards in the UAE. - KT file
The taxable persons will be liable to prepare the financial statements as per applicable accounting standards in the UAE. - KT file

Published: Sun 12 Feb 2023, 3:27 PM

In our recent articles related to the Corporate Tax law (CT law) of the UAE, we have covered the scope of the UAE CT law. In the content, we have discussed the definition of the resident and non-resident taxable person and the application of CT to the taxable income of these persons. We have covered the persons who are exempt and out of the scope of the UAE CT law. We have discussed critical terms like UAE-sourced income and permanent establishment. In the UAE CT law, special provisions have been given for the free zones, family foundations, trusts etc., which we have explained in detail.

While discussing the scope of the UAE CT law, we established that every taxable person is liable to pay tax on their taxable income. In this article, we have covered the calculation of taxable income.


There can be two approaches for calculating taxable income (hereinafter referred as “taxable profits”), and it can be classified into direct and indirect methods.

Under the direct method, we can calculate the taxable profits directly by deducting the cost of goods sold, tax-allowable expenses and other allowable deductions from the gross income of the corporations. Other taxable income, if any, can be added to arrive at the taxable profits. So, we can say, “Taxable profits = gross income – cost of goods sold – allowable tax expenses and deductions + other taxable income.” This is a straightforward method of calculating taxable profits, and it can be used where corporations are not preparing financial statements regularly.


In the indirect method, taxable profit can be calculated by adjusting the accounting profits. The adjustments can be of allowable and disallowable expenses, addition and deletion of income from the accounting profits to arrive at the taxable profits. So, we can establish that “Taxable profits = accounting profit as per financial statements + disallowable expenses - allowable tax expenses + other taxable income - other nontaxable income. This is a very effective and reliable method to compute taxable profits where corporations regularly prepare financial statements. In addition, it is quick to calculate taxable profit as accounting profit is taken from the financial statements, and the break of other numbers is available in the notes to the financial statements.

The question is, out of the two methods mentioned above, which is the best method suitable for the taxable person? Article 20 of the UAE CT Law provides guidance on the selection of the method for determining taxable profits. Clause 20(1) of the UAE CT law states, “The Taxable Income of each Taxable Person shall be determined separately, on the basis of adequate, standalone financial statements prepared for financial reporting purposes in accordance with accounting standards accepted in the State”. Moreover, clause 20(2) of the law requires that the taxable income for a tax period shall be the accounting income for that period and, to the extent applicable, adjusted for various items.

From the above requirement of the UAE CT law, the taxable persons will be liable to prepare the financial statements as per applicable accounting standards in the UAE. We know that International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are effective in the UAE, so the taxable persons will be liable to prepare the financial statements as per IFRS. In the law, there is no compulsion to get the financial statements audited. However, article 54(2) of the UAE law still empowers the minister of Finance to issue a decision requiring categories of taxable persons to prepare and maintain audited or certified financial statements.

The IFRS requires that the financial statements be prepared by applying the accrual basis of accounting. However, article 20(5)(a) empowers the minister to prescribe circumstances and conditions under which a person may prepare financial statements using the cash basis of accounting. Once the cash basis of the accounting has been applied, a taxable person can apply to the Federal Tax Authority (FTA) to change its method of accounting from a cash basis to an accrual basis. Once approved by the FTA, changes will be effective from the commencement of the tax period in which the application is made or from the commencement of a future tax period.

While applying the IFRS and UAE CT law, if there is any conflict between these two, the UAE CT law’s provisions should always be precedence over IFRS.

Moreover, article 20(2) of the UAE CT law has bound the taxable persons to apply the indirect method to calculate the taxable income, so the taxable persons will be liable to prepare the financial statements as per IFRS and adjust the accounting profits to arrive at the taxable income.

The significant adjustments to the accounting profits can be of unrealised gain or loss, exempt income, reliefs, not allowable expenses, transfer pricing adjustments, tax loss relief, income or expenditure that has not otherwise been considered. Some of these adjustments will be permanent, like fifty per cent of entertainment expenses not allowed, while others of temporary nature, like depreciation patterns, may vary. Permanent differences will only impact the current tax period, while temporary differences will affect the current and future tax periods. We will discuss all these adjustments in our future articles.

In conclusion, calculating taxable profits in the UAE is essential to the UAE CT law. Therefore, it is crucial for taxable persons to correctly calculate their taxable income to avoid any penalties or fines for non-compliance.

Mahar Afzal is a managing partner at Kress Cooper Management Consultants. The above is not an official opinion of the Khaleej Times but a personal opinion of the writer. For any queries/clarifications, please write to the writer at mahar@kresscooper.com.


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