UAE effectively addressed challenges posed by Covid-19
Khalid Ali Al Bustani, director general of the Federal Tax Authority
The UAE was one of the fastest nations in setting and implementing precautionary measures to curb the spread of the novel Coronavirus and address the challenges it brought about, most notably to the economy, said Khalid Ali Al Bustani, director general of the Federal Tax Authority (FTA) and VP of the Belt and Road Initiative Tax Administration Cooperation Forum.
The Forum met on Wednesday via videoconferencing technology bringing together 178 participants from 38 countries and organisations from around the world. Participants explored ways to enhance tax cooperation among the countries and regions taking part in the Belt and Road initiative, going over the most successful measures taken recently, in an effort to establish an environment that supports economic growth and remove all obstacles to cross-border trade and investment.
The Forum also discussed ways to collaborate on limiting the negative impact of the Covid-19 crisis in the region and the world, showcasing the experiences of members states in that regard.
The UAE - represented by Al Bustani - was elected vice president of the Belt and Road Initiative Tax Administration Cooperation Forum during the first meeting of the Supervisory Board in China in April 2019.
Speaking at the Forum's latest meeting, the FTA director general showcased the UAE's extensive efforts and rapid responses in facing the global pandemic, ensuring the health and safety of citizens and residents, and supporting economic sectors to overcome the negative repercussions of the outbreak. He shed light on the programmes and funds launched by government entities and community institutions in the UAE to foster solidarity and cooperation during these difficult times.
Al Bustani explained that the UAE's health systems exhibited great efficiency in implementing a preventive approach against the virus to curb its spread, which led to the early discovery of infection cases. Furthermore, the Emirates rolled out isolation and quarantine programmes, carrying out several other activities, such as ensuring the availability of medical supplies; restricting mobility for individuals and vehicles and instituting an online permit system for essential trips; and organising widespread campaigns to raise awareness about public hygiene, sanitisation, social distancing, and individual precautions; among other measures.
"In light of the exceptional circumstances at the moment, and in an effort to overcome these challenges and mitigate their negative impact, numerous initiatives were launched to incentivise the national economy and support the affected sectors, coupled with additional support to minimise the effects of the restrictions on movement on most economic activities," Al Bustani explained.
"On the same note, the UAE Cabinet approved a stimulus package to reduce the burden on businesses, support small businesses, expedite the implementation of major government infrastructure projects," he added. "Meanwhile, the UAE Central Bank approved a second stimulus package to support credit and liquidity, to the benefit of the business sector, SMEs, and individuals. This is in addition to several support packages introduced by local governments."
"The Federal Tax Authority has taken several measures to support businesses registered in the tax system during these difficult times, including extending Tax Periods for those registered for Excise Tax. An alternative and exceptional deadline was also set for submitting Tax Returns and settling Value Added Tax (VAT). Furthermore, the FTA postponed implementing the final stage of phase two of the 'Marking Tobacco and Tobacco Products' until January 1, 2021, instead of June 1, 2020, as previously planned," he noted.
The FTA director general went on to add: "The Authority provided exceptional assistance for those legally eligible to recover VAT, including UAE citizens looking to recover VAT on the construction of their new homes."
Al Bustani asserted that the authority continued to provide all of its services remotely, through its fully electronic system, which offers advanced services to facilitate registration processes, filing Tax Returns, and paying due taxes. "The system allows Taxable Persons or their representatives to easily complete all procedures without personal interaction or paper documents, which helps preserve public health and maintain social distancing. The FTA is keen on maintaining uninterrupted communication with stakeholders across the tax system, whereby its call centre and email service help answer their enquiries and provide them with the information they need."
He said the Federal Tax Authority implemented a remote work system for its employees, enabling them to continue to perform the entirety of their duties from their homes, using advanced technologies, throughout the duration of the precautionary measures implemented in the UAE to curb the spread of COVID-19. The Authority launched an awareness campaign and a series of lectures to offer technical and psychological support for its employees during these difficult conditions.