Expat in the UAE? Ask yourself these financial questions
The appeal of a high standard of living, low taxation, high salaries - and, of course, the sunshine - have long attracted expatriates to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
However, the majority of expats living in the UAE don't plan on staying there for their entire lives. Indeed, the expat life is typically transient.
As such, it's important to consider the length of time you are planning to remain in the UAE and make the most of the competitive financial rewards and tax-free environment during that time.
There are a number of financial questions expats based in the UAE should ask themselves in order to profit from their time in the region.
First, do you have an expat package? And what are its benefits? In the past, these packages often included accommodation, education and travel allowances. That said, in recent years expat packages don't tend to include all the same benefits. Or at least not to the same degree.
Therefore, these additional costs must be factored into your financial planning, thereby reducing disposable income.
Second, what tax do I have to pay? Residing in the UAE means a tax-free lifestyle on your earnings. However, an expat's tax residency may determine their global tax implications.
Using the UK as an example, although a UK expat living in the UAE doesn't pay tax, it doesn't necessarily mean that expatriates will be exempt from paying tax in the UK.
Different countries have different tax regulations, and the amount taxed depends on which country you are a tax resident of.
Fortunately, a large number of countries have double taxation treaties to reduce expats' tax liability. Certain countries offer an earnings threshold or minimum limit to global earnings before taxation. These rules are specific to different countries.
The UK does not have a double taxation agreement with the UAE, and as such there are certain situations, depending on the emirate, in which expats will be required to pay some form of tax on certain goods and services, municipal taxes and customs duties.
Therefore, it is advisable to consult a specialist financial adviser to ensure you are paying the right amount of tax.
Third, how can I make sure I save enough? Saving is fundamental to financial independence and generating wealth. It allows us to become financially secure and provides a safety net in light of unforeseen circumstances or emergencies that may occur.
As most people who come to the UAE to work are here for an average of between three and five years, it's paramount they make the most of it. It would be most disappointing to leave without having accumulated more savings than if they'd remained in their home country.
After all, that's the principal reason why expatriates come to the UAE.
Therefore, one of the most effective ways for expats in the UAE to save is to consider they are working in their home country and paying income tax. At the end of every month, pay a percentage of the income tax and allocate it to their savings. It's a simple discipline, and together with the right savings plan, can ensure individuals are on the right track to future financial freedom.
Furthermore, offshore savings plans offer a way to earn a better rate of interest than onshore alternatives. The majority are multi-currency, and there is a vast range of account types such as easy access, notice, no-notice, fixed rate and monthly interest - and, crucially, they allow you to build funds for the future.
Finally, what happens with my financial adviser should I relocate? Due to expats' transient lifestyles, it's vital that wherever they may move to in future, their finances will be looked after and they enjoy a continuity of service, with a financial advisory firm with cross-border expertise and a global presence.
As the majority of expats in the UAE focus on short to medium term financial goals, seeking the right financial advice is imperative to making the most of their time in the UAE, safeguarding their assets and securing their financial freedom.
The writer is founder and CEO of deVere Group. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.
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