Freelance vs Company Trade License – what you can and can’t do

As a freelancer, you are not supposed to employ anyone and work by yourself from home.

You can have a desk at co-working and all branches of industry include 1 desk in a freelance package in UAE. But you can not have an office. Even for 1 person. For that you need to have a company. To have a private closed space, but a place where other people come and connect with you. At home, you do not have such luxury.

You do have a bookkeeping and if eligible have VAT for which you need to report. You do not have profit tax as it will be for companies from June 2023 on profits above 375,000 AED (app. €100,000), 9% tax. So the first 375000 AED of profit are with no tax, while above this 9% tax applies.

Fines for late VAT registration are big, so do not delay for 1-2 years, but do immediately or in the next months.

Federal Tax Authority is a pretty strict organisation, people there do not like to reply on questions and recommend tax agents. Tax agents are registered, and it is a predefined list, which you can find here.

The charges are app. $200/hr or with monthly and annual packages of 1000 AED or 12,000 AED respectively. VAT and accounting are kept as separate services offered.

If you want to open a bank account on the name of your company, you need to have an entity. Freelance license gets you on your own name, though you can use any brand name for invoicing, but it is not a legal entity.

Personally, having experience with a company and a freelance and several courts, there is no protection with the company. If you owe something to someone you are liable for it since you are the CEO and the owner and is personally responsible. It is the same as complain on a person, single individuals can be also invited to the court. So in this case, I feel no difference besides not being able to have an office, but you file no reports and have no board members and longer paper work assigned.

If you just want to stay tax-free, freelance license may be enough. As you will be sending the invoices for your service to your home company, this way no need to make a new company. A new company is only good when you want to do the same for several people in your company, and may want to employ some couple more people on-site in UAE from locals.

Also, with a company you can take a business loan for a warehouse purchase or similar. Some banks do not accept Russian or Ukrainian passports as new accounts and this is for business accounts. Other banks may consider you if you stayed for 2+ years on the market in UAE and have 50 millions+ AED annual turnover.

But with Emirates NBD and Abu Dhabi Bank you may have no issues.

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