Welcome to SIAA

economic substance regulations

Navigating UAE's Economic Substance Regulations: A Comprehensive Guide

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Economic Substance Regulations (ESR) have emerged as a crucial framework to ensure transparency and compliance in business operations. Enforced to align with global standards, particularly those set forth by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), ESR mandates that companies operating in the UAE demonstrate substantial economic activities within the country. The regulations primarily target entities engaged in specific sectors deemed to be at risk of profit shifting and base erosion. These sectors include banking, insurance, investment fund management, leasing, headquarters, shipping, holding companies, and intellectual property. Under ESR, companies are required to maintain adequate substance by conducting core income-generating activities locally, such as decision-making, strategic management, and employment of qualified personnel. Furthermore, entities falling under the purview of ESR are obligated to submit annual reports providing detailed information on their activities, financial performance, and the presence of tangible assets and employees in the UAE. Non-compliance with ESR can lead to significant penalties, including monetary fines, suspension, or revocation of licenses, impacting the reputation and operations of the non-compliant entities. Despite initial challenges and adjustments required by businesses to adhere to these regulations, ESR aims to enhance the UAE’s reputation as a transparent and credible business hub, fostering investor confidence and promoting sustainable economic growth. Additionally, ESR contributes to the UAE’s commitment to international tax cooperation and combating tax evasion, thereby reinforcing its position as a responsible member of the global business community. As the regulatory landscape continues to evolve, businesses operating in the UAE must remain vigilant and ensure full compliance with ESR to mitigate risks and maintain their competitive edge in the market.

What are Economic Substance Regulations?

ESR mandates that companies conducting certain activities must demonstrate sufficient economic substance within the UAE. The regulations aim to prevent profit shifting and ensure that businesses have tangible operations in the jurisdiction where they generate income.

Key Aspects of ESR Compliance

  1. Relevant Activities: ESR applies to businesses involved in activities such as banking, insurance, fund management, leasing, and intellectual property. Even if a company falls under exempt categories, it must still file a notification.
  2. Submission Deadlines: Companies must submit an annual notification within six months from their financial year-end. Failure to meet this deadline can result in penalties.
  3. Penalties for Non-Compliance: The penalties for non-compliance are stringent. Failing to submit a notification incurs a penalty of AED 20,000, while not submitting an Economic Substance Report within the specified timeframe leads to a penalty of AED 50,000.

Penalties under Economic Substance Regulation

Fundamental Conditions to Pass the Economic Substance Test

The National Assessing Authority evaluates the compliance of economic substance regulations by examining a company’s performance across several key criteria:

1.Relevant Activities: Businesses operating in the United Arab Emirates must engage in Core Income Generating Activities outlined by the Economic Substance Regulations. These activities include insurance, banking investment, budget administration, shipping, lease-finance, intellectual property management, holding firm business, among others.

2.Board Meeting Attendance: The second test assesses whether companies have convened and participated in an appropriate number of board meetings in the UAE. Attendance must be physical, and all participants are required to sign written minutes kept on record. Furthermore, administrators must demonstrate the necessary skills and expertise to fulfill their responsibilities effectively.

3.Full-Time Staff: Maintaining a sufficient number of full-time staff with the requisite proficiency to oversee Core Income Generating Activities is essential for passing the Economic Substance Test. These staff members must be physically present in the UAE while conducting business activities.

4.Cost Incurrence: Businesses conducting Core Income Generating Activities must have incurred sufficient costs. If these tasks are outsourced, the expenses of third-party service providers must be adequate to satisfy the ESR requirements.

5.Physical Assets: Licensees conducting Relevant Activities in the UAE must possess sufficient physical assets. This may include property utilized for conducting relevant activities in the UAE, among other assets.

By meeting these criteria, companies can demonstrate compliance with economic substance regulations in the United Arab Emirates.

Square International: Your ESR Compliance Partner

In navigating the complexities of ESR, partnering with expert service providers like Square International becomes indispensable. Square International offers comprehensive ESR services to assist businesses in fulfilling their compliance obligations efficiently.

How Square International Helps

  • Notification and Reporting Assistance: Square International guides companies through the entire process of filing notifications and preparing Economic Substance Reports, ensuring accuracy and timeliness
  • Compliance Advisory: With a deep understanding of ESR requirements, Square International provides tailored advisory services to help businesses align their operations with regulatory standards
  • Penalty Mitigation: By proactively managing compliance, Square International helps mitigate the risk of penalties, safeguarding companies’ financial interests


As the UAE reinforces its commitment to regulatory transparency, adherence to Economic Substance Regulations becomes imperative for businesses operating within its jurisdiction. With Square International’s expertise, companies can navigate the complexities of ESR seamlessly, ensuring compliance and avoiding penalties. Stay informed, stay compliant, and thrive in the UAE’s dynamic business environment.

In summary, ESR is a critical aspect of doing business in the UAE, and partnering with experienced service providers like Square International can streamline compliance efforts and mitigate potential risks. By understanding the regulations and acting promptly, businesses can uphold their integrity and thrive in the UAE’s vibrant economy.