SLG Newsletter April 2019

 

Dear Friends and Clients,

We are happy to announce that we have created a new email domain that matches our corporate identity. From now on we ask to use instead of the old domain “SLG@strohallegalgroup.com“, to please use the new:

SLGlaw.cc

If you don’t know the lawyer or staff in charge please write to office@SLGlaw.cc

The decades-long use of the SLG logo – standing for Strohal Legal Group – has gained sufficient publicity for us to limit ourselves to “SLGlaw”. Of course the old domain will be maintained for a few more months as we transition.

Do anyone of our esteemed reader own apartments/hotel rooms in the in the Moevenpick JLT Hotel? We have been mandated to enforce legal claims in connection with this hotel project and are seeking out other owners.

Ramadan ante portas:

The Holy Month is on the doorstep.

We are aware that the UAE is one of the most tolerant Islamic countries. Nevertheless, in Ramadan it is absolutely necessary to respect and follow the rules and customs of our hosts, even if a restaurant, shop or hotel does not want to obey the fasting hours and chooses to serve food and drinks. It may be pleasing to tourists, but expats should side with our fasting hosts and only eat and drink when we are really alone and cannot be seen. I know many non-Muslim expats who obey the fasting rules like the locals, just as a matter of courtesy.  Also, smoking in visible places during this time is as frowned upon as exchanging caresses, hugs or even holding hands. 

At sunset, the big meal begins, first with the Iftar. Those of us who have not been invited out to eat should avoid restaurants for up to 1-2 hours after sunset. All restaurants will be beyond overcrowded. After that, you can go back to eating comfortably until midnight, when Suhoor happens, which follows, yet again, a large, hearty meal.

Accepting an invitation from a local host to these feasts really pays off. You may sit next to important decision makers with whom you never expected to meet. Maybe there is a member of the ruling family beside you and you can advise him how to invest in your business. He will not say he won’t do it, because this would be impolite, but he will for sure not close the deal at once.

The business world is not completely quiet in Ramadan, but it is characterized by the premise that no business should be concluded and no contracts signed. Old businesses can be warmed up and new ones can be initiated, for which the Iftars and Suhoors are perfectly suitable. However, business deals will only properly be possible after the Eid holidays.

Employees have shorter working hours; governmental offices are generally only available in the morning. Everything is slower, and with a reminder of the 5 pillars of Islam, one of which is the fasting in the holy month.

Enjoy this very precious and specific month and make the best out of it!

Ramadan Kareem!

Yours,

Theodor Strohal

Double taxation deal between UAE and Saudi Arabia comes into effect

The UAE and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation that was agreed upon last May 2018 in Jeddah has come into effect this April 2019. The Ministry of Finance is keen to grow its network of bilateral double taxation avoidance agreements with various countries around the world to fulfill the vision of the wise leadership of the state in diversifying sources of income and advancing the development objectives of the state.

Abu Dhabi adopted new judicial monitoring system

Abu Dhabi Judicial Department has applied the Judicial Monitoring Methodology which includes a set of world judicial indicators. This will allow the application of judicial systems and services to the highest standard which will allow Abu Dhabi to improve its competitiveness worldwide. The Judicial Monitoring Methodology is objective in measuring the effectiveness and transparency of the judicial proceedings. It consists of 11 judicial indicators that are based on leading judicial standard systems including the International Framework for Court Excellence (IFCE), the European Commission on Judicial Excellence (CEPEJ), the National Centre for State Courts (NCSC), and many more.

Comment:

There is hope that the last remaining obstacles to an efficient judicial process will be removed. While the length of the proceedings – I am speaking of civil courts – is incredibly short in UAE compared to Europe, some procedural inconsistencies still need to be eradicated. This includes the often unnecessary ordering of experts, especially when it comes to the solution of legal issues which is not the task of an expert but of the judge.

DLD signed MOUs to promote real estate sector

The Dubai Land Department (DLD) has entered into four Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) to further enhance the real estate sector. The MOUs are expected to provide more opportunities for investors who are looking into working, living and investing in Dubai. The first MOU that was signed was between DLD and DIFC Courts as a cooperation agreement to exchange ideas, studies, experiences, knowledge, researches and continuous coordination. Second, DLD signed a MOU with Dubai Television to promote Dubai’s real estate market by producing a TV programme to be aired this 2019. Third, the Republic of Mauritius and DLD signed a MOU to promote the properties of the two parties, share expertise on smart cities, artificial intelligence and e-governance. Lastly, DLD signed an agreement with Morocco’s Ministry of Land Preparation, Reconstruction, Housing, and City Policy to improve the interests of both parties with regards to real estate and boosting investments.

UAE Visa Policy: Considerations will now be made to the persons “income”, rather than their “profession”

The UAE cabinet has recently announced it has adopted a decision to amend rules for expats sponsoring family members. Previously, only members of certain listed “professions” could sponsor the visa of a family member, meaning that certain workers, regardless of their salary, would not be able to move their family over to the UAE to reside with them. This condition has now been removed, with the sole requirement being an individual must have an “income”. As of yet, there are no specific details in respect to whether there will be a minimum threshold of income for the rules to apply. However, the decision has been welcomed as a positive move for the UAE, as it simplifies the sponsorship process and allows more UAE residents to move their families to the country.

UAE government announced to launch electronic family book for both UAE citizens & expats

The UAE cabinet on Monday adopted a decision to launch the Electronic Family Book, to be used as a document in all transactions across the UAE. The decision was approved by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The decision is in line with the government’s shift to smart services trends. The Electronic Family Book will reduce the customer service queues up to 80 per cent by 2021. The decision, announced on the government’s official website, will apply to both citizens and expats. It also serves as a reference that includes all the information of citizens and residents. The Electronic Family Book will be directly linked to the Emirates ID and will come into effect as of July 1. A series of workshops with relevant entities will be held prior to launching the Electronic Family Book. The implementation of the Electronic Family Book will store the data in the smart chip of the ID card, which will enhance the convenience of transactions, in addition to enhancing security and reducing chances of fraud.

UAE may extend excise tax list

The Government of the UAE may include more products on the excise tax list after its first implementation last October 2017. The Ministry of Finance conducted a study together with officials from Saudi Arabia to expand the scope of goods listed on the selective tax list. It has not yet been determined which products will be added but the move aims to cut the consumption of harmful substances by residents. The products that are currently on the excise tax list are in three categories: tobacco and tobacco products, energy drinks and carbonated drinks.

Far East:

Buying a condominium in Thailand

Foreigners are allowed to buy and own a condominium unit in Thailand. However, only condominiums registered under pertinent laws and licensed with the Thai Land Department offer a full individual ownership (with a government-issued ownership title deed) and are regulated by the Thailand Condominium Act.

Atleast 51% of the area of the condominium building must always be Thai owned. The foreign-owned units are always referred to as “foreign freehold” units or units held under “foreign quota”. If the foreign freehold ownership in a condominium has reached the limit of 49%, the remaining units may be leased to foreigners under a 30-year lease agreement. This is often referred to as “leasehold unit”.

There are no restrictions with regards to nationality, and any foreigner who can enter Thailand with a valid visa can buy and own a condominium unit within the foreign ownership quota of the condominium.

Singapore’s proposed law to combat online fake news

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill has been submitted to the Parliament to prevent the spread of fake news. Once passed, it will be able to allow the government to act against online falsehoods to protect the public interest. Public interest is defined as: Singapore’s security, to protect public health, public finances, public safety or public tranquility, Singapore’s friendly relations with other countries, to prevent influence on the outcome of an election or a referendum; to prevent incitement of feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different groups of persons, to prevent a diminution of public confidence in public institutions.

Two conditions must be met in order for falsehoods to be determined  including: a false statement of fact and it must be in the public interest for the Government to take action. This is decided by the Minister and advised by his officials and will be joined by the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA). Once a falsehood is proven, corrections, take-down orders, and blocking of accounts may be implemented. Criminal sanctions will apply to those who intentionally undermine society using falsehoods. However, only the Court may decide on falsehood and supersedes any decisions made by the Government.

Comment:  A nice example of legal segregation of powers.

Myanmar: Commercial tax on mobile handsets

The Internal Revenue Department (IRD) in Myanmar has announced this April that consumers will now have to pay 5% commercial tax when purchasing mobile phones and related accessories from June 1st. The taxes will be levied based on the total sales value of the purchase and collected by the vendor.  The consumer will then receive a stamped voucher as proof of payment on the merchandise with commercial tax included. 5% commercial tax has already been imposed on hotels, restaurants and broadcasting with 1% levied at gold shops last year to boost tax revenue.

Cambodia: Government to drop VAT on agricultural exports

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced last Friday that local companies will no longer be charged with VAT on exports of their agricultural products. The government will shoulder the VAT charges on exports of agricultural products such as: paddy rice, milled rice, pepper, corn, beans, cashew nuts, rubber and cassava from 2019 to 2023. According to Hun Sen, the new regulation will help businesses and will improve the agriculture sector. With the new reform also came changes like the removal of the Camcontrol personnel at border checkpoints and the dissolution of the Kampuchea Shipping Agency Brokers.