There are a lot of things to consider before you start exporting to Qatar.
It's essential to find out about local rules and regulations on tax and duty in your intended market.
When establishing a local company, foreign ownership is limited to 49 per cent, with the remaining 51 per cent for Qatar nationals.
The main ways of starting up a business in Qatar are:
- establishment of a local company, normally a Limited Liability Company (LLC), with a Qatari
- establishment of a branch when the contract is a Qatari government contract
- setting up a commercial agency either via a 100 per cent Qatari entity, or individual agent to market and sell goods when you have no physical presence in Qatar
- establishment of a representative office as a platform to promote a non-Qatar company and introduce it to Qatari companies and projects
To access Qatari tenders you may need to have a plan to establish a local presence if you don’t already have one. However this is not so typical for consultancy based contracts.
Companies seeking to operate a contract remotely can be at a disadvantage to competitors who already have a local partner, or other form of local presence in Qatar.
Standards and technical regulations
The Ministry of Economy and Trade requires all importers to register to get an import licence. These are only issued to Qatari nationals. This regulation also applies to wholly foreign owned entities operating in Qatar.
Qatar enforces strict rules on labels and packaging of food products and enforces GCCshelf-life standards for approximately 200 food products. The manufacturer’s established shelf life is accepted for other food products.
Food labels must be clearly labelled with:
- product and brand names
- production and expiry dates
- country of origin
- name and address of manufacturer
- net weight in metric units
- list of the ingredients and additives in descending order of importance
- all fats and oils used as ingredients clearly identified
Labels must be in Arabic only, or in Arabic/English. Small quantities of products with English only labels may be approved for import on a case by case basis.
Production and expiry dates must be printed on the original label or container by the manufacturer. Dates cannot be added after the fact by sticker. Products must arrive at destination with at least half the shelf-life duration remaining.
All imported meats require a health certificate issued by the country of export and a ‘Halal’ slaughter certificate issued by an approved Islamic centre in that country.
Trade mark and copyright owners and patents holders are dependent on Qatar’s own national laws and regulations for protection. Register your trademarks at the Qatar Trade Mark Office. Inventive designs or industrial models can also be registered under the Trade Mark Law.
You should register at the Qatar Copyright Office to protect your original literary and artistic works. This includes computer programmes and databases which are creative in the selection and arrangement of their subject matter.
Inventions and foreign patents can be registered at the Qatar Patent Office. However, aGCC Patent can be obtained by filing an application at the Patent Office in Saudi Arabia. Certificates of Patents granted by the GCC Patent Office secure legal protection of the inventor’s rights in all member states.
Read more about protecting your intellectual property overseas.
Tax and customs considerations
The UK and Qatar signed a Double Taxation Agreement in June 2009.
There is no sales tax in Qatar.
Qatari companies are exempt from tax.
However, the rules are different for foreign companies, and any business activity carried out in Qatar is subject to corporate income tax. This includes any services or consultancy contracts within the state as well as any gains on property.
A new tax law came into force from 1 January 2010. This introduced a flat rate of taxation of 10 per cent on company profits for all non-Qatari recipients. This does not include GCC individuals and entities.
There is no personal income tax for nationals or expatriates.
The Qatar Customs and Ports General Authority has responsibility for customs matters.
A person or entity wishing to import goods into Qatar for sale must be:
- registered in the Importers Register
- approved by the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry
The standard rate of duty is 5 per cent (ad valorem) of the Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) value in accordance with GCC Customs Union tariffs.
Goods that compete with locally manufactured products attract a higher rate of duty, such as steel (20 per cent), cement (20 per cent) and urea (30 per cent).
Goods manufactured in GCC countries are exempt from customs duty provided they are accompanied by a certificate of origin issued by the Chamber of Commerce in the GCC State of origin.
There are also rules on temporary imports and samples. You should enquire with the Customs Department via the Qatar Government portal for further information.
You can find more about import tariffs in the Market Access Database (MADB).
To release imports from customs zones the following documents are required:
- certificate of origin
- invoice and shipping document
- full description of goods
- health and quality certificate, if applicable
In Qatar, the letter of credit (LC) is the most common instrument for controlling exports and imports. When an LC is opened, the supplier is required to provide a:
- certificate of origin
- certificate from ship’s captain of the ship or shipping agency stating that the ship is allowed to enter Arab ports
Both documents should be notarised by an Arab embassy or consulate, or an Arab Chamber of Commerce in the exporting country.
All visitors must have a valid passport with at least 6 months validity.
British citizens can apply for a one month visit visa on arrival at Hamad International Airport.
Anyone who wants to live and work in Qatar requires a residence permit.