Industrial free zones
Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) is the only industrial free zone in the country. The Zone aims to attract companies that develop, transfer and commercialize technology. Existing tenants include multi-national companies like Chevron, Cisco, GE, Microsoft, Rolls-Royce, Tata, ExxonMobil, Vodafone, Shell and Williams F1.
- QSTP resident companies can be 100% foreign owned;
- Companies licensed in the QSTP are not subject to any taxes in Qatar. Furthermore, licensed companies will not pay custom duties on import/export of goods;
- While it is mandatory to rent a free zone office at a low rent, it is not necessary to hire local staff;
- QSTP licensed companies are encouraged to partner with Qatar branches of reputable universities like Cornell, Georgetown, Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon with regards to R&D activities;
- QSTP companies are allowed to work outside the zone without an agent;
- Lastly, companies will face no restrictions on repatriation of capital and profits from Qatar to other countries. Furthermore, companies will be allowed access to the country’s 60 double tax treaties which may assist in minimizing withholding taxes.
Criteria to enter QSTP
- To be licensed in the QSTP, the majority of an entity’s activities must contribute to the advancement of science and technology. Projects that collaborate with Qatar’s universities and research institutes are particularly encouraged;
- Permits are granted on a case-by-case basis. The assessment will be based on certain metrics including i) scope of the business activities ii) monetary investment in the projects and iii) individuals educated or trained under the project;
- Activities permitted in the QSTP (commercial or otherwise) must be related to science and technology. Commercial operations like i) manufacturing and ii) warehousing are not permitted.
Qatar business setup in QSTP
- In order to setup in the QSTP, applicants will be required to submit i) detailed business plan and ii) research plans to the QSTP Management. The management will assess if the plans satisfy the Entry Criteria and Permitted Uses;
- Once QSTP approval is received, the applicant chooses whether they wish to incorporate an LLC or register a branch office. QSTP LLCs must have at least one shareholders and a minimum capital of US$55,000;
- Once the entity is setup and license approval is secured, the applicants must conclude a lease agreement in the zone;
- Company license are renewable annually as long as it complies with the regulations, including the submission of annual audited financial statements to the QSTP management.
Qatar international financial center
Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) was established to attract international financial services institutions and multi-national corporation to setup business in Qatar, and to increase the capacity of Qatar’s financial services.
- Entities licenses by QFC are allowed i) to be fully foreign-owned ii) unrestricted repatriation of profits iii) no restriction on the currency used for trading iv) access to Qatar’s double tax agreements and v) to choose freely where to locate their operations in Doha;
- Profits incurred by QFC licensed entities operating within the QFC are subject to a 10% tax rate.
- QFC regulated activities include i) activities related to financial services ii) insurance/reinsurance iii) asset management iv) fund administration v) funds advisory vi) pension funds vii) the provision of credit viii) brokerage services ix) financial agency x) corporate finance advisory and xi) custodian services;
- The QFC authority may also license QFC entities to conduct non-regulated activities, from within the QFC including i) ship broking ii) ship agency services iii) grading services iv) company administration services v) the business of holding companies vi) the formation, operation and administration of trusts vii) professional advisory services, including accounting, audit, tax, consulting and legal services.
- For regulated activities, companies are required to apply for a QFCA license and a Regulatory Authority authorization. Both of these are obtained together with the Regulatory Authority, with documents that prove that the company has i) sufficient financial resources, ii) adequate systems, iii) suitable compliance arrangements and iv) effective internal controls;
- The application fee for regulated activities varies from US$10,000 to US$40,000, and companies are required to renew their licenses for an annual fee of US$500;
- For non-regulated activities, companies are only required to apply for a QFCA license with the Regulatory Authority. The application fee is US$5,000, and must be payed annually to renew the license.