Dubai offshore company in 2023

Opening a Dubai offshore business is an ideal, tax efficient and cost effective corporate structure for entrepreneurs who wish to conduct international trade.

An offshore entity can also be referred to as a non-resident “paper” company that allows foreign entrepreneurs to serve Africa and the Middle East without administrative obligations. Consequently, an offshore business is simply a wholly owned LLC which is legally tax exempt and has no annual accounting and tax obligations.

  1. Offshore companies are used for i) international trading ii) holding company iii) shipping company iv) owning real estate v) registering copyright and patents and vi) international consulting services;
  2. An offshore Dubai company formation is ruled by the Jebel Ali Free Zone Offshore Companies Regulations 2003.

Advantages of a Dubai offshore entity

  1. An offshore company is quick and simple to set up in Dubai, particularly when compared to other business types in the UAE;
  2. An offshore company in Dubai portrays a good image to Clients, suppliers, and even potential venture capitalists. Dubai is a globally-recognised jurisdiction which does not carry a ‘tax neutral jurisdiction’ stigma;
  3. If properly structured, an offshore business setup in Dubai is legally exempt from corporate tax, making it an ideal international trading vehicle;
  4. The shareholders and directors in the off-shore company will not be required to register their names and details for public record;
  5. In Dubai, an offshore company is exempt from all annual accounting and tax obligations;
  6. Compared to other tax neutral entities, setting up an offshore business is a cheap and easy way to get a corporate bank account in Dubai;
  7. Dubai company documents are bilingual (English and Arabic), thus recognizable globally by banks, Governments, suppliers and investors.

Disadvantages of a Dubai offshore entity

  1. A Dubai offshore entity is not allowed to trade in Dubai and the UAE;
  2. The offshore entity can neither i) rent local premises in the UAE ii) nor employ staff in the UAE iii) nor secure residence or work visa for staff;
  3. Compared to other tax neutral entities, incorporating an offshore company in Dubai can be expensive;
  4. Dubai banks provide poor customer service support;
  5. The offshore business cannot use UAE’s double taxation treaties to reduce global withholding tax;
  6. A Dubai offshore business cannot invest in UAE real estate.

Other options for Dubai

Apart from incorporating an offshore company in Dubai, entrepreneurs have the following options for operating their business in the Middle East:

  1. Dubai LLC;
  2. Dubai free zone company.

A comparison between UAE offshore companies

There are three different options when registering an offshore company in the UAE: Jebel Ali in Dubai, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah (RAK).

Both Ajman and RAK offshore companies can be used to conduct international trading outside of the UAE, holding companies and estate planning and asset protection vehicles. Both are also low cost options to setup an international business companies when compared to costs to register a Jebel Ali offshore company.

While the incorporation process, timeframe and requirements to register an Ajman offshore company is much easier, generally our preferred option is the RAK company as the free trade zone is much more established and well known to international entrepreneurs. Furthermore, an added advantage is that a RAK offshore company also allows to maintain a registered office in Dubai. Refer to the below table to view a detailed comparison.

Jebel Ali offshore company RAK offshore company Ajman
offshore company
Summary at a Glance US$ US$ US$
Total company set up costs US$17,400 US$15,401 US$12,670
Subsequent annual costs US$7,550 US$5,551 US$3,200
Type of company LLC LLC LLC
How long to set the company up? 2 weeks 2 weeks 2 weeks
How long to open company bank account? 5 weeks 5 weeks 5 weeks
Issued share capital required US$1 US$1 US$1
Any restriction on activities? Yes No No
Corporate bank account in the UAE? Yes Yes Yes
Tenancy agreement required before incorporation? No No No
Do you visit the country for company incorporation? No No No
100% foreign ownership allowed Yes Yes Yes
Resident director or shareholder required? No No No
Can conduct business within the UAE? No No No
Legal registered office needed? Yes Yes Yes
Can rent office premises No No No
Can the entity hire expatriate staff? No No No
Bearer shares allowed? No Yes No
Documents to be legalized by Client Yes No Yes
Can invest in UAE real estate No No Yes
Legal considerations
Minimum number of directors 2 1 1
Corporate director allowed? No Yes Yes
Minimum number of shareholders 1 1 1
Company secretary needed? Yes No Yes
Resident company secretary? No No Yes
Corporate company secretary allowed? No Yes Yes
Individual shareholders allowed Yes Yes Yes
Corporate shareholders allowed Yes Yes Yes
Public register of shareholders and directors No No No
Tax and accounting considerations
Annual accounting and tax obligations No No No
Corporate tax payable (if non-resident) No No No
Accounting records to be kept? Yes Yes Yes
Statutory audit required Yes No Yes
Annual tax return to be submitted No No Yes
Can access double tax treaties No No No
Can apply for immigration visas No No No
Estimated of total engagement costs in Year 1 US$17,400 US$26,750 US$12,670
Draft Invoice View invoice PDF View invoice PDF View invoice PDF

Check out offshore company formation for other offshore jurisdictions

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Contact us

For additional information on our offshore company registration services in Dubai, please contact our in-house country expert, Ms. Chrissi Zamora, directly:
client relationship officer - Chrissi