Qatar free zones
Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP)
Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) is ideal for tech and innovation start-ups. Existing tenants include multi-nationals such as Chevron, Cisco, GE, Microsoft, Rolls-Royce, Tata, ExxonMobil, Vodafone, Shell and Williams F1.
Advantages of setting up a business in QSTP
Setting up Qatari business in the QSTP
- QSTP-resident companies can be 100% foreign-owned;
- QSTP-licenced companies are legally tax-exempt in Qatar, and pay no customs duties on goods imports/exports;
- While it is mandatory to rent an office in QSTP, it is not necessary to hire local staff;
- QSTP-licenced companies often partner with the local branches of reputable global universities like Cornell, Georgetown, Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon. As a result, they are able to benefit from knowledge and research and development (R&D) activities;
- QSTP companies can freely repatriate capital and profits from Qatar to other countries;
- QSTP companies can access Qatar’s 60 double tax treaties, thereby minimising withholding tax;
- Eligible QSTP start-ups can access funding schemes.
Best uses of a QSTP company
- Because QSTP companies have access to accelerator programs and incubation centres in the park, it is ideal for start-ups in i) energy ii) environment iii) health science iv) information communication technology (ICT).
Criteria to set up a business in QSTP
- To obtain a QSTP licence, the majority of the company’s activities must contribute to advancing science and technology;
- Projects that collaborate with universities and research institutes in Qatar are encouraged;
- Licences are granted on a case-by-case basis. The assessment will be based on i) scope of business activities ii) scale of investment iii) the number of individuals benefitting from education or training via the project, iv) the number of staff directly employed in technology development, technology consulting or R&D.
Steps to complete QSTP business setup
- To set up a business in QSTP, applicants must submit i) a detailed business plan and ii) research plans to QSTP management. See entry criteria here;
- Once QSTP approval is granted, the applicant chooses whether they wish to incorporate an LLC or register a branch office. QSTP LLCs must have at least one shareholder and a minimum capital of US$55,000;
- Once the entity is setup and licence approval has been granted, the applicants must sign a lease agreement within QSTP;
- A QSTP company must submit annual audited financial statements to QSTP management;
- The licence is renewable annually.
Qatar Financial Center (QFC)
Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) is one of the Middle East’s fastest-growing financial ecosystems, and is home more than 800 companies including i) global banks ii) insurance firms iii) asset management offices and iv) other financial service companies.
Advantages of setting up a QFC company
- Licensed QFC entities can be 100% foreign-owned;
- There are no restrictions on the repatriation of profits out of Qatar;
- A QFC company has no currency restrictions;
- QFC companies face no restrictions on the repatriation of capital and profits from Qatar to other countries. Furthermore, QFC companies can access to Qatar’s 60 double tax treaties, thereby minimising withholding tax exposure;
- QFC has its own legal, regulatory, tax and business infrastructure;
- A QFC company pays a flat 10% corporate tax on all profits sourced in Qatar;
- A QFC can access extensive tax exemptions on dividends and capital gains;
- Because the Middle East accounts for only about 2% of global Fintech startups, there is significant upside potential for FinTech startups in Qatar.
Best uses of a QFC company
- QFC is the hub of choice for financial services technology (FinTech) startups, including those offering i) cybersecurity solutions ii) application programming interfaces iii) cloud computing iv) blockchain-based technologies and v) artificial intelligence;
- QFC regulated activities include i) insurance/reinsurance ii) asset management iii) fund administration iv) funds advisory v) pension funds vi) the provision of credit vii) brokerage services viii) financial agency business ix) corporate finance advisory and x) custodian services;
- Licensed QFC entities conducting non-regulated activities include 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.
Criteria to set up a business in QFC
- For regulated activities, companies are required to apply for a QFC licence as well as authorisation a the QFC Authority;
- Both licence and authorisation above require the submission to QFC Authority of documents that prove that the company has i) sufficient financial resources ii) a sound business plan iii) suitable compliance arrangements and iv) effective internal controls.
Steps to incorporating a QFC company
- The applicant applies for Strategic Test Approval by submitting a business case questionnaire to QFC Authority;
- Once Strategic Test Approval is granted, the licence application, including i) business plan ii) financial statements iii) board resolutions and iv) licensing forms must be submitted to QFC;
- Our Client is also required to sign a lease agreement for a QFC office;
- The QFC licence is issued within two months.