Accessing Saudi Arabian energy opportunities will be more taxing

The current fiscal challenges facing Saudi Arabia have been manifested with the recent sharpening of the taxation tools. A number of key areas will demand closer planning and compliance scrutiny by technology and services providers conducting business in or into the Kingdom.

For businesses exporting into the territory, the principal watch points are compliance with the 5-20% with-holding taxes and ensuring that informal arrangements with local partners do not result in a taxable “permanent establishment” being created – a back tax bill of 20% of profits plus penalties and interest awaits those who get it wrong. Given that many businesses trade with the Kingdom via free zone entities in the zero corporation tax UAE, the spectre of transfer pricing will loom, with the General Zakat and Tax Authority reportedly looking more closely at instances where it believes “Saudi profits” are being uncommercially booked elsewhere.  And the summer has seen VAT, introduced in 2018, hiked to 15% from 1 July. The EIC was tracking US$170 billion of projects across the upstream, downstream, power, renewables and desalination sectors before the onset of the COVID-19 & oil price slump in March but it is clear that managing the taxation challenge is now escalating alongside the IKTVA localisation challenge in reaching these opportunities with commercial success.