Value-added Tax compliance must be a top priority for businesses in Bahrain

Philippe Norre
  • Failure to meet the compliance requirements can lead to severe penalty charges.
  • Early VAT readiness can allow for cash-flow enhancement and optimize resource development and training.
Philippe Norre

Given the speedy progress Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are making in rolling out their local Value-added Tax (VAT) legislations, VAT will soon be a reality and compliance formalities will start affecting businesses even before VAT goes live in Bahrain.

Last month, Saudi Arabia has published its VAT law, issued the draft VAT regulations and announced the launch of the online VAT registration portal in August. According to the provisions in the GCC VAT framework agreement, businesses with annual supplies worth of USD100,000 (i.e. BD 37,700), are required to register for VAT. UAE, also leading on GCC VAT, has issued its new tax procedures law and the Kuwaiti Council of Ministers recently approved the VAT draft law, paving the way for VAT implementation as scheduled in 2018.

Head of Indirect Taxes at KPMG in Bahrain, Philippe Norré, explained that by now companies should understand the impact of VAT on their operations and are currently working on optimizing their processes and systems to ensure their VAT compliance in the immediate and longer-term future. This will also help businesses to take control and achieve visibility beyond the VAT go-live date.

Detailed requirements will vary among GCC member states, but compliance fundamentals will remain the same. Businesses registered for VAT will need to record, assess and report VAT obligations as well as entitlements according to the local regulations and submit them to the competent authority within a certain timeframe. Inaccurate reporting of input VAT credits can lead to losses and business disruption. Failure to meet the compliance requirements can incur risks and penalty charges, including litigation from the concerned competent authority.

“The current absence of published domestic VAT legislation in Bahrain should not stop companies from getting ready as the underlying principles for VAT treatment are clear and known, whereby global indirect taxes best practice gives valuable insights. In addition to on-going compliance, early preparation can enhance continuous cash-flow, minimize VAT impact on the company’s finances, avoid exposure in ongoing supply contracts and streamline operations to manage VAT efficiently” Norré added.

The pre-implementation phase provides adequate time to ensure the relevant technology and resources are in place to comply with the new tax system. “Businesses need to build systems and processes, and embed them within the existing processes, to help them manage tax reporting complexities. This will require a new set of skills and knowledge; therefore companies need to invest in human resources and training before implementation begins” Norré elaborated.

VAT will be levied on the supply of goods and services at a standard rate of 5%. The government of Bahrain has announced earlier this year the plan to introduce VAT by mid-2018. Bahrain domestic VAT law, when issued, will provide details on the treatment of certain supplies as zero-rated or VAT exempt.  It will also include details on the conditions for VAT deductions, VAT grouping, transactions assimilated with taxable supplies, record and reporting requirements and further definitions to enable the correct VAT treatment by companies on their supplies and procurement.

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