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Is salary in Dubai tax free?

Dubai has become known as a popular expatriate destination, with many foreigners attracted by the promise of a tax-free salary and lavish lifestyle. But is it really true that there are no taxes on income in Dubai? The answer is more nuanced than a simple yes or no.

While Dubai does not impose income tax on salaries and wages, there are certain exceptions and conditions that determine whether income is taxable or not. Much depends on the employee’s residency status, where the income originates, and the type of employment.

Taxation system in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a different taxation system compared to many other countries. There is no personal income tax regime in the UAE, either at the federal or emirate (state) level. The country relies on revenues from oil and gas instead of taxes on individuals to fund government spending.

The UAE also does not impose any taxes on capital gains, wealth or inheritance. The only significant government revenues come from corporate taxes on companies (generally oil and gas companies), customs duties, fees on public services, and municipal taxes on hotel services and real estate.

This makes the UAE, and Dubai in particular, a very attractive place for foreigners to live and work tax-free. However, the no taxation policy does come with certain conditions and exceptions.

Income tax rules in Dubai

The key things to know about income tax in Dubai are:

No income tax for employees

Salaries and wages earned by employees in Dubai are not subject to any income tax. This applies regardless of the employee’s nationality or residency status. All employee earnings from salaries and wages are 100% tax-free in Dubai.

Taxation for business owners and self-employed

Business owners and self-employed professionals registered in certain free zones may be exempt from paying income tax, depending on the free zone. However, those registered on the mainland are required to pay tax on any income generated in Dubai.

Differences between residents and non-residents

Whether an individual is a resident or non-resident also matters when it comes to income tax obligations. UAE nationals and foreign ‘residents’ are treated the same for tax purposes. Residents are obliged to pay tax on all UAE and worldwide income, whereas non-residents only pay tax on UAE-sourced income.

Where the income arises

Salaries earned for work performed in Dubai are not taxed. However, if the role involves work done in another country, taxes may apply according to that country’s rules. Therefore, where the employment income actually arises can impact whether it’s taxable.

Income Source Taxability
Salary earned for work performed in Dubai Not taxable
Salary earned for work performed abroad May be taxable per the other country’s rules

Nature of employment

The nature of employment is another factor. For instance, armed forces staff and some government employees may be subject to taxes under specific rules. Employees of free zones may get tax exemptions that mainland companies’ staff do not.

How Dubai attracts foreign talent

The absence of income tax is one of Dubai’s main draws for expatriates from high-tax countries like the UK, US, Australia and Canada. Foreign professionals can significantly increase their take-home pay by relocating to work in Dubai.

Some key benefits include:

– Higher disposable income without taxes
– Keeping more of what you earn
– Significant savings over a career
– Ability to save and invest more
– More purchasing power on goods and services
– Higher standard of living

Dubai also offers a luxurious lifestyle, sunny weather, a thriving expat community and world-class amenities. The tax-free salaries go hand-in-hand with these other lifestyle factors to attract foreign talent.

Higher take-home income

The biggest motivation is the ability to increase take-home pay. Without taxes, employees get to keep their entire gross income. Someone earning a $100,000 per year salary would take home the full $100,000. This is compared to high-tax countries where 30-50% of income can go towards taxes.

Boosts savings and investments

The tax savings allow people to save and invest more for the future. Someone able to save an extra $40,000 per year due to no taxes can build significant wealth over time. This provides financial security and allows greater wealth accumulation.

Increased purchasing power

No income taxes means higher purchasing power on goods and services in Dubai. Everything from housing, schooling, dining out and entertainment become more affordable. Higher savings together with lower taxes makes it possible to enjoy a very high quality of life.

The exceptions – when income may be taxed

While the concept of no income tax in Dubai sounds straightforward, there are grey areas to be aware of:

Tax resident status

If you stay in Dubai over 6 months per year, you may be considered a tax resident. Residents are required to pay tax on all worldwide income, even on foreign earnings remitted into Dubai bank accounts. Non-residents only pay taxes on income earned within Dubai.

Free zone versus mainland company

Employees of free zone companies get more tax benefits compared to mainland companies. Earnings may be tax-exempt within a free zone but not on the mainland.

Income source

If you earn commission, royalties, interest or other income from overseas, this portion may be taxable in the country of origin. Only employment income from local Dubai work is exempt.

Nature of employment

The nature of employment matters. For instance, cabin crew at Emirates airline pay tax because Emirates is a government-owned company. Some defense and security forces also pay taxes.

Double taxation treaties

Some double tax treaties can result in taxation in your home country, if Dubai does not have a treaty with that country. These treaties are designed to eliminate double taxation but can still impose taxes.

Other taxes imposed

While personal and employment income is tax-free, some other taxes do exist in Dubai:

– Corporate taxes on local companies – Generally only oil and gas companies
– Customs duties on imported goods
– Municipality taxes on hotel services and real estate
– Fees for government services like utilities, renewing visas etc

So individuals do end up paying some indirect taxes and fees to the government. But direct income taxes on salaries is the major exemption.


In summary, salaries earned for employment services performed within Dubai are completely tax-free for employees. This applies regardless of your citizenship or residency status. However, tax residency status, income source, nature of employment, and other factors can impact whether any portion of earnings are taxable in Dubai or overseas. While not completely tax-free across the board, Dubai offers significant income tax savings and benefits for most foreign employees.