Interview: Shashank Srivastava
In what ways has the QFC Authority evolved since its establishment in 2005?
SHASHANK SRIVASTAVA: The QFC has built a platform for a first-class business environment that facilitates domestic, regional and international growth. As such, the QFC has catered to an ever-wider range of companies, providing them with access to one of the world’s fastest-growing investment pools. Most significantly in recent years, an increasing number of Qatari, in addition to international, firms have drawn benefits from these services. Indeed, nearly 30% of QFC-licensed companies are now homegrown Qatari businesses.
How have changes to the QFC Authority regime attracted a wider range and scope of companies? Is the QFC targeting any new business segments?
SRIVASTAVA: We are actively encouraging the growing number of professional and business services firms that are considering Qatar as a place to do business. The QFC has undertaken several legal and structural improvements to meet this growing demand, in accordance with our mandate to support local businesses, such as special purpose companies, regional headquarters and holding companies, as part of the Qatar National Vision 2030. We welcome a diverse range of service providers including professional and business services, corporate services and financial services.
We will also continue to support the Qatari corporate sector as it expands regionally and internationally, and we are looking to enhance our offerings for ultra-high-net-worth clients. Moreover, trust legislation was implemented in 2007, and so we have also introduced legislation for single-family offices.
With regards to establishing an entity in Qatar as a foreign company, what is the QFC Authority doing to reduce barriers to market entry?
SRIVASTAVA: The QFC attracts both foreign and domestic companies by offering a legal system based on English common law, principles-based regulation, and a straightforward and competitive tax regime. Indeed, the QFC is an onshore jurisdiction: it is neither a tax haven nor an offshore centre. QFC firms can therefore operate from anywhere in Qatar and are not restricted to one particular zone or district. Business can be conducted both inside and outside Qatar, in local or foreign currency. Further to this, the QFC permits 100% foreign ownership and allows all profits to be repatriated outside of Qatar as the company chooses.
At a time when many international jurisdictions are looking to increase the rate of business taxation, the QFC has maintained one of the world’s most favourable tax regimes, with a tax rate of just 10% on locally sourced profits. It also accommodates Islamic finance, a growing rapidly segment, and does not levy personal, social or capital taxes. In a regional first, the QFC has also published its entire in-house tax guidance manual online. This will provide corporate taxpayers and their agents with greater clarity on existing regulations, assisting them to prepare tax returns.
To what extent does the QFC offering stand out from other investment options in Qatar?
SRIVASTAVA: The QFC prides itself above all on efficient administration, and we do everything we can to enable newly licensed firms to set up with ease. The QFC Authority has recently undertaken several enhancements to its registration processes for non-regulated firms, including a “one-stop shop” for licensing, immigration and related services. This can shorten turnaround times for licensing applications, which are now typically completed in one month or less. Our licensing fees are very competitive by world standards.
Investment in IT has broadened the suite of online services offered in the QFC and improved efficiency across office functions, with the help of a dedicated client relations team. We have introduced “e-immigration”, which facilitates private access for immigration-related medical checks for QFC-licensed firms’ employees and their families, as well as online tax submissions.
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