“No Longer at this Abode” — Relocation and Taxation in the Middle East and Asia

taxationRelocation may have been a dream decades ago, but not anymore. Today’s international economy has made it a very real possibility for many people. The Asian economy is becoming stronger, while tax benefits in the Middle East make countries such as the UAE very attractive destinations for expats, whether to work or just to retire.

Of course, managing your money when you have relocated isn’t easy. Banks like HSBC can make your relocation much easier. As well as offering accounts and other products specially designed for expats, they can also provide financial planning, investment advice, and guidance on tax matters.

If you’re thinking of relocating to the Middle East or Asia, here are some things to consider before turning to your bank.

(Dis)Pleased to meet you?

The Middle East and Asia present a somewhat mixed bag for expats, especially if you’re moving there to work.

One thing a Western expat can be sure of when they relocate to any of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is that they’re likely to earn more than their Arab or Asian peers. Companies in the GCC countries offer generous relocation packages for expats. Ninetimes out of ten they help them with housing costs and, in some cases, even supply a car too.

This is a major contrast to Asia, where expats are becoming ‘unwanted’. As companies slash costs to weather the financial crisis, many expats once on a high salary are now earning the same as nationals. If you have a background in risk management or compliance, however, you’re in luck, as the financial sector is seeking professionals in these areas — and will pay you good money for it.

Taxing Matters

Move to the UAE and you can earn a tax-free income. This is not true of just the UAE, but of Qatar too, and in Saudi Arabia only self-employed expats pay personal income tax. Qatar is particularly tempting for expats, since there are no estate or gift taxes either.

The “catch” is that you must be resident in these states for tax purposes. If not, you’ll still be liable for income tax payable to your home country, but you can apply for exemption from this. Having a home in one of these countries will help your application.

In tax matters, Asia is the one thatpresents a mixed bag this time. Whereas the Middle East is more consistent in taxation on expats, taxes in some parts of Asia are much higher than in others. To the delight of US expats in Hong Kong, the maximum rate of tax on individual personal income is 20%, while in Singapore it is 17%. Taxation in Japan, on the other hand, is high.

Just like in the Middle East, the question of residence and citizenship can save you money. Just as many expats relocate to Middle Eastern countries and apply for residence for tax purposes, many US citizens have realized they can save serious amounts of money by giving up their US citizenship.

Finding a good job when you relocate is important, and keeping your tax affairs in order is no less so. Whereas the Middle East is more receptive to expats, offering expats irresistible relocation packages which, combined with a favorable taxation system, make it easier to manage your personal finances, Asia has begun to keep its distance from them slightly. However, depending where you relocate to in Asia, the best part of the fruits of your labors can still be yours to enjoy.

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