Oman and VAT – Ask Synergy Software Systems to help prepare and update your systems

June 30th, 2019 by Stephen Jones Leave a reply »

Oman government representatives have said that the state is looking to implement a 5% VAT regime from 1 September 2019. In 2017,
it signed the Gulf Cooperation Council VAT Framework Agreement, which included: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait. Local media reports in March 2019 quoted a senior official from Oman’s Ministry of Finance as saying that the date of implementation of VAT in Oman is under review. The official reportedly indicated that the target date had been 1 September 2019 but that this is not confirmed, although the intention clearly remains to implement VAT as early as possible. Businesses should take this as a cue to continue their VAT implementation plans in Oman, or restart and reinvigorate those if the work has been put on hold.

A key lesson from our experience of VAT implementation projects in UAE, KSA and Bahrain, across more than 100 companies is that companies that started their VAT planning and implementation projects early had a smoother transition to VAT, than those that waited for the final publication of the domestic law and regulations. A ‘wait and see’ approach backfired on many businesses in the UAE, KSA and Bahrain where there was minimal time between the release of the law and regulations and the go-live date for adequate training, data preparation and testing, and a shortage of resources in the market to cope with the backlog.

There are practical steps to take now. the first is to form an internal VAT working group of key stakeholders to monitor developments in VAT and ensure that VAT is on the Board agenda and is included in budget discussions. The working group will be best placed to negotiate professional services to support implementation, to train end users, and to define test scenarios, etc.

Next ensure there is VAT awareness is key – customers, vendors, and staff. Many in the region have never dealt with VAT, and a solid understanding of the mechanics, scope and terminology of the tax takes time, and that is a necessary foundation for the next steps.

Document your transaction flows . VAT is a transaction tax, with each transaction triggering a potential VAT consequence. This will help you to identify: software changes, processes to update, training needs, data collection needs, commercial document redesign, financial report redesign etc.

Review Contract to ensure they are ‘future proofed’ for the introduction of VAT. For example, to identify whether they include suitable clauses allowing VAT to be charged in addition to contractually agreed prices. The UAE VAT law clearly mandated that communication be sent to all customers within a specific timeline stipulating whether their contracts will be treated as exclusive of tax, failing which customers can dispute the tax being charged in the contract. Therefore, revisiting contractual obligations for both customers and vendors and determining cutover dates, incorporating tax clauses and revising prices and quotations will play a pivotal role to safeguard the business interests of all parties to a contract.

There will be transactions which are closed before the go-live date, and there will be instances where payment is received post the go-live date or where the supply is scheduled post the go-live date, but where the relevant invoices are paid prior to it. Failure to assess and communicate/agree on the VAT impact between all parties to the transaction on such spillover transactions might increase the cost of such transactions and either of the parties may be out of pocket in such scenarios, and there may be unwelcome friction with trading partners, if not managed.

IT infrastructure will be the ‘backbone’ of the VAT compliance function from issuing VAT compliant invoices to producing the VAT return.

Identify VAT resource requirements, particularly external consultants and auditors. Skilled VAT resources are drawn from a diminishing pool of individuals. Take advantage of the experience gained by service providers implementing in Dubai, KSA and Bahrain. There are many wrinkles, not immediately obvious.

Industry associations can raise common issues and concerns with the Ministry of Finance, particularly in advance of the formal publication of the VAT law.

While you can choose to defer VAT implementation be ready to demonstrate to your owners/investors/respective boards and shareholders, that you have done so only after undertaking an appropriate level of due diligence of the likely preparation of the VAT environment. Some key areas include:

Upgrades to ERP systems and user acceptance testing Reporting
Timely VAT registration, (company by company or at Group level?)
Timely Collection of Tax registration numbers for Trading partners
Timely returns, accrual and and payment of taxes
Scoping the need for professional service and selection/references, time for reaching agreement with partners.
Unforeseen penalties
Cash flow management – how will this change? the delayed inflow on account of receipts from customers; outflow after the discharge of tax liabilities on supplies without consideration/deemed supplies (if any); outflow on account of payment to vendors; and additional outflow due to the payment of taxes (net of input tax recoverable) to tax authorities.

Tracking changes in law/ public clarifications

Some businesses in the UAE and Saudi Arabia faced challenges when ERP systems were not implemented in time to capture VAT on transactions or to generate customised VAT payable or receivable reports. The first quarter of the respective VAT regimes required substantial manual effort to properly account for transactions.

Another hurdle was training staff on the upgraded ERP software as well as new reporting standards

In a test system for financial or erp system, for training and requirement scope you could get early familiarity with the Dubai or KSA framework – there are unlikely to be major changes in the Oman framework.

If you current system is largely manual, or has significant limitations then now be the time to plan for upgrade, or reimplementation or a new system. The UAE VAT law has a penalty provision whereby every incorrect invoice can trigger an AED 5,000 fine (approx. OMR 500), irrespective of the value of the invoice. Exposure to these fines can be significant in industries where high volumes of transactions are made per day, for example the retail, utilities and banking industries. Compliance depends on a robust system and operations preparedness. The audit trail of the process, and other documents, help to ensure correct and timely filing of the returns as well as avoiding any unwarranted penalties.

Businesses across the globe tend to see a fall in demand where the display prices on products do not include VAT, specifically in the case of products which are price sensitive. The implementation of a new indirect tax law will have an impact on turnover and consumer preferences. Some prices ma need to be rounded up or down. You may need to show VAT separately, item by item on a receipt or invoice – is your software able to do that?

Given that the potential VAT rate in Oman may vary between 5 per cent, exempted, non-taxable and zero-rated, businesses should ascertain the price impact of VAT on imports which are recoverable and non-recoverable, final product pricing and alternative sourcing if imports are expensive, and vice versa.

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