Qatar

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KEY COUNTRY FACTS
Flag of Qatar
System of government: emirate
Population: 2.12 million (2014 estimate)
Currency: Qatari riyal (QAR)
FX regime: conventional peg
GDP: US$212 (2014 estimate)
FATF member: yes, via GCC
Treasury association: ACT Middle East

Financial regulatory framework

Bank supervision

The banking sector in Qatar is supervised, licensed and controlled by the Qatar Central Bank (QCB). The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Regulatory Authority regulates and supervises financial service firms, including banks, which operate in the Qatar Financial Centre.

Exchange controls

Exchange controls are not applied in Qatar.

Taxation framework

There are two separate tax regimes in operation in Qatar and an entity is under the remit of only one regime. By default an entity is under the State of Qatar regime. Alternatively, an entity is under the remit of the QFC regime if the entity is licensed with the QFC.

Corporate taxation

Tax is levied only on foreign companies’ income derived from activities carried out wholly or partly in Qatar. For joint ventures, only the foreign shareholders’ portion of the profit is taxable. Nationals from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are treated as Qatari nationals and consequently are not currently subject to income tax provided they are resident in Qatar. A company that is wholly Qatari or GCC owned and resident in Qatar will not be required to pay tax. A flat-rate tax of 10% applies; except for oil and gas companies, where a rate of 35% applies. Under the QFC regime, income is taxable at a flat rate of 10%. Wholly Qatar government-owned QFC entities are exempt (there is no exemption for QFC entities that are wholly owned by Qatari or GCC nationals). Only local-source profits are taxable.

Capital gains

In general, gains arising from the sale of business assets and business interests are treated as ordinary income. Capital gains arising from the disposal of real estate and securities derived by natural persons are exempt from tax, provided they are not part of the assets of a taxable activity.

Taxation of dividends

Withholding tax is not levied on dividend payments. There are no withholding taxes in the QFC.

Transfer pricing

Under local Qatar law there is no specific transfer pricing legislation; however, the anti-avoidance rules give the tax authorities the power to apply an arm’s-length value where an arrangement or transaction has been undertaken with one of the main purposes being to avoid the payment of tax. The anti-avoidance provisions specifically state that the comparable unrelated price (CUP) method should be used, unless approval is given by the tax authorities to apply an alternative OECD-approved transfer pricing method.

Thin capitalisation

There are no thin capitalisation rules in Qatar, but interest payments made by permanent establishment to its head office and related parties are not deductible for tax purposes.

Indirect taxes

There are no consumption taxes in Qatar.

Tax information provided by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (www.deloitte.com) and Deloitte Highlight 2015.

Banking service provision

The Qatari banking sector supports a high number of banks in comparison to its size and a number of large international banks have a presence in the country. The banking sector currently contains 18 commercial banks, consisting of 11 local banks (including four Islamic banks) and seven branches of foreign banks. Conventional banking services are provided by seven local banks and all seven branches of foreign banks. The 11 locally-owned banks in Qatar account for around 97% of the sector’s total assets. The banking sector is dominated by Qatar National Bank (QNB), which has a market share of over half of all banking assets. QNB is 50% state-owned through the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) sovereign wealth fund. The QIA took a stake in all locally-owned banks in 2008 (with the exception of QNB, in which it already owned 50%) to protect the sector from the effects of the global economic downturn. At the start of 2009, it purchased a further 5% of the capital of all national banks, except QNB. A further 5% of the capital of several domestic banks was purchased by the QIA in December 2009.

Clearing and payment systems

Clearing systems

There are three main payment and settlement systems in Qatar: the Qatar Payment System (QPS), QATCH, and the Electronic Cheque Clearing system (ECC). The National ATM and POS Switch (NAPS) processes card payments. All banks and bank branches in Qatar participate in QPS, QATCH, ECC and the NAPS.

  • Qatar Central Bank Payment System (QPS) – the real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system processes high-value and urgent interbank fund transfers. The QPS uses the SWIFT network for the transmission of payment messages and to communicate with participants. Payments are settled in real time with immediate finality.
  • National Automated Clearing House Solution (QATCH) – launched in April 2010, QATCH is Qatar’s automated clearing house system for low-value (below QAR 250,000) bulk direct debit and credit payments. QATCH enables the exchange of interbank payment messages between banks in real time. In addition to direct debits, QATCH can also be used for direct deposits such as private and government salary and pension payments, dividends, subsidies and government transactions such as social security payments.
  • Electronic cheque clearing system – the electronic cheque clearing system has been used to clear cheques in Qatar since 2001. The system uses cheque image exchange, rather than the physical movement of cheques, enabling the same-day clearing of cheques throughout Qatar. The ECC processes cheques above QAR250,000 on a real-time basis while cheques below QAR250,000 are processed on a net basis, at the end of each clearing day. Final settlement takes place across participants’ accounts held at the QCB.

Payments

Electronic funds transfer is the dominant form of cashless payments in Qatar in terms of value. Card payments are increasing in popularity as a result of an increase in point-of-sale (POS) terminals and ATM, and both have become the dominant form of cashless payment by volume. Direct debits and direct credit are also available.

  • Credit transfers – credit transfers are used for high-value transactions and wage payments. Credit transfers can be initiated through e-banking systems for consumer payments.
  • Payment cards – debit and credit card use is increasing in popularity in Qatar. There are also around 1.2 million ATM cards. All cards issued comply with EMV chip technology or standards. Each bank in Qatar has its own individual clearing and settlement arrangement with the respective card networks, predominantly MasterCard or Visa.

The number of ATMs has increased in Qatar along with payment card use. All banks operating in Qatar are members of the National ATM and POS Switch (NAPS) card payments process network. NAPS connects the ATM network to other GCC member states via the GCCNet ATM network.

  • Direct debits – direct debits in Qatar have primarily been used for low-value recurring transactions such as utility payments. Payments are processed through QATCH for next-day settlement.
  • Cheques – cheques are no longer the most popular form of cashless payment in Qatar, although their use remains significant. Cheques above QAR250,000 are processed on a real-time basis while cheques below QAR250,000 are processed on a net basis at the end of each clearing day.

Cash and bank account management

Interest-bearing accounts

Interest is available on savings and time deposit accounts. Interest is payable on current account balances, with approval from the QCB. Most banks in Qatar have now implemented a minimum initial deposit scheme for opening saving or current accounts. Customers are usually required to deposit a minimum initial QAR3,000 for savings accounts and QAR5,000 for current accounts.

Account opening requirements

Residents are permitted to holdforeign currency accounts both domestically and abroad. Resident domestic currency accounts are fully convertible into foreign currency. Domestic currency accounts cannot be held outside Qatar. Non-residents are permitted to hold domestic and foreign currency accounts in Qatar. Non-residents cannot open current accounts. Non-resident domestic currency accounts can be converted into foreign currency with prior approval from the QCB.

Money laundering

Qatar has implemented anti-money laundering legislation (including Law No 3 of 2004 on Combating Terrorism and Law No 4 of 2010 on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing). The Financial Information Unit issued a Guide to Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Suspicious Transaction Reporting in April 2010. The Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority (QFCRA) has also issued related Regulations and Rules. Qatar is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). It is also a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF). Qatar has established a financial intelligence unit (FIU), The Financial Information Unit, within the Central Bank of Qatar, is a member of the Egmont Group.

Supplied by BCL Burton Copeland (www.bcl.com). Data as at January 2015.

Cash concentration

Cash concentration is permitted in Qatar and is usually offered by international banks.

Cross-border issues

Cross-border cash concentration is permitted in Qatar and is offered by international banks.

Notional pooling

Notional pooling is permitted but not commonly used in Qatar.

Electronic and internet banking

Electronic banking is widely available from all commercial banks in Qatar. Most banks offer some kind of internet-based balance reporting and transaction initiation services, although these are mainly used by businesses. The Qatar Electronic Payment Gateway (Q-Pay) is based on an electronic wallet system and allows card holders (debit and credit cards) to make online payments in real time. Mobile money transfer services are also offered in Qatar by the major telecom network providers.

Liquidity management

Short-term investments

Short-term investments include:

  • Treasury bills – the Qatari government issues T-bills, generally for maturities of less than one year.
  • Repurchase agreements (repos) – repos are available from commercial banks in Qatar, using government securities as collateral.
  • Term deposits – time deposits are available in QAR and foreign currency, with interest paid on maturity. Maturities for time deposits are usually between one month and a year.
  • Certificates of deposit (CDs) – CDs (certificates of deposit) are available in Qatar, with a range of maturity dates.

Short-term borrowing

Borrowing instruments include:

  • Overdrafts – overdrafts are available on current accounts from most banks.
  • Bank lines of credit and loans – loans and lines of credit are offered by commercial banks in Qatar.
  • Commercial paper – there is a commercial paper market in Qatar.

Websites

Qatar Central Bank

Qatar National Bank

Commercial Bank of Qatar

Doha Bank

Qatar Financial Centre

Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority

Ministry of Economy and Finance

Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Qatar Exchange