Saudi Arabia Announces its VAT Regulations

Saudi Arabia’s Department of Zakat and Income Tax has recently published its Value Added Tax Implementing Regulations. Although regulations in other GCC countries may vary slightly, it is safe to assume that the overall VAT structure will be similar if not identical across all GCC countries.

Main Highlights

  • Companies with “Supplies” exceeding the “Mandatory Registration Threshold” will have to register with the Department of Zakat and Income and get a VAT Registration Number.
  • The VAT rate is 5%.
  • Related party transactions will be taxed at the fair market value of the transaction.
  • VAT payments will have to be made either monthly or quarterly depending on the annual value of taxable supplies.
  • In case of overpayments, refunds will be allowed for any amount of tax above 1,000 SAR.
  • Tourists and other “Eligible Persons” will be allowed to get VAT refunds.

Exempt Transactions

  • Business gifts under 200 SAR/gift. The maximum annual value of gifts for an entity is 50,000 SAR based on the fair market value of the gifts.
  • Financial services (conventional and Islamic) including:
    • the issue, transfer or receipt of, or any dealing with, money, any security for money or any note or order for the payment of money;
    • the provision of any credit or credit guarantee;
    • the operation of any current, deposit or savings account;
    • financial instruments, such as derivatives, options, swaps, credit default swaps and futures.
  • Life insurance and reinsurance
  • Lease or license of Residential Real Estate (commercial real estate, hotels and inns are not included in this exemption)
  • Goods and services exported/sold outside the GCC
  • International transport of goods/passengers
  • Qualifying Medicines and qualifying medical equipment
  • The first supply of a gold, silver, or platinum with 99% purity by its Producer or Refiner

To many companies, the introduction of VAT will pose significant financial challenges. The accounting policies and infrastructure will all have to be adapted to the new requirements. H.A. Consultancies can provide both the financial expertise and the accounting infrastructure required to have a smooth and successful transition.

For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact H.A. Consultancies at any of its offices in Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, or Dubai.

 

Get ready for VAT

Value-Added Tax (VAT) is coming to the GCC in 2018. This will undoubtedly have a direct impact on business operations across the region. Is your business ready for the change?

What is VAT?

A value-added tax (VAT), known in some countries as a goods and services tax (GST), is a type of general consumption tax that is collected incrementally, based on the surplus value, added to the price on the work at each stage of production, which is usually implemented as a destination-based tax, where the tax rate is based on the location of the customer.

 

How to get ready for VAT?

1. Project Plan

Prepare a project plan and be aware that VAT is not just a financial project. It affects all transactions and touches every aspect of your business organization. VAT affects, finance, IT, human resources, legal teams and even inter-organization transactions. Finance and IT teams are the most concerned so they need to be updated to handle the VAT.

2. Impact Assessment

Impact assessment is a must to understand VAT and its commercial effects over your businesses, so then you can prioritize issues and prepare for the implementation. Impact assessment is a key step as it sets the foundation for the implementation. The assessment looks at its various effects on the organizational, operational and financial levels. Typically, an impact assessment needs between eight and 12 weeks to complete and that leaves a relatively short time, no more than nine months, to affect implementation.

3. Implementation and Design

After designing the new systems, you can start your implementation first by training your staff on the process requirements for VAT, then they can implement the necessary changes to systems, controls, reporting and governance. Based on the impact assessment, they need to develop a road map for identifying the changes required, understanding the scheduling requirements and planning for work. Implementing the changes across various levels in the organization usually starts with mapping the transaction footprint to understand the VAT obligations of the business. This should form the basis for making changes across different verticals in the organization such as IT, supply chain and human resources.

4. Testing and Registering

Test your business systems to ensure they are capable of compliance and reporting then you need to register for VAT. Businesses need to integrate the changes made into the operations and train relevant staff about their new roles and responsibilities to achieve the desired result. Testing the VAT system, processes and controls during a “live” phase is important to allow for the complete and accurate completion of the first VAT return.

Salon Iris Backbar Feature

Managing a salon comes with a unique set of challenges. Booking appointments, managing inventory, tracking sales, and scheduling room bookings are all part of the day-to-day activities of a salon. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of a salon business to manage however, is the control of consumables used to perform services.

Consumption of such shampoos, creams, and cosmetics can be difficult if not impossible to track. Consumption can vary depending on the beautician and the nature of the skin and hair of the client. An additional complexity would immerge if the same products used in the services are also sold to clients. Inventory would have to be separated into two classes, those for sale and those for internal use.

It is clear to see that things can get complicated fairly quickly in a beauty salon. Without a capable salon management software, it would be difficult even to differentiate between sales and internal consumption of products.

Salon Iris is an award-winning salon management software. Amongst its other features, it includes the “backbar” option which allows salons to segregate inventories of products that are on sale to customers from products that are intended to be used internally.

Backbar represents the amount of the business’ supplies that are used to perform services. For each service performed by an employee, that employee may earn a commission based on a formula of (price minus backbar) times commission percentage. For example, a salon charges its clients 50$ for a haircut and pays its employees a 50% commission for performing the service. The salon owner estimates that during a typical haircut, 10$ worth of gel is used. The salon owner may create a service in the software called haircut with a price of 50$ and a backbar of 10$. Based on the above formula, the employee would earn (50$-10$) x 50%, or 20$ in commission.

Additionally, if consumption varies depending on the employee, this can be easily configured through setting up different backbar amounts for each employee.

For more information on Salon Iris and other business management software, please don’t hesitate to contact any of our offices in Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, or the UAE. Feel free to visit our website for more information or fill out our contact form so one of our customer service representatives can respond to your inquiry.

Internal Control through Point of Sale (POS) Systems

Running a restaurant business comes with long list of challenges. We regularly get restaurant owners asking us how would installing a POS system would help their business, but they do not want the usual answer of streamlining operations or keeping records of sales. They are more interested in understanding how a POS system would help them with internal control, specifically keeping record of inventories and ensuring that all sales transactions are in fact recorded. If you are one of these restaurant Bahrain owners, please read on.

 

coso cube

Coso cube

 

Internal control is an important factor in running any business. Segregation of duties and physical stock counts are cornerstones of internal control policies. However, with a restaurant, it is a bit more difficult to implement such internal control policies for a simple reason, cooking is an art, not a science. It would be challenging if not impossible to measure exactly how much of each ingredient was used to prepare a dish. While you might start with a recipe, the final dish might need a bit more salt or a little less sugar than what was initially anticipated. So how would a POS system adapt to these variations?

Well, it is not simple. Loading the recipes into the POS system is a first step, however, it is usually an iterative process. During the first few months of installing a restaurant POS system, inventory depletion will have to be monitored closely. It is not unusual to find that there are huge variations between the recipe and the actual consumption. The recipes in the POS system will have to be updated regularly during the first few months to better reflect actual consumption. Even when that is done, however, you should still expect some variations between actual and planned consumption. The idea is to minimize these variations to an acceptable sustainable range.

Once the recipe is locked, it would be easier to track variations in consumption. The POS system Bahrain will calculate the quantities that should be available in the raw materials inventory by deducting the amounts required to prepare each dish that is ordered from the opening inventory. Physical stock counts will still have to be conducted on a regular basis to ensure that all variations are accounted for. If any abnormal variations are noticed, an investigation can be carried out to identify the root cause.

 

Aldelo bahrain POS Summary Report

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of maintaining such a system is accounting for new inventories that are purchased. Reports from the POS Bahrain system will be useless if the data is not accurate. Entering purchases into the system is usually an activity that is overlooked with the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day operations of a restaurant.

With a properly configured system, restaurant owners usually report an increase in profits of about 30%. This increase in profits can be attributed to a variety of reasons. The fact that a POS system exists, in itself, is reason enough for employees to become more conscious about their actions. Kitchen staff will become more careful with the use of ingredients and perhaps become less generous than they previously were. Waiters and cashiers will become more careful when taking and punching in orders because they now know that if they make a mistake, it will all be recorded in the POS system under their name.

At H.A. Consultancies, we take pride in the fact that we are able to help businesses reach their full potential by employing technology that best suites them. There are a variety of POS Bahrain systems available in the market, each with its own set of pros and cons. H.A. Consultancies is a partner with some of the world leading POS system software and hardware providers such as Aldelo Bahrain, Xera POS Bahrain, PixelPoint Bahrain, POSbank Bahrain, and FEC Bahrain. If you are not sure which system is the best match for you, it would be our pleasure to help.

Moody’s Downgrades Bahrain Long-Term Credit Rating

 

Moody’s has recently lowered Bahrain’s long-term issuer rating by two notches to B1, from Ba2, and maintained the “negative” outlook. Before venturing into how this will impact the Bahrain’s economy, we need to understand first what is meant by credit ratings.

A credit rating is an assessment of an entity’s ability to pay its financial obligations. the ability to pay financial obligations is referred to as “creditworthiness.” Credit ratings apply to debt securities like bonds, notes, and other debt instruments (such as certain asset-backed securities) and do not apply to equity securities like common stock. Credit ratings also are assigned to companies and governments.

When making investment decisions, credit ratings and any related rating and industry trend reports can be helpful tools, provided they are used appropriately. Credit ratings may offer an alternative point of view to your own financial analysis or that of your financial adviser.

A downgrade to junk status is associated with high risk. Therefore, high borrowing costs. For governments it means allocating more to debt servicing costs (interest payment). Less money will be available for social grants, investment priorities, creating jobs and ultimately reducing the GDP growth potential of the country. More interest payment also crowds out other critical spending. Social services is an example. This is the main reason why a sovereign has to avoid being downgraded into a junk, or sub-investment grade.

 

 

Ratings agencies chart

Ratings Agencies Chart

 

Bahrain was downgraded to junk status by Moody’s back in March 2016 and has been sliding down the scale ever since. With this most recent downgrade it needs to go up four positions before beings considered as investment grade.

The recent downgrade to B1 reflects Moody’s view that the credit profile of the Bahraini government will continue to weaken materially in the coming years. The rating agency expects Bahrain’s government debt burden and debt affordability to weaken further significantly over the coming two to three years.

Although the Bahraini government has taken initial steps towards economic reforms, including lifting some subsidies from fuel and utility tariffs, government restructuring, and increasing fees on government services, these steps are not considered to be aggressive enough in light of the financial challenges. In Moody’s view, the most prominent revenue measure is the introduction of a value-added tax from 2018, but even this measure lacks clarity.

While Moody’s acknowledges the fact that Bahrain’s economy is fairly diversified, with non-oil sectors contributing close to 80% of nominal GDP on average since 2010, it is wary that the government shows no indication that it will use this economic base to materially diversify its revenue base to reduce its reliance on oil-related income which will continue to suffer from weak oil prices in the coming years. Non-oil economic performance will be supported by access to funding under the Gulf Development Fund. While these funds are not part of the Bahraini government’s budget, they will support the government in reducing investment expenditure without unduly harming growth.

 

Comparison of Moody’s Rating for Arab Countries

Comparison of Moody’s Rating for Arab Countries

 

Bahrain’s net asset international investment position, its stock of foreign assets minus foreign liabilities, which stood at 74.5% of GDP in 2016, provides some form of external buffer. However, Moody’s expects it to decline significantly because external liabilities will increase at a much faster rate than the country’s assets. More importantly, foreign exchange reserves at the Central Bank of Bahrain are low and very volatile, covering only around one month of goods and services imports. Following a pause in the dissemination of this data in 2015, the time series disclosed by the central bank more recently shows a material decline in foreign exchange reserves over the last two years, averaging only around $2.5 billion in the first quarter of 2017.

 

RATIONALE FOR THE NEGATIVE OUTLOOK

 

The negative outlook reflects continued downside risks to the B1 rating, which manifest themselves in heightened government and external liquidity risks. Given the expected large fiscal deficits and sizable amortization payments falling due over the coming years, Bahrain’s government gross financing needs will reach more than 30% of GDP over the next two years.

 

Bahrain public debt as percent of GDP

Bahrain Public Debt as Percent of GDP

 

The further deterioration in the government’s balance sheet, combined with continued external debt issuance from other countries in the region expected in 2017-2018, will lower the supply of external funding. In addition, in light of rising global interest rates the cost of funding will go up.

Moody’s expects that the combination of these two factors heightens the risk that finance is obtainable only at much less affordable rates for Bahrain, or potentially reduced amounts. While Moody’s would expect support from neighboring countries in times of crisis, predominantly from Saudi Arabia, there is no clarity about the form and timeliness of this support in the event that external funding dries up.

 

WHAT COULD MOVE THE RATING UP/DOWN

 

Given the negative rating outlook, any upward movement in the rating in the foreseeable future is highly unlikely. However, Moody’s would consider moving the outlook back to stable if a clear and credible fiscal and economic policy response were to emerge, offering the prospect of containing the deterioration in the fiscal balance and government balance sheet. In particular, a stabilization of government debt levels below 90% of GDP, and strengthening of Bahrain’s fiscal and external buffers would be credit-positive. A clear, sizable and timely support from one of its financially stronger neighbors could also contribute to stabilizing the outlook.

Signs of an emerging fiscal or balance-of-payments crisis would exert downward pressure on the rating. In particular, any signs of funding stress or loss of market access would trigger a further rating downgrade. A deterioration in the domestic or regional political environment would also be highly credit negative.