Alok Chugh From EY and Tax in Kuwait
Next up we spoke to Alok Chugh – Partner with EY’s Middle East practice, which is based in Kuwait. He leads the EY Kuwait tax practice and Government and Public Sector tax practice for EY Middle East. Alok has lived and worked in Kuwait for over 23 years and has been involved in a number of consulting assignments (including cross-border planning, application of double tax treaties and the efficient handling of tax and commercial affairs) for project due diligence, business paper preparation or review, and structuring operational activities).
Could you tell us a bit about the hottest topics being discussed in Kuwait in relation to tax at the moment?
At the moment, there are some very important and bold regulatory changes in Kuwait. Some of the hottest topics for discussions are:
- Value Added Tax: All the 6 countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have signed the Master framework Agreement for implementation of Value Added Tax (VAT) in the GCC. Based on our understanding from discussions with the government officials, the 5% GCC VAT shall be applicable on goods and services by 2018.
- Tax Registration Number and update forms: Recently, the Ministry of Finance has set up a Tax Development Follow-Up Unit (TDFU) within the Department of Inspection and Tax Claims (DIT). The TDFU is setup as a set towards the e-filing module. The TDFU has issued new registration forms that needs to be submitted by all the taxpayers. The department shall use the information in the forms to create their centralized database of taxpayers. Further, all the taxpayers are issued a Tax Registration Number (TRN), which is mandatory to be mentioned on all the correspondence with the DIT.
- New Tax Card Further, the TDFU has started issuing Tax Cards to every company valid for each year and should be renewed on a yearly basis valid for another one year. Tax Cards are compulsory and is now mandate for every company to enter into a contract in Kuwait.
- Business Profit Tax: Kuwait is looking to introduce the New Business Profit Taxes. Based on our understanding, all Kuwaiti and foreign companies operating in Kuwait may be subject to 10% business profit tax under the proposed Business Profit Tax (BPT) law. The BPT is yet to be approved by the Kuwait Parliament. However, considering the recent developments in the GCC relating to the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT), it is our current understanding that BPT is not likely to be approved before 2019.
What do you anticipate for the sector in 2017? Do you believe that there is potential for any significant legislative developments in the next twelve months? In what ways would these affect Ernst & Young?
The VAT law is expected to be implemented by January 2018. Accordingly, the businesses have only 10 months to prepare for the VAT implementation and ensure the contracts have been amended to that effect and the IT systems are updated to ensure compliance with the laws. It affects EY in the way that we, as consultants need to be ready with our teams of professionals, for pre and post implementation phase of VAT. Considering the integrated model that we operate in, as a global firm, it gives us an edge in the market. In this respect, we have already mobilized our team of experts in the indirect taxes from around the world and we are already assisting many of our clients with the first phase of VAT impact assessment, assisting them in reviewing their contracts and IT system as part of VAT readiness.
Have there been any recent regulatory changes or interesting developments?
The Kuwaiti authorities are working on implementation of the economic diversification strategy. This task has become quite pressing, taking into account the current financial position of Kuwait. A number of fiscal and regulatory reforms being implemented aim at reducing the economic burdens of doing business in Kuwait. The two new regimes: Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Law and Institutionalized Public – Private Partnerships may contribute to this process both in terms of attracting foreign investment in to the country and for diversification of economy.
You joined Ernst & Young in 1994 – how would you evaluate your role and its impact thus far?
Within a couple of years of my joining the firm, I realized the business prospect for our practice to grow and for my career professionally. With the support of the management, I was able to grow to an Executive quickly and then eventually, I became a Partner in 2008. Over the years, our tax practice has grown to a strong team of 46 professionals, with a market size of 65%- 70% of the tax practice in the country.
When you first joined EY, what were your goals in driving change within the company? How have these evolved in the past 23 years?
As I mentioned, when I joined EY, I realized the potential in the market for our practice. I was certain that we would go through changes in the way our clients would require our support and the manner in which we would serve our clients.
I have learnt and experienced that it is important for any organization to continue to learn and adapt itself to the change in the market. As they say, “to improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often”. Given that we are part of the professional world, we need to anticipate the changes outside the organization and be prepared internally ahead of those changes.