Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tax free my arse

One of the great lies that is perpetuated by those who would persuade you to move to this land of opportunity is that it is tax free.

It's one of those Dubai technicallys that I've talked about before in that technically, there is no income tax in that it's not deducted from your salary before you get the chance to spend it, but there are charges elsewhere that are simply tax by another name.  Booze is heavily taxed although cigarettes are clearly not because they're pretty cheap from what I've heard.  Groceries seem to be suspiciously expensive, although that could be due to the cost of importing everything but the camel meat, cucumbers and few other fruit and veg that are produced here.

My favourite charge by any other name that I've discovered so far is the housing fee.

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority or DEWA for short (pronounced doowah diddy diddy dum diddy dey in our house) gave us the gift of the knowledge of this marvellous fee when we received our first bill which seemed to relate to a time when we were technically the tenants of the flat but it was empty because we hadn't moved out of the old place yet.  There it was, a 667AED charge (£112 at the time of writing) for housing fee, nil charges for electricity or water as yet.

Shome mishtake shurely, we thought. Let's ring DEWA up or go and see them and find out what's going on. Or, at least, let's think about that doing that while we mentally psych ourselves up for the torment of communicating with Emirati officials and in the mean time, ask my new boss who has lived in the area for 18 years.

Bad news.  The housing fee is payable by everyone and is calculated as a percentage of the rent you pay. It pays for street lighting, street cleaning and maintenance, waste collection and "a host of other services".  Sound slightly familiar?  Sounds rather like the artist formerly known as poll tax formerly known as the community charge.  That's right. Council tax. The blighters!  Mustn't grumble really because the streets where we live, admittedly a prime tourist area, are extremely clean and I can't remember ever seeing any litter.  And I have never seen a non-working street light.  It also tickles me that that's almost exactly the same amount we used to pay to Hounslow Council for our flat in Ealing.  They definitely had a much better record on recycling there but I used to wade through piles of litter, dog shit and flytipping on my walk to the tube. I did have a lovely local councillor that I used to moan to about youths smoking drugs on the stairs outside my flat.  That's not really a problem we have here, obviously, as you would be bloody stupid to be seen smoking drugs in any public place here unless you had a strong desire to be sent to prison.

My second favourite hidden tax is the fee they charge you to join a library.  I am poor as a church mouse at the moment because although I'm reasonably ok for freelance work, it can take time to get paid here.  So, I thought: "I know, let's join a library so I can have plenty of things to read without shelling out on Amazon, (well, a bookshop because internet shopping is no go because of the insane postal system), and creating a personal library that I will some day have to get rid of or carry home to the UK.  So, I had a quick look on Mr Internet to find my nearest tome source.  "50AED to join and a 150AED refundable deposit." Blighters again!  £33 to join the library.  I've paid a few library fines in my time but getting charged to join?  Do me a favour.  So I have had to consign joining the library to the growing list of "things I will do when I get paid which will hopefully be early next month".

I'm not clever enough to work out if all these little charges that you pay, including things like 1,000AED deposit to get your electricity and water connected, add up to what you would pay in income tax back home.  I doubt it. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it's a lot closer to it than the authorities here would like you to think.

No comments:

Post a Comment