This guide has been prepared by Baker Tilly in Kuwait, an independent member of Baker Tilly International. It is designed to provide information on a number of subjects important to those considering investing or doing business in Kuwait.
Baker Tilly International is one of the world’s largest accountancy and business advisory networks in terms of combined fee income, and is represented by
742 offices in 146 territories with over 36,332 personnel worldwide. Its members are high quality, independent accountancy and business advisory firms, all of whom are committed to providing the best possible service to their clients, both in their own marketplace and across the world.
This guide is one of a series of country profiles compiled for use by Baker Tilly International member firms’ clients and professional staff. Copies may be downloaded from www.bakertilly.global
Doing Business in Kuwait guide has been designed for the information of readers. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, information contained in this guide may not be comprehensive and recipients should not act upon it without seeking professional advice. Facts and figures as presented are correct at the time of writing.
Up-to-date advice and general assistance on Kuwait matters can be obtained from Baker Tilly in Kuwait; contact details can be found at the end of this guide.
1- Kuwait Fact Sheet
Kuwait has an elected National Assembly (the Parliament) of 50 members supplemented by members of the Council of Ministers. The maximum term for an assembly is four years. The National Assembly is vested with legislative responsibilities, which also include oversight powers over the government.
2- Business Environment
The below is a snapshot of the key economic indicators for Kuwait:
|GDP||KD 39.4 Billion||(2019)|
|GDP – real growth rate||0.4%||(2019)|
|Average Oil Production||2.739 MMbbl/d||(2019)|
|Value of Total Exports||KD 19.7 Billion||(2019)|
|Value of Total Imports||KD 8.94 Billion||(2019)|
|Annual Inflation Rate||1.1%||(2019)|
|Currency (code)||The Kuwaiti Dinar (KWD)||-|
2.2 Legal Framework for Doing Business in Kuwait
Investments can be made in Kuwait through three main channels:
- Establishing a Kuwaiti company in accordance with Companies Law No. 1 of 2016:
The above Law sets forth the requirements and procedures for incorporating different forms of business entities, which include:
- Sole Proprietorship;
- Joint Venture
- Company with Limited Liability;
- Public Shareholding Company
- Closed Shareholding Company
- Limited Partnership;
- Partnership Limited by Shares
- Establishing an investment entity in accordance with Law No. 116 of 2013 and the Executive Regulations regarding the Promotion of Direct Investment in the State of Kuwait:
Companies under the above Law include:
- A Kuwaiti company having one of the legal entity forms of companies set forth in the Companies Law No. (1) of 2016, which will be incorporated for the purpose of Direct Investment. Foreign participation in such company may be up to 100% of the company’s capital in accordance with the principles and rules set forth under Companies Law.
- A branch of a foreign company licensed to operate within the State of Kuwait for the purpose of Direct Investment.
- Representative offices, which are solely intended to develop market studies and production potential without engaging in a business activity or the business of commercial agents.
- Doing business through a local agent in accordance with Kuwait Commercial Agencies Law No. 13 of 2016 and the Commercial Law No. 68 of 1980, as amended
The agency business in the State of Kuwait may take any of the below mentioned forms:
- Contract Agency Agreement:
This agency form is governed by Article (271) of the Kuwait Commercial Law No. 68 of 1980. The local agent undertakes to perform the below tasks as set forth in the agreement:
- Promote the principal’s business on an ongoing basis in the territory.
- Enter into transactions in the name of the principal in consideration for a fee.
- Distributorship Agency Agreement:
- Contract Agency Agreement: This agency form is governed by Article (271) of the Kuwait Commercial Law No. 68 of 1980. The local agent undertakes to perform the below tasks as set forth in the agreement:
- Commission Agency Agreement:
2.3 Accounting and Audit Requirements
- Statutory Requirements Business entities in Kuwait should maintain adequate financial records in Arabic.
- Accounting Standards All companies in Kuwait are required to comply with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in the preparation of the financial statements in accordance with Ministerial Resolution No. 110 of 1991.
- Audit Requirements Companies in Kuwait, both Shareholding and Limited Liability, must be audited annually. The auditor should be independent, and registered with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) and Capital Markey Authority (CMA), and must be a member of the Kuwait Association of Accountants and Auditors.
2.4 Filing Requirements
- Administrative Governmental Body
The administrative governmental body that grants business license is the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI).
- The following entities are required to submit their annual audited financial statements within three months from the end of the financial year to
the MOCI, which is both their licensor and regulator:
- Sole Proprietorship
- Partnership Company
- Limited Partnership
- Partnership Limited by Shares
- Joint Venture
- Company with Limited Liability
- Closed Shareholding Companies
- Public Shareholding Companies
- Regulator y BodiesThe regulator y bodies that super vise business activities are as follows:
- Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK)
- Capital Markets Authority (CMA)
- Ministry of Commerce and Industry
- Ministry of Financ
Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK)
The banking system is regulated closely by the CBK. The CBK is responsible for super vising Kuwait’s commercial (conventional and Islamic) and specialized banks, as well as foreign bank branches including financing companies, as well as investment companies performing financing activities and exchange companies. It additionally performs other tasks including but not limited to setting the monetary policy.
These below entities are required to submit their quarterly financial statements to the CBK within 10 days from the end of the quarter and annual audited financial statements within 3 months from the end of the financial year:
- Exchange Companies
- Investment Companies (Providing Financing)
- Financing Companies
Capital Markets Authority (CMA)
The Capital Markets Authority (“CMA”) is currently the regulatory authority primarily responsible for regulating the marketing, offer and sale of securities in Kuwait.
These below entities are required to submit their quarterly financial statements to the CMA within 45 days from the end of the quarter and annual audited financial statements within 3 months from the end of the financial year:
- Closed Shareholding Companies licensed by the CMA
- Public Shareholding Companies
Ministry of Commerce and Industry
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry supports commercial and industrial activities and provides for the needs of the State and citizens in relation to goods and ser vices.
Insurance Companies are required to submit their audited annual financial statements to the MOCI on an annual basis.
Ministry of Finance
The Ministry of Finance is responsible for regulating Kuwait’s financial
services Industry and Kuwait’s international trade.
Companies subject to Income Tax, National Labor Service Tax (NLST), Zakat, Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and Common Reporting Standard (CRS) should submit their tax declarations or other reportable information to the Ministry of Finance on an annual basis or as per deadlines prescribed by the Ministry.
3- Investment & Financing Channels
3.1 Investment Channels
Direct Investment: Direct Investments are those owned directly in the name of the investor and which are acquired through the investor’s direct participation.
The Direct Investment channels are illustrated below:
Boursa Kuwait is one of the most prominent channels of direct investment in Kuwait. The Capital Market Authority is an independent government body regulating and monitoring the securities market of Kuwait.
Below is a brief about the CMA and the Boursa Kuwait:
Capital Markets Authority (CMA)
The Capital Markets Authority (“CMA”) is currently the regulatory authority primarily responsible for regulating the marketing, offer and sale of securities in Kuwait. Law No. 7 of 2010 regarding the Establishment of the Capital Markets Authority and Regulating Securities Activities was issued on February 21, 2010. Certain provisions of the law were further amended Law No. 108 of 2014 which was issued on 10 August 2014 and Law No. 22 of 2015, which was issued on 10 May 2015.
Boursa Kuwait is a private entity that was established in April 2014 by the Capital Markets Authority Commissioners’ Council Resolution No. 37/2013 dated 20 November 2013, replacing the Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE), to become the nation’s official exchange effective 25 April 2016 with the aim to take over and manage the Kuwait stock market and progressively transition its operations, while delivering on three main fronts; transparency, efficiency and accessibility.
Officially licensed on 5th October,2016, Boursa Kuwait’s mission is
“To operate an efficient, fair and transparent capital market platform that services all relevant asset classes, whilst focusing on clients’ interest through excellence in everything we do”.
The Boursa is currently segmented into 3 markets as follows:
- Premier Market
- Main Market
- Auction Market
Since being established, Boursa Kuwait has recorded a lot of achievements, the latest and the biggest being its upgrade as an “emerging market” by FTSE Russell Emerging Markets Index, S&P Dow Jones Indices and the MSCI Index.
In addition, Boursa Kuwait’s privatization drive has been successful with 94% of the Company’s shares being held by private investors and only 6% stake being held by the government. This makes Boursa Kuwait the only stock exchange operator in the Middle East that is not owned by the state. In addition, Boursa Kuwait’s own shares were publicly listed on the stock exchange on 14 September 2020.
Indirect Investments are those owned by the investor and which are acquired indirectly through the funds or portoflios.
The Indirect Investment channels are illustrated below
3.2 Investment Incentives in Kuwait
Kuwait offers the following investment incentives:
The Government of Kuwait encourages investment in local business by providing the below mentioned incentives:
- Certain raw materials and equipment are exempt from import duties
- Goods locally produced are protected against similar goods that are imported by levying tariffs on imports
- Availing industrial loans at economical interest rates
- Businesses that deal with government supply contracts are provided preferential treatment
Direct Foreign Capital Investment Law
Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA) was established to promote direct investment in the State of Kuwait, as a specialized public authority with financial and administrative independence. KDIPA is one of the economic implementing arms of the country performing developmental, promotional, regulatory, and advocacy roles. Under the authority of the KDIPA, the Direct Foreign Capital Investment Law (Law No. 116) was promulgated in 2013.
The Direct Foreign Capital Investment Law provides several incentives, which include the following:
- Non-Kuwaitis are provided the opportunity to invest in excess of 50% (up to 100%) in Kuwaiti companies.
- Approved projects requiring imported materials are fully or partially exempted from custom duties and other government charges.
- Tax exemption for up to 10 years with respect to non-Kuwaiti shareholders’ shares of the profits from the business.
- Repatriation of profits and capital invested is guaranteed under the law.
- Investors can avail of benefits from avoidance of double taxation treaties,
if available, and other promotion and protection agreements signed between Kuwait and other countries.
- Industrial plots can be leased at low rental rates for long periods of time.
- Recruitment of foreign labor required for the project.
Some of the success stories under KDIPA include the following:
- MMI (Montreal Medical International Inc.)
- Malka (Malka Communications Group Inc.)
- NTG Clarity Networks Inc
- Grand Cinemas
- TR (Technical Reuindas)
- Selex ES
- SinGulf Global
- AZN O&M Company W.L.L
- Mckinsey and Co.
3.3 Exchange Control
There are no significant restrictions on foreign currencies movements except for safeguards to combat money laundering as stipulated and strictly implemented by the Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK).
Hence, capital, equity, dividends, loan, interest, profits, royalties, fees and savings are freely remittable by foreign investors through banks, investment companies and currency exchange companies albeit strictly monitored by the CBK.
3.4 Financing Sources
- Industrial Finance
- Commercial Finance
- Small Enterprise Finance
- Finance of Agriculture
Also, the National Fund for Small and Medium Enterprises Development provides financing for up to 80% of capital for feasible projects submitted by Kuwaiti Nationals.
4- Employment Regulations
4.1 Governing Law and Legal Requirements
- Private Sector: Private Sector Labor Law No. 6 of 2010, as amended, which is enforced by the Public Authority for Manpower;
- Government Sector: Government Sector Labor Law No. 18 of 1960, as amended; and
- Oil and Gas Sector: Oil Sector Labor Law No. 28 of 1969.
4.2 Employment Permits
Employment permits are usually issued for up to three years and may be renewed for similar periods upon the request of an employer. GCC nationals do not need to have employment permits to work in Kuwait.
4.3 Employment Agreement
Remuneration typically includes the following:
- Basic salary
- Cash Benefits
Overtime is payable as follows:
- 125% of normal pay on working days including Saturdays (Rest Day)
- 150% of normal pay on Fridays (Off Day)
- 200% of normal pay on public holidays
End of Service Benefits (EOSB):
The terminal benefit payment is calculated as 15 day pay per year for the first five years of service and one month pay per year thereafter, unless a higher rate is provided in the employment agreement. The calculation is based on the latest salary. The total amount paid may not exceed one and one-half years’ remuneration based on last basic salary.
The worker shall be entitled to half of the EOSB in the event where he/she terminates the agreement, which has an indefinite term and the period of service is minimum 3 years and not more than 5 years. However, if the period of service is 5 years and is less than 10 years, the worker will be entitled to two thirds of the EOSB. If the period of service exceeds 10 years, the worker will be entitled to the entire EOSB.
- The annual paid leave is 30 days.
- Maternity leave is 70 days, (30 days before delivery and 40 days after delivery)
- Sick leave is 15 days with full pay, 10 days with 75% pay, 10 days with 50% pay, 10 days with 25% pay and 30 days without pay.
4.5 Health, Safety & Welfare at Workplace
Employees should be protected from physical hazards and occupational diseases at workplace. Thus, employers are required to take necessary precautions to protect their employees’ welfare in line with the regulations specified in the Labor Law.
4.6 Notice Requirements
4.7 Transfer of Obligations
4.9 Trade Unions
To be a union member, an employee must be at least 18 years of age and have a certificate of good conduct from a competent authority. For expatriates, a valid employment permit and a Kuwait work experience for five consecutive years are required to become a union member.
Kuwaitis are the only persons who have the right to vote in the union’s general assembly. Being elected in the executive board of a union is also restricted to Kuwaitis. Expatriates only have the right to delegate one from among them as representative in order to share their views before the executive board.
4.10 Social Security
5.1 Overall Structure
- Foreign Entity Taxation
- Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS)
- Zakat (Islamic Tax)
- National Labor Support Tax (NLST)
5.1.1 Foreign Entity Taxation
All foreign companies operating in Kuwait are subject to income tax. In other words, any income earned by a foreign company from Kuwait is subject to income tax irrespective of whether the entity has an office or place of business inside Kuwait.
The only exceptions to this condition are companies incorporated in the GCC and fully owned by GCC citizens, which are operating in Kuwait, will not be subject to any taxes, and income exempted under double taxation avoidance treaties.
The current income tax rate is a flat 15% of:
- Net Profit based on actual reported profit or
- Deemed Profit when a foreign company is unable to maintain separate accounting books for its operations in Kuwait
A tax declaration should be filed within 3.5 months of the end of the taxable period. It is possible to extend this deadline by
60 days but this is subject to the discretion of Tax Department.
Tax is payable in four equal installments as follows:
- The first installment has to be paid within 3.5 months from the end of taxable period
- The second installment has to be paid within 5.5 months from the end of taxable period
- The third installment has to be paid within 8.5 months from the end of taxable period
- The fourth installment has to be paid within 11.5 months from the end of taxable period
- Tax Deductible Costs All costs incurred in the course of carrying out operations in Kuwait and deemed necessary for realizing income are tax deductible subject to certain exclusions as specified under the Disallowed Expenses as per the Law. These expenses should be supported by valid documents and should be related to the taxable period.
- Tax Losses Tax losses may be carried forward for up to three years, i.e. losses incurred in the first year can be utilized to set off profits in the second year and the balance can be utilized to set off profits in the third year.
- Depreciation Depreciation rates are prescribed by Law based on the nature of the asset, which are then applied to cost and computed on a straight-line basis. The permissible rates of depreciation include 4% a year for buildings, 20% for plant and machinery, 15% to 20% for motor vehicles and 15% for office furniture.
- Withholding Taxes All entities transacting with foreign companies in Kuwait are expected to withhold the last payment of the contract, which should not be less than 5% of the total contract value until the foreign entity provides them with a tax clearance certificate issued by Tax Department in Ministry of Finance.
5.1.2 Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS)
5.1.4 National Labor Support Tax (NLST)
5.1.5 Value Added Tax (VAT)
Such Agreement is expected to be adopted in the State of Kuwait in the short term.
5.1.5 Double Taxation Avoidance Treaties
|Austria||Indonesia||Serbia and Montenegro|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Jordan||Spain|
- Expenses incurred outside Kuwait for any Kuwaiti projects are allowed as long as such expenses are charged in line with international practices.
- Profits generated from the supply of materials are not taxable.
5.3 Kuwait’s Compliance with International Tax Treaties
5.3.1 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)
5.3.2 Common Reporting Standard (CRS)
6- Customs Duty
Based on the Customs Union formed on 01 January 2003 by the GCC States, it is agreed that a uniform custom duty will be levied among all member States; customs will not be levied for trade among GCC States; and regulations, which restrict trade among GCC States, would be eliminated.
As a result, Kuwait levies a standard customs tariff of 5% on CIF invoice price subject to certain exceptions.
As per the Customs Union, a unified list of goods comprising 400 items including basic foodstuffs, personal effects and used household items are exempted from customs duties.