Qatar regulatory changes present risks and opportunities for CFOs, says ICAEW
Recent legal changes in Qatar must be understood by chief financial officers (CFOs) and finance professionals if businesses are going to be able to address potential risks, the Institute Of Chartered Accountants In England and Wales (ICAEW) said, reports the Gulf Times.
The accountancy body partnered with international law firm Pinsent Masons to host a seminar about Qatar’s recent regulatory changes for senior financial professionals. Held in Doha recently, the seminar was presented by senior partners of Pinsent Masons who discussed how updates to Qatari commercial law, data privacy, employment law, arbitration, and taxation are likely to impact business.
“It is no longer enough for CFOs to focus purely on the numbers. As senior business managers they need a good understanding of the risks and challenges facing their businesses and this includes legal and regulatory changes,” said Michael Armstrong, FCA and ICAEW regional director for the Middle East Africa and South Asia (Measa).
As Qatar races to further diversify and modernise its economy, leaders have recognised the need to develop the local legal and regulatory landscape. In a market where important contract disputes are not uncommon, the law has evolved to make arbitration more accessible.
Employees are now better protected legally with regards to salary payments and flexibility of visa sponsorship arrangements. The new Commercial Companies Law is designed to make setting up a business easier, while developments in data protection and taxation will require new reporting processes to ensure companies comply.
Internationally, there will be changes generated by the evolving global tax environment. Companies in the Gulf looking to invest overseas face a number of new tax challenges, in particular greater disclosure of information to tax authorities. For example, through the OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) initiative, Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), and the new Common Reporting standard. These are also creating additional obligations for reporting locally.
“While the legislative changes in Qatar may give rise to some new challenges, they are a positive development for businesses operating in the Gulf state. Qatar is competing for foreign investment with other countries in the Gulf.
“Anything that helps businesses establish themselves more quickly and efficiently in the country, or which helps to provide certainty and clarity to regulations in the local economy, is beneficial,” said James Elwen, partner and head of Qatar office at Pinsent Masons.
Roger Phillips, director at Pinsent Masons, added: “With the increasing interest of the GCC in finding ways to embrace the information economy, and with recognition of the value of data and its protection, it is great to see Qatar leading regionally with the development and implementation of new laws and regulations on cyber and data privacy. Businesses planning for change will be critical to manage compliance and fully grasp the opportunities.”