Importing any type of cigarettes into the UAE that do not bear the ‘digital tax stamps’ will be strictly prohibited from Wednesday, May 1, the Federal Tax Authority (FTA) has warned.
It will also be illegal to sell any unmarked cigarette packs in local markets as of August 1, 2019.
The move is part of the ‘Marking Tobacco and Tobacco Products’ scheme, which went into effect on January 1 and allows for the electronic tracking of cigarette packs from production until they reach end consumers.
The scheme is aimed at ensuring compliance with excise tax obligations.
The stamps store digital information that can be read with a dedicated device to verify that the excise tax due on said products has been duly paid. Inspections will be carried at customs ports and markets to halt sales of contraband products.
The scheme will be gradually expanded to cover all tobacco products and support the FTA’s efforts to collect taxes, combat tax evasion and protect consumers against low-quality, contraband products, a statement said.
The UAE imposed a 100 per cent excise tax on tobacco products from October 2017.
In the statement on Tuesday, the FTA said it received “a large volume of orders” for the digital tax stamps from manufacturers and importers to apply them on cigarettes supplied to UAE markets.
The digital tax stamps have to be be fixed on specified excise goods within the production facility immediately after packaging if produced locally – or prior to importing them in the case of imported tobacco products – in the place and manner specified by the FTA.
Several batches of FTA-approved stamps reached cigarette suppliers around the country in April, the authority said.
FTA director general Khalid Ali Al Bustani asserted that manufacturers and suppliers are processing all the required paperwork and registering the stamps in the databases.
“In collaboration with the international company hired to operate the system, the FTA organised an extensive awareness campaign through its official website, social networking platforms, newspapers, and audio-visual media,” he said.
“A series of workshops and training programmes was also held, where all concerned departments and authorities participated, and where FTA experts gave presentations to introduce the scheme and answer all queries from attendees.
“Phase two of the scheme is scheduled to be launched in the last quarter of 2019, where it will be expanded to cover tobacco products used in shisha (known in Arabic as ‘Mu‘assel’) and electrically heated cigarette rolls, whether imported or locally produced,” he added.