No selling cigarettes without digital tax stamps from today

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As of May 1, 2019, the import of any type of cigarettes into the UAE not bearing digital tax stamps has been prohibited.

The Federal Tax Authority (FTA) has announced that the sale and possession of all types of cigarettes not bearing the Digital Tax Stamps will be prohibited across UAE markets starting tomorrow (Thursday, August 1, 2019).

The authority explained that two types of Digital Tax Stamps were approved, the first of which is Red and meant to be placed on the packaging of tobacco products (including cigarettes) sold at all local markets, as well as at duty-free in arrival lounges. The second type, meanwhile, is Green and earmarked for tobacco products sold at duty-free in departure lounges.

Prohibiting the sale in local markets of cigarettes packets not bearing the Digital Tax Stamps is part of the timeline set for the 'Marking Tobacco and Tobacco Products Scheme', which went into effect at the beginning of 2019. The scheme seeks to electronically track cigarettes packs from the production facility and until they reach the end-consumer, in order to protect consumers from low-quality products, combat tax evasion, and ensure that the Excise Tax due on these products has been settled.

In a press statement issued on Wednesday, the authority called on all cigarette dealers and producers in the UAE to comply with these measures.

The FTA also appealed to consumers to check for Digital Tax Stamps on the packaging of cigarettes they buy and inform competent authorities of any violations, noting that the Scheme serves to tighten controls on the market, ensure compliance with international best practices, verify that tax obligations have been met, and guarantee the quality and safety of tobacco products in the UAE.

FTA director general Khalid Ali Al Bustani asserted that the scheme is part of the authority's strategy to prevent tax evasion, protect consumer rights and preserve the environment using advanced, efficient, and accurate electronic control systems to support the implementation of the relevant legislation, which clearly outlined obligations for both the authority and taxpayers, and set procedures to prevent the sale of harmful, lower-quality products.

"The Authority has sought to implement an integrated and widespread awareness campaign starting from the second quarter of 2018 - several months before the 'Marking Tobacco and Tobacco Products Scheme' went into effect - to allow sufficient time for local markets to prepare for the Scheme and avoid any adverse effects to their commercial activities," Al Bustani explained. "Furthermore, the authority collaborated with the system operator to carry out an extensive awareness campaign through its official website, social media accounts, newspapers, television, and radio. Workshops were organised, bringing together individuals and organisations involved in the manufacture and trade of tobacco and tobacco products, introducing them to the Scheme, and answering their queries."

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