Effective January 1, 2003, the UAE acceded to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Customs Union that equalizes the duties paid upon entry of an item to any member state, regardless of the country of destination within the GCC. For example, an item imported into the UAE destined for the Saudi market is subject to the five percent duty once it enters the UAE market. In theory, the trader need not pay customs duties again to take the item across the border into Saudi Arabia.
The Customs duty for most items is calculated on CIF value at the rate of five percent. Alcoholic products are assessed a 50 percent duty, while tobacco products are assessed a 100 percent customs duty. Many essential items, including staple foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals are given duty free status. CIF value will normally be calculated by reference to the commercial invoices covering the related shipment, but Customs is not bound to accept the figures shown therein and may set an estimated value on the goods, which shall be final, as far as duty is concerned.