Foreign companies intending to do business with Qatar, will have to appoint a representative agent. There are two types of agents, and it is important to know the difference between the two.
If the type of business involves exporting products to Qatar, a 'Commercial Agent' may be required to act as distributor or sales representative.
If the project is being executed for Qatari private entities and if you will be leaving the country on completion of the project, a 'Service Agent' or 'sponsor' is required for taking care of administrative paper work with Qatari Government. But, if the project is undertaken to fulfil a government contract, or provide a public service, the Qatari Government waives the service agent / sponsor requirement.
For doing business in Qatar, the most common practice is to establish a Limited Liability Company. In such a case, the foreign entity should not exceed 49% of the capital, while the Qatari Partner owns 51%. New Qatari law allows foreigners to earn nearly 80percent or more of the Company profits, if the foreign entity is the main player in the joint venture. The joint venture firm does not need a service agent/sponsor to do business.
Foreigners cannot own land in Qatar, other than certain real estate development projects such as the Pearl of the Gulf. However, foreign firms can rent land on long-term basis, up to 50 years to complete certain projects.
Qatar is not a tax-free zone. There is no personal income tax in Qatar, but, foreign-based firms will have to pay tax on corporate income, at the rate of 0% on less than QR100,000 and up to 35% on more than QR5million. Depending on the activities of the foreign establishment, certain tax exemptions are allowed, if the activity of the establishment is directly benefiting Qatar, or incorporates a modern technology, or fulfils the strategic goal of the Qatar government. Original copies of documentation should be produced for goods shipped into Qatar. All goods entering Qatar should be accompanied by commercial invoices, packing lists, shipping document, and Certificate of Origin should accompany goods entering Qatar.
The Customs Duty for general cargo entering Qatar is about 5%. For temporary imports into Qatar, permission from the General Director of Qatari Customs is necessary, apart from a cheque or bank guarantee to Customs Department towards duty charges for shipment. This will be refunded on producing proof of export from Qatar. Normal customs clearance by air is 1-2 days and by sea is 2-4 days.
As for banking, foreign investors require permission from Qatari Government to invest in the banking and insurance sectors.