Tax professionals' guide to relocating to Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an Arab state with a population of 32 million. The official language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic. However, English is an important language within professional services and is widely spoken by Saudi nationals who work within the accountancy profession or within a group finance function.
The Big 4 accounting firms all have offices based in Saudi Arabia, the key cities for tax professionals being Riyadh, Jeddah and Al Khobar.
To view current tax jobs in Saudi please follow this link: https://www.etaxjobs.com/browse-jobs/europe-middle-east-and-africa-tax-jobs/saudi-arabia-tax-jobs/
Working in Saudi Arabia
If you are relocating for a new tax job in Saudi Arabia then you will need a residency permit. When applying for residency in Saudi Arabia it is essential that you already have a firm job offer. Your invitation to stay in the country must be sent by your new employer and they start the immigration process by sponsoring you. The employment pack from your employer should include a visa application form, information re police clearance requirements, a religious statement form and a medical report to be submitted to your local embassy.
A move to the country may be more challenging for female tax professionals compared to their male counterparts. There is a useful article on the Expat Women website that discusses issues that a single woman might face when relocating to Saudi. Having said this, the climate is changing and at the time of writing this article (Jan 2018), Belgium has just appointed a female ambassador in Saudi.
There is no individual income tax scheme in Saudi Arabia.
Income tax is not imposed on an individual's earnings if they are derived only from employment in Saudi Arabia.
However, social insurance contributions are paid monthly based on the monthly basic salary plus housing (paid or in kind) with an upper limit of SAR 45,000 (about £9,000), are computed at 2% for non-Saudi employees (note that this is not social insurance, it is occupational hazard), and are paid by the employer. For Saudi employees, the rate is 22% and is paid by both the employee (10% = 9% social insurance + 1% unemployment insurance [SANED]) and the employer (12% = 9% social insurance + 2% occupational hazard + 1% unemployment insurance [SANED]).
The children of expats are not permitted to attend Saudi Arabian public schools but there are several international schools available instead. However, spaces are limited so it is advised that you register your child as quickly as possible to guarantee a space. Some popular international schools are the International American School- Riyadh, the British International School of Jeddah, the Multinational School- Riyadh and the Dhahran British Grammar School.
The most popular and safest way of getting around Saudi Arabia is by private car and taxi and it is advisable to do so. There are no meters in Saudi taxis, therefore the price must be agreed in advance. It is recommended that you get an Arabic speaker to do this for you to avoid any miscommunication. Saudi Arabia does have a public transport system and the front two rows on buses are reserved for women and children. Unaccompanied foreign women may travel on intercity buses if they have an iqama (residence permit) or a passport. Buses do not run to any of the countries that border Saudi Arabia so the only mean of international travel is via plane. Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport is the country’s busiest airport and is served by the majority of major airlines.
The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is generally slightly lower than the other expat-friendly locations in the Middle East. If you are a single male tax professional then you can choose to live within a compound or obtain a private lease. Eg Al Olayya & Sulaymaniyyah (the municipality with Riyadh’s business district) or the Al Mohamdiyah and Al Nakheel districts within Al Ma’athar may offer suitable housing.
Married couples, single expat women and families tend to opt for the expat compounds when first arriving in Saudi.
You can view the range of compounds and current accommodation available on Right Compound. Note, villas within compounds can be quite expensive as there is high demand.
There is a useful section on the Internations website that might help you in your search.
This post has been kindly written by tax recruitment specialists Kingpin International, who publish a series of lifestyle news on living and working in GCC countries.