Hong Kong Corporate Tax - Explained
Hong Kong is a central hub for business in Asia. It is extremely popular for a variety of reasons, including political stability, economic freedom and tax benefits. Hong Kong has one of the lowest tax rates in the world for a developed country, and has an intricate and effective tax system that allows companies to conduct business without being overpowered by their tax liabilities. Indeed, Hong Kong is rated as the world's 3rd friendliest tax system by Forbes (Tax Misery & Reform Index 2009).
Corporate Tax in Hong Kong
Given the large number of companies that operate in Hong Kong or have an offshore business in Hong Kong, an understanding of Hong Kong tax implications begins with corporate tax.
In Hong Kong, any company conducting business on or offshore can be liable to corporate tax. Profits sourced in Hong Kong are taxed at a low rate of 16.5%, and unincorporated businesses are taxed at 15%. Profits that are sourced overseas, also known as ‘offshore profits', benefit from a zero tax rate, even when remitted back to Hong Kong. Profits derived from operating ships in Hong Kong are treated as ‘offshore profits' and are not liable to tax, but profits derived by professional reinsurers for reinsuring offshore risks will be taxed at 8.25% -i.e. half the corporate tax rate.
To note: offshore payments for intellectual property usage are liable to tax at 4.95%, goods sold by Hong Kong consignment agents on behalf of non-residents are also liable to tax on 0.5% of gross proceeds. On the other hand, bank deposit interest, interest on Tax Reserve Certificates, interest income on long-term debt instruments, dividends and capital gains are free from tax.
With the low tax rates there are also other regulations that protect business from unjustified taxes. Hong Kong is fully committed to its double tax agreement with thirty three nations, including PRC, Thailand and Belgium, to relieve companies from having to pay two taxes on one set of profits, as a result of multinational enterprise and multiple jurisdictions. For full details on Hong Kong's double tax agreements, see the website for the Inland Revenue Department of Hong Kong (IRD).
Companies that conduct business through a branch in Hong Kong or are incorporated in Hong Kong cannot offset losses against the profits of other members in a group of companies -through consolidated accounting systems, however the Hong Kong jurisdiction allows losses to be carried forward indefinitely. Assets are depreciated at authorized prescribed rates of depreciation, for example, computer equipment can be depreciated at 100% in the first year.
The general procedure for corporate taxation after incorporation in Hong Kong is straightforward. Typically a Hong Kong incorporated company will be tracked by the Hong Kong authority and sent a tax return at year end. Even when no tax return is issued to a company, they are responsible for notifying the government of any profits liable to tax. In standard practice, estimated tax assessments will be issued provisionally during the tax year based on historic profit information. A final assessment will then be released after filing of the tax return.
It should be noted that the Hong Kong tax year begins on April 1st. Also, companies liable to tax in Hong Kong are required to fulfill accounting and auditing standards i.e. be audited by a firm of Hong Kong accountants.
In Hong Kong, people also benefit from zero sales tax, zero value added tax and zero annual net worth taxes.