DOING BUSINESS IN HONG KONG IN 2019
Since 2003, Healy Consultants Group PLC has assisted our Clients to establish company in Hong Kong. Our services include i) Hong Kong company setup services; ii) corporate bank account opening services in Hong Kong and abroad; iii) assistance to open HK merchant account and secure corporate finance; iv) employee recruitment and relocation strategies and vi) office rental solutions in Hong Kong.
Summary table of Hong Kong company registration
|Summary||Tax resident LLC||Tax exempt LLC||Free zone LLC||LLP||China offshore|
|Best use of company?||All purpose||International trading||Manufacturing||Professional services||Business with China|
|How soon can you invoice Clients/sign sales contracts?||1 week||1 week||1 week||1 week||1 week|
|How soon can you hire staff?||1 week||1 week||1 week||1 week||1 week|
|How soon can you sign a lease agreement?||1 week||1 week||1 week||1 week||1 week|
|How long to supply company registration numbers?||1 week||1 week||1 week||1 week||1 week|
|How long to supply corporate bank account numbers?||1 month||1 month||1 month||1 month||2 months|
|Corporate tax rate on annual net profits?||16.5%||0%||16.5%||0%||0%|
|Effective tax rate on US$500,000?||12.4%||0%||12.4%||0%||0%|
|Limited liability entity?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Resident director/partner/manager required?||No||No||No||No||No|
|Minimum paid up share capital?||US$1||US$1||US$1||US$1||US$1|
|Corporate bank account location?||HSBC Hong Kong||DBS Singapore||SCB Hong Kong||DBS Hong Kong||Bank of China|
|Can secure trade finance?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Average total engagement costs?||US$8,910||US$8,910||US$10,900||US$9,110||US$8,910|
|Average total engagement period?||2 months||2 months||2 months||2 months||2 months|
|Accounting and tax considerations||Tax resident LLC||Tax exempt LLC||Free zone LLC||LLP||China offshore|
|Statutory corporate tax payable?||16.5%||0%||16.5%||0%||0%|
|Legally tax exempt if properly structured?||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Must file an annual company tax return?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Access to double taxation treaties?||Yes||No||Yes||No||No|
|Government grants available?||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Company registration||Tax resident LLC||Tax exempt LLC||Free zone LLC||LLP||China offshore|
|Minimum number of directors/managers?||1||1||1||1||1|
|Minimum number of shareholders/partners?||1||1||1||2||1|
|Minimum statutory paid up share capital?||US$1||US$1||US$1||US$1||US$1|
|Shelf companies available?||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Time to incorporate a new entity?||1 week||1 week||2 weeks||2 weeks||1 week|
|Can easily convert to a PLC?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Public register of shareholders and directors?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Can have preference shareholders?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Business considerations||Tax resident LLC||Tax exempt LLC||Free zone LLC||LLP||China offshore|
|Good entity for trademark registration?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Can secure an import and export license?||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Restrictions on nature of business activities||No||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Can bid for Government contracts?||Yes||No||Yes||No||No|
|This entity enjoys Government incentives?||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Can invoice customers in your company name?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Company can hire local staff?||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|The entity will likely be regulated by?||Companies registry|
|Can secure residence visa for business owner?||Yes|
|Monthly GST reporting to the Government?||None|
|Maximum number of staffs allowed?||No limit|
|Our Client must travel for Hong Kong business set up?||No|
|Travel to Hong Kong is necessary for corporate bank account opening?||Yes|
|Can be wholly foreign owned?||Yes|
|Maximum shareholding for foreigners?||100%|
|Government approval required for foreign owners?||No|
|Sponsorship by a local citizen required?||No|
|Temporary physical office solutions available?||Yes|
|Company can rent local office space?||Yes|
|You need a local resident as bank signatory?||No|
|Withholding tax on payments to shareholders?||None|
|Must appoint an auditor?||Yes|
|Dividends received are legally tax exempt?||Yes|
|Security deposit to be kept with Government?||No|
|Must sign an office lease agreement?||No|
|Shareholders and directors documents to be attested?||Yes|
|Shareholders and directors documents to be translated?||Yes|
|Foreign non-resident director needs a work permit?||No|
|Foreign director needs a tax number?||No|
|Expatriate to local staff ratio?||4.6%|
|Other useful information|
|What will be included in my customer sales invoice?||Read more|
|This country has signed free trade agreements?||Yes|
|This country is a member of WIPO/TRIPS?||Yes (China)|
|This country is a member of the ICSIDICSID?||Yes (China)|
|Average customs duties suffered?||0%|
|GST payable on sales to local customers?||None|
|Must file annual financial statements?||Yes|
|Group HQ tax incentives?||No|
|Average monthly office rental? (US$ per sq. m)||US$41|
|Minimum statutory monthly salary?||US$1,950|
|Average monthly US$ salary for local skilled employees?||US$3,900|
|HK$ deposit interest rate? (1-year average)||0.4%|
|US$ deposit interest rate? (1-year average)||0.7%|
|Overseas remittance currency controls?||No|
|Multi-currency bank accounts available?||Yes|
|Corporate visa debit cards available?||Yes|
|Quality of e-banking platform?||Very good|
|Crowd funding available in this country?||Yes|
Hong Kong business setup summary
- Healy Consultants can assist our Clients to register Hong Kong companies to trade with their international customers and hold their assets. Properly structured, such companies are legally tax exempt in Hong Kong;
- We will also introduce our Clients to one of the world’s best corporate bank accounts: ten currencies under one account number and funds transfer transaction fees of only US$ 15. Contact us for more details on this banking solution;
- While travel to Hong Kong is usually required to open a local account, we have found a way to legally circumvent this requirement;
- Hong Kong is also the gateway to invest and trade with China. Refer to this page for further details;
- Hong Kong is a reputable business hub, compliant with OECD’s AML/CFT standards. There is a Companies Registrar available to the general public and the local banks comply with FATCA regulations and the incoming Common Reporting Standard.
Press the link headings below to read detailed, relevant, up to date information.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Benefits of Hong Kong company registration
The Heritage Foundation has ranked Hong Kong as the world’s freest economy. The World Bank takes a similar view, having listed Hong Kong as the 4th best place in the world for doing business. This has essentially been as a result of the strength of its liberal economic policies and the potential access to the massive Chinese market. Examples of these business-friendly policies include:
- It is extremely easy to register a company in Hong Kong because:
- Healy Consultants can incorporate a new company in Hong Kong in 1 week with a share capital of only US$1. Also, the capital can be maintained in any currency including USD, Euro or GBP;
- A Hong Kong company only requires 1 director and 1 shareholder, who can be non-resident foreigners. Furthermore, Healy Consultants can complete the incorporation procedure without them having to travel to the city;
- There is no requirement for a physical office space to be complete the company registration. A registered address is sufficient, and this service will be provided to our Clients by Healy Consultants;
- Ready-made companies are also permitted in Hong Kong, so our Clients can commence operations without having to wait for company setup and bank account opening procedures to be completed. Buy a Hong Kong shelf company that already has a bank account with one of our turnkey solutions;
- Consequently, the World Bank ranked Hong Kong as the 4th best jurisdiction in the world to start to a new business in their annual Doing Business survey.
- Our Clients will also enjoy certain tax advantages in Hong Kong including:
- A Hong Kong company is legally tax exempt if it has no operations in Hong Kong. This legitimate tax advantage makes the city attractive to entrepreneurs and established businesses;
- Setting up a Hong Kong offshore company is an excellent way to boost global profits as there is no withholding tax, sales tax, VAT, import and export tax or capital gains tax;
- For companies with operations in Hong Kong, the corporate tax rate is among the lowest in Asia at 16.5%. Furthermore, such a company will benefit from the 42 international double tax treaties signed by the Hong Kong government to minimize withholding tax on payments abroad;
- Being a founding member of the World Trade Organization, Hong Kong promotes free trade and does not charge tariffs on imports and exports. Furthermore, bureaucratic procedures like licensing and government registration are kept to a minimum.
- In March of 2019, the EU removed Hong Kong from its watch list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions. This improves Hong Kong’s tax reputation amongst the EU states and ensures its compliance with international standards of tax governance.
- Hong Kong offers entrepreneurs an excellent business environment to conduct operations because:
- English is the official business language in Hong Kong; all formal company documents are written in both English and Chinese. As a result, a foreign entrepreneur is likely to find working in the city easy;
- Obtaining bank credit is relatively simple in Hong Kong. Consequently, the city is ranked as 32nd best jurisdiction in the world for securing business credit;
- Along with Singapore, Hong Kong is the leading financial centre in Asia. The city’s International Financial Centre hosts many global financial firms, insurance companies, banks and asset management firms;
- A Hong Kong company benefits from the absence of exchange controls to restrict FDIs or income repatriation. This coupled with city’s status as a financial centre make it an excellent location for treasury accounts, cash management accounts and other corporate banking services;
- Hong Kong is itself a free economic zone (it is officially a part of China known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region). Therefore, a resident company is a great business vehicle for foreign investors who need a regional distribution base or headquarters;
- The local government is also ranked as the 17th least corrupt place in the world. This makes it easier for foreign investors to depend on the local laws to protect their assets.
- Hong Kong is on a new rise of popularity because of its active participation in the Belt and Road Initiative. Vigorous investment in infrastructure will increase the demand across multiple industries, such as finance, logistics, shipping, transport, technology, and so on;
- Hong Kong is known for its independent and sound legal environment, which is separate from Mainland China, and adopts English common law. For local businesses in the country, intellectual property protection is enforced, with strict regulations for patents, copyrights, trademarks and registered designs.
Problems with Hong Kong company registration
- In Hong Kong, our Clients will be required to abide by certain cumbersome regulations including:
- Our Clients must submit annual audited financial statements to the Inland Revenue Department. Healy Consultants’ accounting team will assist with fulfilling this obligation;
- All Hong Kong banks require the directors, shareholders and bank account signatories to travel to Hong Kong for an account opening interview, no exceptions;
- Citizens of certain nationalities are not eligible for a Hong Kong investment visa. Foreign investors from Afghanistan, Albania, Cambodia, Cuba, Laos, North Korea, Nepal and Vietnam cannot register their businesses in Hong Kong;
- Following company formation in Hong Kong, obtaining an employment visa will be complicated due to high skill and experience thresholds. Foreign entrepreneurs must provide education and work experience credentials;
- Effective from March 2014, at least one of the directors of a Hong Kong company must be a natural person. As long as one individual is appointed as a director, corporate directors are still permitted.
- Our Clients may also face problems in Hong Kong due to the following issues:
- Hong Kong banks have become very selective of their customers due to the very high global demand for their services. Hong Kong banks may require Clients to have proof of business operation in Hong Kong including i) Hong Kong based Clients, ii) have physical office and iii) employees on the ground. Consequently, opening a corporate bank account in the city can be a cumbersome process;
- Hong Kong has relatively weak intellectual property laws and protection, especially when compared to Singapore. However, looser protection of ideas has led to a proliferation of innovation in Hong Kong and wider China, particularly the nearby Shenzhen;
- The quality of conversational English for an average local employee is relatively poor when compared to the other investment hotspots like Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai and Indonesia.
- The dependence of Hong Kong on China and the US can be a concern for investors, as their investment returns will be vulnerable to external factors. For example, a slowdown in either economy would affect the economy of Hong Kong.
- Due to lack of space, proper planning and an increasing population, rental costs in Hong Kong are extremely high, averaging at US$27 per sq. ft in 2018.
- It is extremely easy to register a company in Hong Kong because:
Best uses for a Hong Kong company
- Healy Consultants recommends our Clients to use the Hong Kong company as the headquarters for their Asia Pacific operations because:
- Hong Kong is Asia-Pacific region’s 10th most liveable city, with a blossoming multinational population. Also, the city provides well-developed infrastructure for residential accommodation, tourism, banking, entertainment and business;
- It also boasts highly-skilled labour with a literacy rate of 96% and computer literacy around 95%. Furthermore, most skilled employees are bilingual in English and either Cantonese or Mandarin. As a result, many multi-national companies set up subsidiaries in Hong Kong;
- Employees in Hong Kong understand the corporate culture in mainland China. Therefore, trading and doing business with Chinese businesses becomes very easy for a resident company;
- Setting up a Hong Kong business allows foreign investors to take advantage of legal tax exemption, while at the same time being able to extract funds from regional subsidiaries in the form of dividends, management fees and royalties;
- Hong Kong is a paradise for high net worth individuals. The city currently hosts many wealthy Chinese and foreign entrepreneurs and is consequently synonymous with luxury, housing some of the biggest brands in the world. It is therefore also a great destination to set up a trust.
- A Hong Kong company is an excellent gateway for our Clients wishing to deal with China because:
- As a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, Hong Kong enjoys a special relationship with the world’s 2nd largest economy. It is estimated that the SAR has access to almost 450 million consumers across nine provinces in southern China, which has led many businesses to view a Hong Kong company as the optimum way to serve the mainland Chinese market;
- According to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the city is one of the largest sources of investment into China. Furthermore, Hong Kong has excellent air, rail and road links to the booming southern provinces of China;
- On June 29, 2003, Hong Kong and China signed the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), a free trade agreement granting the city’s manufacturers and service suppliers preferential access to the Chinese market. The agreement is now in its seventh phase, in which China agrees to abolish tariffs on all products of Hong Kong origin (to date there are more than 1,600 products). For more details on how the CEPA can benefit your company, visit the CEPA Website.
- Broadly, a Hong Kong company is an excellent gateway for our Clients wishing to reach consumers and businesses in the Asian continent because:
- Hong Kong is the top choice for product distribution within Asia. The city has the world’s 2nd best infrastructure in the form of a natural deep sea port, the world’s busiest cargo airport, and a well-developed rail and road system;
- The city’s strategic location makes it an ideal business gateway to Asia. A Hong Kong corporate entity allows foreign entrepreneurs easy access to the massive Chinese, Indian and Australian consumer markets;
- The city is the historic import and export hub of the Asian continent. A large number of international trading companies and banks are based here, which has resulted in the availability of excellent trade finance facilities. Furthermore, the strength of the city’s shipping and transportation sector attracts the world’s leading freight forwarders, shipping companies and insurers;
- The city is deemed as the most business friendly city in Asia. The city’s liberal policies, vibrant business environment and low taxes attract both foreign investors and qualified labour from across Asia;
- Hong Kong now has a Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN, which will help Hong Kong based businesses trade without tariffs with a market of 600 million people.
- Healy Consultants recommends our Clients to use the Hong Kong company as the headquarters for their Asia Pacific operations because:
Let us know if you need Healy Consultants Group PLC’s assistance to engineer the best corporate structure for your Hong Kong business setup.
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Frequently asked questions
How to start a company in Hong Kong as a foreigner?
Establishing a business in Hong Kong as a foreigner is a straightforward procedure that can be done within a week.
The main steps to setup a business in Hong Kong as a foreigner are:
- Decide a unique company name which adheres by the guidelines provided by the Companies Registry. You can check the availability of the name online with the Companies Registry;
- Prepare the company’s constitution;
- Confirm i) the corporate structure, ii) the share capital and the value of the shares, iii) the registered address and iv) the company secretary;
- Notarize the passports of the directors and shareholder with a Hong Kong public notary and sign all incorporation documents;
- Prepare these Hong Kong Company documents: i) incorporation form NNC1, ii) articles of association, iii) IRBR1 business registration form notice, iv) notarized copy of passport and proof of address for all directors and shareholders and v) annual returns to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue;
- Submit the complete incorporation package to the Companies Registry and the Inland Revenue Department (Hong Kong tax office) for tax registration;
- Within 1 week of submitting the above documents, if no issues with the filling of the forms, the company would be legally incorporated.
What are the types of business entities that can be setup in Hong Kong?
The are 6 main business entities that can be setup in Hong Kong are:
- Resident company;
- Non-resident limited company;
- Public limited company;
- Branch office;
- Representative office.
Each business entity is meant to have different business goals and they do have different set up requirements. The table below outlines the major differences:
Operations and logistics Resident company Offshore company Offshore trust PLC Branch RO Bank signatory must travel? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Allowed to import raw materials? Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Allowed to export goods? Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Requirement of a resident Director No No Resident trustee No No No Access to DTAAs? Yes No No Yes Yes No
How much does it cost to incorporate an LLC in Hong Kong?
Healy Consultants’ fees for company registration in Hong Kong amounts to US$8,910 which includes the following services: i) company incorporation ii) corporate bank account opening iii) company secretary and legal registered office provision and iv) Government registration. For a more detailed breakdown, kindly refer to the attached invoice.
Is there any minimum paid up capital required to incorporate a company in Hong Kong?
No, there is no minimum paid up capital required for business registration in Hong Kong.
How to open a non-resident bank account in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has a massive banking sector catering to the needs of both residents and non-residents of the jurisdiction. It is a pretty simple process to open a non-resident bank account in Hong Kong, that may take up to a maximum of 1 month.
The main steps to open a non-resident business bank account are:
- Make a list of all bank that your company is interested to bank with. Research their bank account opening requirements and try to get an appointment with their front desk;
- Travel to Hong Kong. It is mandatory for the all members of the corporate structure, the directors and shareholders, to be physically present in Hong Kong for the interview to open the bank account;
- During the meeting, the company must provide the banks with these documents: i) Original proof of residence along with a certified copy in English of the same (should be less than 2 months old), ii) original notarised copy of Certificate of Incorporation, iii) original notarised copy of Business Registration Certificate, iv) original notarised copy of Article of Association, v) duly filled NNC1 form, vi) proof of the business if it is operational at present and vii) a detailed business plan that confirms the need for a Hong Kong bank account while the company is registered in another country;
- The above documents should be submitted to the bank along with an initial payment of the minimum deposit for bank account opening;
- Once the interview is completed, the Compliance Department will conduct their KYC checks. If the due diligence process is successful, then the bank account would be opened within the month.
Is it possible to change company name after incorporation?
Yes, it is possible to change the company name after incorporation.
The steps to be taken for changing an existing company name are:
- Pass a Special Resolution by the company to change its name after incorporation;
- Deliver a “Notice of Change of Company Name” by filling out Form NNC2 within 15 days after passing the Special Resolution either i) online on the e-Registry portal or ii) in hard-copy form at the Queensway Government Offices;
The name change will be effective from the date of receipt of the issued Certificate of Change of Name.
What are the restrictions when choosing a company name in Hong Kong?
The restrictions imposed whilst choosing a company name in Hong Kong are as follows:
- The company name needs to be unique and it cannot be the same as a name already existing in the Index of Company Names maintained by the Registrar of Companies;
- The company name cannot be identical to the body corporate incorporated or recognized under an Ordinance;
- The company name cannot be offensive, inappropriate or conflicting with the interest of the community;
- Only traditional Chinese characters can be used, and no combination of English letters/words and Chinese characters is possible.
What is a limited company limited by guarantee?
A Company that is Limited by Guarantee (CLG) is based on the principle that the members undertake to contribute to the assets of the company in the event of the business being shut down. Therefore, when a “Company Limited by Guarantee” liquidates, a member’s maximum obligation to the creditors of the CLG would be the sum which he/she had approved to pledge. This pledged amount is usually nominal.
What is an unlimited company in Hong Kong?
In an unlimited company, the legal liability on the owner of the company is not limited since all risks related to the operation of business as well as the liabilities are borne by the proprietor or partners, just as in a sole proprietorship. In the event of an unlimited company in Hong Kong turning bankrupt, the creditors have the authority to claim against the private assets of the proprietor or partners.
The table below briefly outlines the main differences between a limited company and an unlimited company in Hong Kong:
Factors Unlimited Company Limited Company Legal Liability of owner Unlimited Limited to the assets in the company Personal assets of the owner Not protected from business liabilities Protected from business liabilities Legal & maintenance work Straightforward Complex
Is an office required to register business in Hong Kong?
Yes, a registered address is required to incorporate a company in Hong Kong. There is no requirement for a physical office space.
What licenses are required to start doing business in Hong Kong?
The Business Registration Ordinance in Hong Kong states that every person conducting business in Hong Kong must get their business registered within one month from the date of start of the business. Further, there might be other licensing and/or permits required to carry out their business in Hong Kong depending on the type of business.
To know the specific license required for your business in Hong Kong, you can visit this website.
How long does it take to incorporate in Hong Kong?Business incorporation in Hong Kong is a straightforward process which can be achieved within 1 week if there is proper planning and documentation in place.
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Useful links for Hong Kong
Government and public authority websites:
- Tax Authority
- Companies Registrar
- Central Bank
- Stock Exchange
- Invest HK
- Chamber of Commerce
- Visiting HK
- Hong Kong blog posts – Healy Consultants
- PWC – Hong Kong Tax Summary
- Registration of a Non-Hong Kong Company
- Guidebook for Entry for Employment as Professionals in Hong Kong
- One-stop Company and Business Registration Service
- A Brief Guide to Taxes
- Hong Kong Fact Sheets
- Healy Consultants’ Singapore vs. Hong Kong comparison video
- Country attractiveness video
- Think Asia, Think Hong Kong
- UK Trade Minister Sees Opportunities in Hong Kong
- Business in Hong Kong
- How to manage taxes in Hong Kong
- Hong Kong: Asia’s economic Mecca
- How Hong Kong and Singapore are overtaking the UK economy
- 2013-14 Worldwide Corporate Tax Guide – Hong Kong
If your Firm is interested in working with Healy Consultants Group PLC, please complete the 5-minute questionnaire below. Within a week, our Business Development Director will email revert to you with a draft partnership agreement.