Hong Kong follows a flat-rate principle of single-tier and double-tier corporations. As of April 1, 2018, a two-tier profits tax rate regime has been applied. The two-tier profits tax regime applies to both corporations and unincorporated businesses by lowering the tax rate for the first HK$2 million of assessable profits. The first HK$2 million of profits will be taxed at one-half of the general tax rate which is 8.25% for corporations, however, the remaining profits will continue to be taxed at a 16.5% tax rate. For unincorporated businesses, the first HK$2 million of profits will also be taxed at one-half of the tax rate, which is 7.5%, and the remaining profits will continue to be taxed at a 15% tax rate.
Under the two-tier tax system, taxpayers are sometimes charged a provisional tax rate. The eligible taxpaying entity will be chargeable to the 2018/19 Provisional Profits Tax at the two-tiered tax rates.
Foreign incorporated companies are obliged to file tax returns in respect of their Hong Kong branch operations on the same basis period as a locally incorporated company. A notice of assessment is issued after the tax return has been filed with the concerned tax authority. Tax collection of both provisional tax of the preceding year and final profits tax of the current year are generally filed together. Provisional tax will be payable during the tax year based on the preceding year’s tax liabilities. Therefore, the demand for provisional tax for the current tax year will be issued together with the notice of assessment for the tax year that would just have ended. The due dates for the payment of the final tax and the provisional tax are specified on the combined notice issued.
In Hong Kong, there are certain exemptions for corporate taxes under specific conditions. Among these are publicly offered funds by the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong. Other similar schemes that comply with the requirements of a supervisory authority under an acceptable regulatory regime are exempt from profits tax in Hong Kong. These SFC-licensed fund managers arrange qualified investment funds under specified transactions for tax exemption on profits tax so that profits are derived from offshore funds and operating ships in Hong Kong.
Offshore means that the company has no customers or suppliers for their business in Hong Kong, the employees of the business entity operate their business solely outside of Hong Kong, the company provides no services in Hong Kong, the business entity signs contracts and negotiates with its suppliers and customers outside of Hong Kong, the company’s products do not enter Hong Kong, the company has no employees based in Hong Kong, and the owner or any overseas employees rarely visit Hong Kong. Offshore companies do not have to pay capital tax. Taxation on gains which the business makes from the sale of stocks, bonds, precious metals, and property, is considered exempt. Businesses do not have to pay value-added taxes or sales taxes.
In Hong Kong, there is no Withholding Tax on dividends and there are no interests that are imposed on companies, nor is their collection of social security benefits. Dividends from offshore companies are also not subjected to any liable tax rates, while property tax is charged at the standard rate of 15% on 80% of the rent receivable on incorporated businesses of real estate.
As of May 24, 1996, interest income and trading profits derived from Qualified Debt Instruments (QDI) in Hong Kong with an original maturity of fewer than five years are subject to a concessionary tax rate equivalent to 50% of the normal profits tax rate. Applicable from the 2003-04 year of assessment, this concession was expanded to cover a medium-term debt instrument issued in Hong Kong on or after March 5, 2003, with a maturity of up to seven years but not less than three years. Interest income and trading profits derived from long-term debt instruments issued in Hong Kong on or after March 5, 2003, with a maturity of fewer than seven years are exempt from taxation.
Hong Kong’s Taxation Compared to Those of Other Countries
Hong Kong is sometimes regarded as a tax haven for business owners and workers alike. This is partly because the government has huge fiscal reserves equivalent to more than 12 months of expenditure. The interest received on these reserves is a crucial source of revenue and helps keep the tax burden light. Ever since the time of 19th-century opium dealers, Hong Kong has been famous as a tax-free port. Its unique infrastructure, low tax rate, duty-free status, lack of interference from government, and substantial capital market have made it an attractive market for foreign investors. Hong Kong is one of the most business-friendly countries in the world. In Asia, its primary competitors in this regard are Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore. However, Singapore has a goods and services tax as well as a remittance tax from foreign profits. Taxation in Hong Kong is proportional to income. The city’s most affluent pay the most corporate tax and low-income households are hardly taxed at all. Salaries tax is set at 2% for homes earning less than HK$40,000 a year and increases progressively to 17% for those earning HK$200,001 or more. The country keeps government reserves flowing by selling government-owned land to private industries and businesses. In the 2017-18 financial year, 27% of Hong Kong’s HK$612 billion revenue came from land sales. The government also makes money by leasing land.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China and it is one of the leading financial hubs of Asia. Many of the world’s top leading banks have their business operations there. The small island also holds the largest stock exchange market in Asia. To make conditions more favorable and easier for foreign investors, the region also has its currency, so foreigners won’t have to worry about transactions regarding the Chinese yuan. These and many other factors cause Hong Kong to rank well in global lists when compared to other neighboring Asian countries.