Hong Kong is a dream destination for entrepreneurs across the globe. Setting up a new business promises a host of benefits. But that doesn’t mean you can land in Hong Kong and start doing business activities as you please. You must fulfill key requirements such as obtaining a business registration number or BRN from the Business Registration Office at the Inland Revenue Department (IRD).
In this guide, you’ll learn what is a business registration number, why it is important for you, and how you can obtain BRN in Hong Kong.
What is A Business Registration Number (BRN)?
As per the Business Registration Ordinance, anyone who wants to carry out business in Hong Kong or an activity to make a profit must register their business within one month of commencing operations.
- Non-Hong Kong company that wants to register in Hong Kong or set up their representative/liaison office in Hong Kong
- Companies incorporated in Hong Kong
- Non-Hong Kong company that wants to rent out a local office
A business registration number is a unique number the IRD assigns to a business entity. It is printed on the registration certificate issued by the Business Registration Office.
Every company in Hong Kong should display its business registration certificate at their registered office address. The company should display a printed copy if the certificate is in electronic format.
If you cease the operations of your Hong Kong business, you must notify IRD to cancel your business registration certificate. To do that, you can either:
- fill up Form IRC 3113 to cancel your registration; or
- send a letter to the Department along with the name and address of the business, your business registration number and the date you have ceased operations.
Not obtaining BRN or failing to cancel your registration certificate attracts imprisonment and heavy fines.
Why is Business Registration Number Required in HK?
BRN is not a permit or license for trade or regulating business activities.
It is a unique number the IRD assigns and functions as your tax identification number (TIN).
You need to refer to your BRN when filing tax returns, company returns, opening bank accounts, or even filing forms/documents issued by various government authorities.
Format of Business Registration Number
BRN is an 8-digit number. There are no special characters or alphabets used.
Typically, the format of BRN is 1XXXXXXX – 000-04-11A. You can find it printed on your business registration certificate.
It is usually located at the bottom of the certificate under the title certificate no.
Apart from BRN, the registration certificate also contains other information, such as:
- The name and nature of your business
- Date of commencement of business operations
- Whether it is incorporated by an individual or partnership
- Date of issue and expiry of the certificate
The certificate does not include the details of the proprietor/partners of the business. You must obtain an excerpt from the business register to find relevant information.
Difference Between a BRN and CRN in Hong Kong
Apart from BRN, obtaining a company registration number or CRN is another key requirement business entities must fulfil.
CRN is also known as the social security number of your company and establishes its legal identity. Even though BRN and CRN may sound similar, they are different. Here is a snapshot of the important differences:
Format and issuing authority
An eight digit number; issued by the IRDA seven digit number; issued by the Companies RegistryPurposeUsed for daily operations of your business such as filing tax returns or official formsUsed to legally identify a company in various legal and official documents such as company contracts Applicability All types of businesses including sole proprietors and partnerships are eligible for BRNOnly companies that are incorporated in HK and registered with the Companies registry are eligible for CRN.This includes LLCs and foreign companies registered in Hong Kong.Validity Doesn’t expire even though the Business registration Certificate is valid for 1 or 3 year periodExpires and should be renewedWhere can you find itBusiness Registration CertificateCertificate of Incorporation
How Can Your Business Benefit from BRN?
Here are a few benefits of getting a business registration number:
1 – Helps with tax compliance
Your business registration number functions as your tax identification number.
When filing your tax returns, you need to quote your BRN.
2 – Helps you open bank accounts for your business
A business registration number is important for your business’s day-to-day operations, such as opening a bank account, borrowing loans, and conducting other financial transactions.
3 – Simplifies the management of company information
You can add your business registration number as a reference number when you submit official documents in connection with your business.
This allows the relevant authorities to obtain information about your company without additional correspondence.
4 – Creates a unique identity for your business
Since it is a unique 8-digit number assigned only to your business, it helps distinguish it from other businesses in the market, especially those with a similar name.
How to Get a Business Registration Number in HK
You can apply for business registration number in Hong Kong in the following ways:
One stop company services
IRD allows a one-stop service where a person can make single application to incorporate their company with the Companies Registry and obtain business registration.
- If you are a local company, you can submit Form NNC1 or NNC1G along with a copy of articles of association for incorporation and Form IRBR1 as a notice to the business registration office for obtaining BRN. You also need to pay the applicable fees.
- If you are registering a non-Hong Kong company, you can submit Form NN1 along with relevant documents for incorporation and Form IRBR2 as a notice to the business registration office.
You also need to indicate if the business name is different from the company name, the nature and description of your business, the date of commencement of operations, and whether you want a certificate valid for three years or one year.
You need to pay applicable registration fees. For non-Hong Kong companies, the fee is HKD 250 for one-year validity and HKD 3,950 for a certificate valid for three years.
Making a joint application saves you time as you don’t need to commence business operations before applying for BRN. However, you must notify the Commissioner of IRD once you receive your BRN.
But this option is not available for businesses that want to operate as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or through a branch office.
Applying after starting operations
IRD also allows application for business registration numbers after you have commenced operations. This option is available for all business structures including:
- sole proprietorships,
- branch, subsidiary or representative offices of a foreign/non Hong Kong company
You can fill out Form IRBR 37, pay the applicable fees, and submit it within a month of starting your business operations. You can submit the form in person to the Business Registration Office or apply online on the e-Tax portal.
For sole proprietorship, the applicant must submit proof of identity, such as a copy of the Hong Kong identity card in case of local residents or a copy of a passport for foreign residents.
LLCs can submit a copy of their Certificate of Incorporation (along with a certified translation if the certificate is not in Mandarin or English). You don’t need to furnish any identity documents to get the business registration number of a foreign branch office, subsidiary or representative office.
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Type of business
Timeline for application
|If your business is a sole proprietorship, partnership (except limited partnership fund) or you are an unincorporated body of persons, a non-Hong Kong company or a branch of a non- Hong Kong company||Within one month from its date of commencement of business.
IRD rejects registration applications for businesses that do not exist or haven’t commenced their operations yet.
|If you are a limited partnership fund||Within one month from its date of registration|
|If you are a company incorporated or to be incorporated under the Companies Ordinance||You can use the one-stop service from IRD that allows you to make a single application to incorporate the company with the Companies Registry and also obtain business registration certificate|
1. How is a business registration certificate different from a certificate of incorporation?
A business registration certificate in Hong Kong is proof that the business is duly registered with the Hong Kong government and has fulfilled the requirements for operation.
A certificate of incorporation is the birth certificate of your company — it confirms that your company has come into existence as a standalone legal entity.
2. If I submit my application for a business registration certificate online, how do I know if it has been successfully submitted?
Once you successfully pay the business registration fee/levy online, you receive an acknowledgment with a Transaction Reference Number. This indicates that your submission was successful.