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Your Ultimate Guide to Hong Kong Business Registration Certificate

Hong Kong Business Registration Certificate

Contents

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A business registration certificate certifies that a business is registered with the Hong Kong government. 

A business registration certificate HK is critical for anyone who wants to do business in Hong Kong, especially local companies. It serves as proof that your business complies with the regulations set out by the Business Registration Ordinance (Cap. 310) and is authorized to operate in the region.

However, navigating the registration process can be challenging. If you don't follow the procedure to the T, your plans can be delayed, and your business may not take off.

So here's the ultimate roadmap — a guide that tells you everything you need to know about obtaining a business registration certificate. You will learn about:

  • The need for a valid business registration certificate
  • How is it different from a business registration number
  • Which businesses need to obtain the certificate and what's the process
  • When do you need to start the application process

What Is a Business Registration Certificate (BRC)?

A business registration certificate is a document issued by the Business Registration Office of the Inland Revenue Department (IRD), Hong Kong. It certifies that a business is registered with the Hong Kong government. 

The issuance of BRC proves that your business has complied with the relevant requirements to operate in Hong Kong. Important information you may find on your BRC include:

  • Registered name of your business
  • The nature of your business;
  • Business registration number or BRN 
  • Issue and expiry date of the certificate

Here's a sample BRC:

An image of a Business Registration Certificate (BRC) sample

Source: Inland Revenue Department of Hong Kong (IRD)

Once you receive your BRC, display it prominently in your place of business. Failure to apply for business registration attracts strict penalties — as of date, the fine is HKD  5,000, and you may also be imprisoned for one year. 

If you apply for your business registration certificate one year after commencing the operations, you have to pay the registration fees for the current year and the previous years.

Is There a Difference Between BRC and BRN?

BRN or business registration number is an eight digit unique number assigned to every business entity by the IRD. You can find it printed at the bottom of your BRC.

However, it is not a permit for commencing trade or business operations. 

You can think of it as the social security number for your business — you need to mention it for all official business, such as filing tax returns, opening company accounts, or filling out different forms/documents issued by government departments. 

That's why you don't need to apply for a separate tax identification number in Hong Kong — the BRN is good enough.

Which Business Is Required to Get a Business Registration Certificate?

Obtaining a business registration in Hong Kong is mandatory for all businesses unless specifically exempted by the Hong Kong Companies Ordinance.

Both local and non-Hong Kong businesses need to apply for BRC, including:

  • Subsidiaries of foreign companies in Hong Kong, even though the company may have subsidiaries operating in other countries;
  • Partnerships and sole proprietorships
  • Branches and representative offices of foreign companies 
  • Any other business venture operated to earn profits, whether by opening up a brick-and-mortar shop or through the internet 
  • A club that provides various facilities or services to its members for a fee
  • Any  limited partnership fund registered under the Limited Partnership Fund Ordinance, irrespective of whether it is carrying on business operations in Hong Kong

However, if you are only an employee at these organizations, you won't be regarded as carrying on business for business registration. That's why you don't need to apply for any BRC separately.

When Should Your Business Apply for a BRC?

Here's a breakdown of when your business should apply for a Business Registration Certificate (BRC) in Hong Kong:

Apply within one month of commencing business if your business falls under any of these categories:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnership (except limited partnership fund)
  • Unincorporated body of persons
  • Non-Hong Kong company
  • Branch of a non-Hong Kong company

Hong Kong requires all operating businesses to register for a BRC. This helps the government track business activity and ensure compliance with regulations. The one-month timeframe ensures timely registration after you've begun operations.

Special Case: Limited Partnership Fund

  • Apply within one month from the date of registration.

Special Case: Company Incorporation

  • You can apply for a BRC through the IRD's one-stop service when incorporating your company with the Companies Registry. 

Business Registration Requirements in Hong Kong

The timeframe for business registration in Hong Kong depends on your business structure:

  • Sole Proprietorship, Partnership (except Limited Partnership Fund), Unincorporated Body of Persons, Non-Hong Kong Company, or Branch of a Non-Hong Kong Company: Register within one month of commencing business.
  • Important: The Inland Revenue Department (IRD) will reject applications for businesses that haven't started operating.
  • Limited Partnership Fund: Register within one month of its official registration date.
  • Company Incorporated or to be Incorporated under the Companies Ordinance: You can benefit from the IRD's one-stop service. This service allows you to submit a single application for both company incorporation with the Companies Registry and business registration with the IRD.

How Do I Apply for a BRC?

There are several application channels for obtaining your business registration certificate:

By Post

You can send your application via post. 

To obtain a copy of the application, you can e-mail [email protected], fill up form IRBR194 or send in your request by post or by fax (2824 1482) to the Business Registration Office. Make sure to include your name, address and the type of application form and required quanitiy.

The certificate is issued within 2 working days of Business Registration Office receiving a properly completed application.

In Person

You can submit a physical copy of your application in person to the Business Registration Service Counter at Business Registration Office. A copy of the application is available at the Business Registration Office at 2/F of Inland Revenue Centre, Kai Tak.

Typically, the business registration certificate is issued within 30 minutes of the receipt of application. You can collect it over the counter. 

Online 

You can use the eTax service by the Government of Hong Kong and apply for your business registration certificate online. The online service is available to:

  • a sole proprietor 
  • partners of a partnership
  • the secretary, manager or any of the directors of a company
  • principal officers of  a branch of a business 

Normally, the certificate is issued within 2 working days from the receipt of a duly filled application.

Before you begin, you can check out a specimen application form for business registration for body corporates. 

Regardless of the application method, you must pay the relevant business registration fee and levy and attach a copy of your proof of identity document with your completed application. Accepted documents include:

  • For individuals – a copy of their Hong Kong identity card (for residents) or passport (for non-residents)
  • For body corporates – a copy of the Certificate of Incorporation or its equivalent issued by the relevant authority of the original jurisdiction of incorporation.
  • Partnerships (except limited partnership fund) – copies of every partner's Hong Kong identity cards or passports for non-residents
  • Limited partnership fund – a copy of the Certificate of Registration issued by the Companies Registry and a copy of the general partner's Hong Kong identity card if the partner is a resident. For non-residents, a copy of a passport or identity card or a certificate of incorporation or registration if the general partner is a limited partnership or a company 
  • Unincorporated body of persons –  for residents, a copy of the principal officer's Hong Kong identity card. For non-residents, a copy of passport/identity card. 

Can I Get a Business Registration Certificate with Air Corporate?

Completing the paperwork on your own can be overwhelming — even a single typo can result in your application getting rejected, forcing you to start the process from scratch. Even though it may seem like a minor inconvenience at that moment, it can quickly snowball into a bigger problem.

Don't have someone to take care of your paperwork and work on your business registration certificate? Here's where Air Corporate can step in and help. Need help with company registration? We can set up your Hong Kong company with a bank account in just two days. 

Our packages start from USD 90 only — Get in touch with us right away.

FAQs

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. 

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. 

While you can do the paperwork on your own, it is best to outsource to an external agency such as Air Corporate. 

This ensures you receive your registration certificate without breaking a sweat. 

This is only possible if you have applied online.

You can write to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue with the details of the changes you need. Make sure to include your name, capacity, name of your business, and the Transaction Reference Number of the application.

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Vivian Au

For many years, I worked at big accounting and company secretary firms in Hong Kong. I started Air Corporate to make the life of entrepreneurs and SMEs easy.

Vivian Au

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