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In recent years, Hong Kong has become the place to start a business.
People worldwide flock to the city to take advantage of low taxation, economic growth, and the wide opportunity that Hong Kong offers to investors.
However, as with any business venture, there are some complicated paths to navigate before taking the plunge.
Before you begin, be sure that you understand the regulations, apply for all of the appropriate paperwork, and know what is needed to make your business a success.
Your initial step is to register with the Companies Registry to gain limited company status.
Next, to be accepted as a Hong Kong business, you must register with the Business Registration Office.
When moving through the process, you’ll find that two numbers are imperative when filling out all legal documentation.
Whether you’re renting office space, opening a bank account, or signing contracts, you will need to provide both the company registration number and the business registration number.
The problem with this is that the two numbers are easily confused, even by those who have a business background.
Many people don’t know what they look like, or even exactly what each one is for.
In this article we’ll take a closer look at both the company registration number and the business registration number, explaining everything you need to know about these essential pieces of Hong Kong business.
Important News: The Business Registration Fee has been waived for 2021-2022!
A Closer Look at Hong Kong Company Registration Number
In Hong Kong, there is a strict line that separates a “business” from a “company”.
Therefore the company registration number (or CRN) is completely different from the business registration number (BRN).
The company registration number can be found in the top left-hand corner of your Certificate of Incorporation.
This number is in essence a “social security number” for your company.
It identifies your company and is required on all documentation for the business as well as any government record.
A Closer Look at the Business Registration Number
If the company registration number is your business identifier, then why do you need a business registration number?
The BRN is a different number than the CRN, and this number is used for tax purposes rather than identification purposes.
The business registration number will be required on all forms related to taxes and day-to-day business operations.
You may acquire a BRN by applying to the Hong Kong Inland Revenue Department (IRD), along with paying a fee and levy.
If your company is accepted, you will then receive a Business Registration Certificate.
Under the Hong Kong law, all overseas companies in Hong Kong must register with the IRD, including those that have a liaison office in the city, rent out their Hong Kong property, or establish an office in Hong Kong (even if they don’t actually do any business in the city itself).
The BRN must be issued by the Hong Kong Inland Revenue Department before a business is allowed to open a base of operation in Hong Kong.
Once you’ve submitted the appropriate paperwork and your business is granted a Business Registration, you can identify the BRN as the first 8 digits of your Business Registration certificate number.
The format looks like this: 11111111-&&&-&&&-&&-&. The BRN is the number represented by the ones.
If you need to find the BRN of any business registered with the IRD you may do so by using the eTAX service.
Simply input the full English or Chinese name of the business, as well as the location.
What’s the Difference Between CRN and BRN?
At first glance, it’s easy to mistake the two numbers, but the truth is that they perform very different functions.
The company registration number is used as a functional company ID.
It is how the government can recognize your individual company for legal and government purposes.
You will use this for banking and business operations.
The business registration number is a tax ID.
This is the number that will be used for filing taxes and tax-related paperwork.
Although the primary function of each number is different, you will need both for any business-related paperwork.
Are There Any Exceptions for CRN or BRN Requirements?
There are no exceptions for obtaining a company registration number if you are doing business in Hong Kong.
There are a couple of exceptions for obtaining business registration numbers, including the following:
- Charity work. Keep in mind that for this exception your charity must be approved by the government, so be sure to file the appropriate paperwork.
- Breeding and rearing livestock, fishing, agriculture, garden marketing, etc. These exceptions are contingent on these activities not falling under a company heading or are part of an overseas company that does not require registration. Always check first to ensure that your business adheres to the proper standards.
The exemptions to the BRN are contingent upon other factors, so it is always best practice to check with local authorities, even if you think that your business might fall under the exemption heading.
Where to find a CRN or BRN?
Upon incorporation, any Hong Kong company will receive 2 essential documents:
- Certificate of Incorporation: This document includes the Company Registration Number of your company
- Business Registration Certificate: that one includes your company’s Business Registration Number
You can search for your company’s CR number on the website of the Hong Kong Companies Registry.
Your company’s BR number can be found on the Business Registration Number Enquiry section of the Inland Revenue Department’s website.
Please see below for a sample of Hong Kong company Certificate of Incorporation with the company’s CR Number:
See below for a sample of Hong Kong Business Registration Certificate with the company’s BR Number.
The Bottom Line on CRN and BRN Numbers
Hong Kong is an ideal space for starting and running a business.
While there are multiple benefits to be enjoyed and regulations aren’t as arduous as many other countries, it is important to be vigilant about following local regulations to the letter. (Or in this case, number).
There are consequences for neglecting these regulations.
If you fail to register your business for a Business Registration Certificate, you are liable to receive a fine of up to 5,000 HKD as well as up to a year in prison.
Remember that both numbers are necessary for operating a business in Hong Kong–company registration number for business ID and business registration number for a tax ID.
So do your due diligence, file all necessary paperwork to receive a company registration number as well as a business registration number, and be cognizant of all pertaining regulations.
Think you’re ready to open a business in Hong Kong? Register your company with Air Corporate today and get approved in under 48 hours.
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