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A Complete Guide to Hong Kong Company Registration in 2024

How to register a company in Hong Kong

Contents

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Key Takeaways

Hong Kong's strategic advantages include low taxation and a favorable business environment, making it a top choice for company registration.

Understanding the roles of a company secretary, the Companies Registry, and the Inland Revenue Department is crucial for successful business operations in Hong Kong.

From choosing a unique company name to setting up legal entities and appointing representatives, the registration process involves several key steps for seamless incorporation.

Businesses can choose to register independently or opt for the assistance of a professional company secretary such as Air Corporate.

The process of registering a company does not have to be so daunting, especially if you plan to incorporate it in Hong Kong.

In fact, there are many reasons why many businesses are registered in Hong Kong. According to the latest edition of the Global Competitiveness Booklet 2023, Hong Kong is ranked 7th. This can be for many reasons, including low taxation, its business-friendly environment, intellectual property protection, and a stable legal and political environment. 

All of these factors make Hong Kong a strategic location to do business in. 

Hong Kong company formation — another term for Hong Kong company registration — is simple. Whether it’s a sole proprietorship or a limited liability company, you only need to know a few tips and understand some requirements.

In this guide, we will go over the steps you need to take to register your business in Hong Kong — starting from the name search to the benefits of company incorporation.

Let’s get started!

What Should You Know Before Registering a Business in Hong Kong?

Before we get into the steps on how to register your business in Hong Kong, let’s take a look at some of the things you should know about.

Companies around the world choose Hong Kong due to its ease of doing business and the country being the financial economy hub. Because of this, you must understand how local organizations and institutions work in Hong Kong.

When you start a business in Hong Kong, you will be dealing with the three main interlocutors, including:

Your company secretary will be your primary contact person regarding your company maintenance and establishment. 

On the other hand, the Hong Kong Companies Registry and the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) will collaborate to guarantee that your business adheres to the laws of Hong Kong and upholds accurate statutory records, including overseeing the timely filing of the annual return (NAR1).

Now, let’s dive into the process of incorporating your business in Hong Kong.

FAST FACT:

Hong Kong serves as a 'golden gateway' linking to Mainland China, offering businesses access to billions of potential customers.

How to Register a Company in Hong Kong

Understanding the process for registering a company in Hong Kong is helpful to start a business in one of the world’s most popular economies. 

Step 1: Choose Your Company Name

The first step in  Hong Kong company registration is the most obvious, as every company needs a name.

This, however, may be more difficult than one may think, considering that over 1.3 million companies have been listed in total on the companies registry in Hong Kong.

That said, a thorough name search is advised. Try to come up with important considerations when naming your company or brainstorm several name ideas.

Remember to ensure that the name does not infringe any intellectual property rights or “IPR.” In other words, the company name must be original.

Take note that you have the option to register with a name in either English or Chinese. However, it's important to remember that the company name cannot be a blend of both English and Chinese. 

If you decide on an English name, it must include the full word "Limited" at the end (e.g., Business Hong Kong Limited) rather than the abbreviated form "Ltd." 

If you find that companies have a name similar to yours, you can try to make it different by adding extensions such as “Asia Pacific”, “Far East”, “China”, “Holdings”, etc.

Please note that you are free to trade under a name different from the one of your company.

If you want to check if a particular name is available for your company, you can check the Companies Registry website to see if it is available (Cyber Search Centre) based public for record of all registered companies. For a more user friendly resource, you can use our name pre-registration tool.

For more information and tips on choosing your company name, just check out our following video:

Step 2: Choose the Right Legal Entity

The next thing, which is as crucial, is to select the right the legal structure for your company. This will affect factors such as filing for taxes and even how business is done in general.

Below is a list of the main possible legal entities to choose for your Hong Kong business:

  • Private limited company (accounting for more than 90% of incorporations in Hong Kong)
  • Company limited by guarantee (mostly for non-profit organizations)
  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnerships
  • Branch Office

It is advisable to familiarize yourself with the features of each legal structure, as choosing a structure is highly dependent on the nature of your business.

Still, virtually all the legal entities we register in Hong Kong are private limited liability companies. They are also known as “limited companies” or “LLCs”.

Unless you have a particular goal in mind, it is likely that the private limited liability company is the structure you will register.

FAST FACT:

Over 90% of businesses registered in Hong Kong opt for the private limited company structure, showcasing its popularity among entrepreneurs.

Step 3: Select a Company Secretary 

Having a local company secretary is something that every company in Hong Kong is required to follow. Therefore, appointing one is a mandatory step in establishing your company.

A company secretary acts as the main contact person for your business whenever Hong Kong authorities require any information about your business. They will be able to reach this person for that purpose. 

Having a company secretary is beneficial in many ways. This particular role will help your company maintain compliance with the authorities in Hong Kong without fail.

Another important factor that you must get, along with a company secretary, is the registered address of your company. With your company’s registered address, governmental departments will be able to reach you and send you correspondence.

For this reason, you should use your company secretary’s address as your registered business address to avoid complexities in communication due to a company secretary being the main contact person. This is a recommended step to take.

If you want to know more about company secretary in Hong Kong, check out this video from our colleague Nicole:

Step 4: Appoint Legal Representatives for your Company

There are 2 types of legal representatives that any Hong Kong company should have: directors and shareholders.

Requirements regarding directors are as follows:

  • Any company should have at least 1 director who is an individual person
  • A director does not need to reside in Hong Kong
  • A director does not need to be a shareholder

The role of a director is to manage and supervise the affairs of the company. It should act in the company’s best interest and ensure that the company remains compliant. A director does not need to be employed or paid by the company.

The company directors are appointed by the shareholders.

Requirements regarding shareholders are as follows:

  • A company must have at least 1 shareholder and a maximum of 50 shareholders
  • Shareholders may consist of individuals or companies
  • There is no nationality restriction in Hong Kong for shareholders
  • Shareholders do not need to reside in Hong Kong

The role of shareholders is to own the company and approve certain key decisions. In particular, shareholders review and approve the company’s annual financial statements. The shareholders appoint the directors responsible for managing the company.

Step 5: Set the Amount of the Share Capital

Any company in Hong Kong is required to have a share capital.

Hong Kong is a very liberal jurisdiction, meaning that you enjoy maximum freedom:

  • There is no minimum or maximum amount for a company’s share capital
  • The share capital may be expressed in any major currency, even if most companies use Hong Kong dollar (HKD), US dollar (USD) or Euro (EUR)

Our recommendation is usually to set up your company with a low amount of registered capital. For example, many companies are set up with 100 shares for 100 HKD.

Please note that there is no legal obligation regarding the calendar for payment of your share capital. Also, there is no need to deposit the share capital in a bank account before your company can be registered.

If your company is remotely registered, see how you can get a business address remotely in Hong Kong.

Step 6: Prepare and Submit Your Incorporation Documents

There are incorporation documents that need to be provided when you set up a company in Hong Kong. These documents will be subject to approval before you can start your business operation.

Let’s take a look at all the required documents and how you can prepare each one.

  • NNC1 Incorporation Form — This is the form provided by the Companies Registry of Hong Kong. This form must be signed by at least one of the shareholders of your company.
  • A copy of identification documents (HK ID card or passport) of a shareholder and a director.
  • Article of Association of the Company — This is a standard legal document that defines the internal rules of your company when it is established. Article of Association outlines internal affairs elements such as the transfer of shares, the appointment of directors, compliance with relevant ordinance cap(s), and more. Most companies use the sample of Article of Association of a Private Company Limited by Shares provided by the Hong Kong Companies Registry.

Once you have these documents prepared, the next step is to submit them. 

Here are some ways you can submit incorporation documents to the Companies Registry:

  • Using Companies e-Registry’s online portal platform, which is available 24/7
  • Mailing your document to the Company Registry address
  • Going to the Company Registry and submitting the documents in person

While you submit these documents, you will also need to pay the applicable government fee. These fees are often paid on a yearly basis; however, make sure to keep yourself informed of the fees, as they can be changed by the HK government.

Step 7: Obtain a Business Registration and Incorporation Certificate

Once you have submitted all the relevant documents, you will receive your business registration certificate and incorporation certificate within two to six business days, which can be collected at the Companies Registry office.

These documents confirm that your company exists and is in good standing in Hong Kong.

They will be required to open a bank account.

Your Business Registration Certificate (BRC), issued by the Business Registration Office, needs to be renewed annually. Your certificate of incorporation is indefinitely valid. 

These documents include basic information regarding your company, such as its name, registration date, address, and unique identification numbers. It does not include confidential information such as the identity of directors or shareholders.

It is important not to lose these documents. We generally recommend leaving the originals with your company secretary. 

Step 8: Get a Bank Account for your Company

Once your company is set up, you can immediately apply for a bank account for your company.

There are multiple banks and financial institutions in Hong Kong.

Our team will present you with the various options available and help you choose the right bank for your business. After you make your decision, we will assist you through the opening process. 

Step 9: Stay on Top of Taxation and Financial Reporting Requirements

When your company is successfully incorporated, you will be automatically reported of existence by the IRD. It is important that you keep up with the updated tax information to ensure your company’s compliance.

The good news is Hong Kong offers several benefits when it comes to taxation. As you are incorporated, here are some of the benefits you may be eligible for:

  • A Corporate Tax rate of 8.25% (on the first HKD 2 million of profits)
  • A Corporate Tax rate of 16.5% thereafter
  • 0% Corporate Tax rate on offshore profits thanks to Hong Kong’s territorial tax regime
  • No capital gains tax
  • No Value Added Tax (VAT) — Hong Kong does not impose VAT or capital gains tax, contributing to a decreased tax burden for companies and allowing for tax exemption 

These are just some benefits you’re eligible to receive as an incorporated business in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, things can change depending on economic or political trends, as well as other factors. 

Thus, it’s important that you keep yourself informed of any updates that may come your way. You can always check on the Hong Kong Government website to check the benefits you may be missing out on.

Benefits of Company Incorporation in Hong Kong

Now that you are familiar with how to register a company in Hong Kong, let’s explore some of the core benefits you can expect from your company once you start your business.

  • Operate From Anywhere in the World With Ease — Yes! One of the main benefits of incorporating a Hong Kong limited company is that you can run your company from anywhere in the world; you don't necessarily need to be physically present in Hong Kong to operate. So whether you have a physical store in Thailand or an online store in Singapore, your business can be on the global scale radar.
  • Access to Global Clients — Hong Kong is considered a Special Administrative Region or a ‘golden’ gateway that links to Mainland China, and what does that do for your business? You can easily gain access to selling, promoting, and delivering your service or products to over 1.3 billion people. 
  • International Talent Pools — With its multicultural environment and flexibility in work, your company can gain access to many unique, talented individuals who are diverse and highly skillful. Their expertise will come in handy depending on what you need for your business.
  • Solid Intellectual Property Protection — Hong Kong’s government authorities highly regard IP as one of the most important mechanisms for businesses. They see innovative ideas and creations as something that should be treasured. Thus, these institutions set up a comprehensive framework to help businesses protect their intellectual ideas, properties, innovations, and more.
FAST FACT:

The multicultural environment in Hong Kong facilitates access to diverse and highly skilled individuals, enriching the talent pool available for businesses.

The Best Methods to Register Your Hong Kong Company

You may be wondering, “If I know everything about registering my business in Hong Kong, should I get started?” The answer is definitely yes, but the other question you need to ask yourself is: “How?”

In this section, we’ll look at some of the most common methods that are used as a process to incorporate a business in Hong Kong.

1. Register On Your Own

You can register a company in Hong Kong as an individual. All you need to do is follow the steps we outlined above and prepare the necessary documents you need to submit to the IRD and the Companies Registry.

  • Pros: You can save costs on hiring someone else to register your business for you and every confidential information will be controlled by you.
  • Cons: This process can be time-consuming to start with. You will need to prepare every document yourself, and this can be a daunting task.

2. Register Your Company in Hong Kong With an Agency

If you choose to incorporate your Hong Kong company with an agency, you will save plenty of time not only in the preparation of the annual incorporation documents but also, at times, the money you spend to do it.

There are many agencies you can choose from, like Air Corporate, which offers a full-service incorporation package with three tiers of pricing with no hidden fees that are affordable and provide you with the right options that fit your needs.

  • Pros: Fast, simple, and efficient solution to register your business, as you will get to work with experts who are in the industry, who will help you prepare the documents needed on time and deliver the work without you figuring out if you miss anything if you conduct the process by yourself.
  • Cons: Not all agencies will be experienced with and updated on Hong Kong’s compliance rules and regulations. Some agencies may also charge you more than you need to pay to register a business in Hong Kong.

Register Your Company in Hong Kong — The Simplest Way with Air Corporate

If you’re looking to register your business in Hong Kong, Air Corporate offers you more than just a dedicated accountant and service for incorporation. 

Aside from assistance with opening a business bank account, here are some other things you can expect from Air Corporate incorporation services:

Pre-incorporation service:

  • Verify your company’s name and availability
  • Prepare all the documents necessary for incorporation
  • Register your business in Hong Kong
  • Fill out the incorporation application with the Companies Registry
  • Receive a Certificate of Incorporation (CI)
  • Receive a BRC (valid for 1 year)
  • Other company necessary tools. Including business documentation, professional templates, Articles of Association, company chops (a.k.a. company stamps), secure document scanning and forwarding services, and more

Post-incorporation service:

  • Company secretary services
  • Business bank account opening
  • Significant controller register
  • Registered office address
  • Designated Representative (DR)
  • Virtual office services
  • General advisory and consulting

Consult with an expert at Air Corporate to see what you need to make your company incorporation successful and cost-effective. 

FAQs

The minimum requirements for registering a company in Hong Kong are:

  • Any person or organization can register a company in Hong Kong
  • Minimum of one shareholder, who can be local or foreign, aged 18 or above
  • At least one director, who can be local or foreign, aged 18 or above
  • One person can serve as both the director and shareholder
  • No minimum share capital is required, but common practice is around HKD 10,000
  • A registered address is necessary
  • Company secretary required, who must be a Hong Kong resident or an incorporated entity with an office in Hong Kong
  • A Designated Representative (DR) is needed to assist with the Significant Controllers Register (SCR) of the company
  • Hong Kong's Companies Ordinance (CO) mandates an annual statutory audit of companies' audited financial statements and an annual general meeting (AGM)

Note that it is not necessary to have an address in Hong Kong for your company’s annual general meeting. Because as of April 28, 2023, the Companies (Amendment) Ordinance 2023 has provided increased flexibility for companies to conduct entirely virtual or hybrid general meetings.

To start a business in Hong Kong, you may need certain government licenses, permits, certificates, and approvals. Although not all businesses require licenses, some definitely do. This depends on the specific type of business activity you plan to conduct.

For example, restaurants need a Restaurant License from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. As for travel agencies, they require a Travel Agent License from the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong. On the other hand, financial services companies — depending on the services offered — may need licenses from the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC).

Using Business Licence Information Service (BLIS) is a convenient and reliable way to determine the specific licenses you need.

Yes, Hong Kong’s law accepts 100% foreign-owned companies. Thus, as a foreigner, you can register a business in Hong Kong.

It typically takes two to seven working days to register a company in Hong Kong, but it may occasionally take slightly longer, depending on the circumstances.

No, you can run your business from anywhere in the world despite it being incorporated in Hong Kong. However, if you wish to relocate to Hong Kong to manage your registered business, you can do so by applying for an Investment Visa.

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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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