Getting Your Business Registration Certificate

8 min read

After you incorporate a company in Hong Kong, you will need to register it with the Business Registration Office at the Inland Revenue Department to apply for your Business Registration Certificate. You’ll need this certificate to display it at the address you have used to register your company. This is a must-do on your list. You can do it on your own but you don’t have to, we’re here to help so drop us a chat any time you have a question.

This article will cover:

What is business registration?
Which companies need to be registered under the Business Registration Ordinance?
When do companies need to register?
Two ways to apply for your Business Registration Certificate
What are the proof of identities I need to prepare?
Displaying your Business Registration Certificate

What is business registration?

Business registration is a process of registering a business to conduct business operations in Hong Kong. It starts with an application at the Business Registration Office and ends with you getting and displaying a Business Registration Certificate for your business. That piece of paper makes your company official.

The certificate can either be valid for one year or three years. Generally, the Hong Kong business registration fee costs HK$250 for a certificate with a validity period of 1-year. Meanwhile, the payment of HK$3,950 for a certificate has a validity period of 3 years.

Osome Business Registration Certificate Hongkong
This is a sample of what the Business Registration Certificate looks like in Hong Kong. Image from Inland Revenue Department (Hong Kong)

In Hong Kong, business registration is managed by the Business Registration Office under the Inland Revenue Department according to the Business Registration Ordinance. The office registers businesses carried by an individual, a partnership, a local limited company, or a non-Hong Kong company.

Which companies need to be registered under the Business Registration Ordinance?

By Hong Kong’s law, every person doing business in Hong Kong must register their business with the Business Registration Office of the Inland Revenue Department. After doing this, they will then receive a Business Registration Certificate which they need to display at the address they incorporated with.

However, there are exceptions to this law. Let’s go through this list and see if your business needs to be registered.

1. Any type of organization or activity for the purpose of making a profit

Kai Ting has mastered the art of pottery and is actively selling her clay pieces for profit within Hong Kong. She will need to register her business within one month of selling her first piece.

2. Clubs offering facilities and services to its members for a fee

The University of Kow Loon has plans to set up an alumni club lounge offering meeting rooms and gyms to its alumni for a fee. To continue operating, it has to register itself as a business.

3.    Companies incorporated in Hong Kong

Kerry Marketing agency is opened by residents of Hong Kong. They incorporated their company as Kerry Marketing Limited. They also applied for business registration at the time of submitting the company incorporation or within 1 month of the commencement of business.

4.    Companies not incorporated in Hong Kong but registered under the Companies Ordinance

Marcos operates a cement company in Brazil. He wants to export to other countries to grow his business, but run into some problems to create an international corporation. As a foreigner with a company incorporated outside of Hong Kong, he decides to set up a branch office in Hong Kong. Within a month of doing this, he will need to register under the Business Ordinance to get the Business Registration Certificate.

5.     A non-Hong Kong corporation that has a representative or liaison office in Hong Kong

Valerian Jewellery trades gems in Europe. The company wants to enter the Asian market but wants to do some more research before opening a full office. They set up a representative office in Hong Kong and restrict themselves to find local vendors or connect with local fashion influencers on behalf of the parent company. They will need to register within a month of setting up the office in Hong Kong.

Read more: How foreign companies can set up a Representative Office in Hong Kong

6.     A non-Hong Kong corporation that has rented its property situated in Hong Kong even if it has not established a place of business in Hong Kong

Hello Travel from Japan owns a building in Kow Loon. It has not created a representative office and so, is not considered as having established a place of business in Hong Kong for the purpose of registration. However, it has rented out it’s buildings to startup companies it intends to incubate. Therefore Hello Travel would need to register its business within the first month of renting out it’s building.

Only the following activities or businesses do not have to register:

  1. Activities of approved charitable institutions

Charities like A Drop of Life, Nimble Charity Foundation, do not have to register. You can browse through the full list of charities here.

  1. Businesses involved in agriculture, market gardening, breeding or rearing livestock or fishing, unless your company has been incorporated in Hong Kong.

If your business sells plants at the local market you don’t have to register. However if your business has grown and you’ve incorporated your company, then you would need to register.

  1. Businesses of individual shoe polishers

You can find many shoe shiners in the Central, Admiralty, and Western Districts of Hong Kong, and especially along Theatre Lane (which is also known as the shoe shiners ‘lane by the way). It’s a part of Hong Kong’s culture. They don’t need to register their businesses, but they do need licences.

  1. Businesses carried on by hawkers who are required to have licences under the Hawker Regulation, unless your hawker stall is located inside a building.

So, the hawkers along Stanley Street won’t need to display a Business Registration Certificate, but Tung Po which is located inside a building, would need to do so.

When do companies need to register their business?

You would need to register within one month of starting your business. Your business needs to start operations first after incorporation. The Inland Revenue Department will not entertain any registration for businesses which do not yet exist or have yet to start their operations.

If you do not apply within this time period, there will be a serious offence of HKD $5,000 and imprisonment for 1 year. This is stated under the Business Registration Ordinance.

On top of that, you would still have to apply for registration and pay the fees and levy for the current year, AND fees and levy for all those previous years you failed to pay up.

Avery Textiles commenced business on 5 October 2018 but applied for business registration only on 13 March 2020. They got caught when officers from the Inland Revenue Department finally made their rounds to their office and found that they did not have a Business Registration Certificate. Their director Rupert Avery rots in jail for a year, the fool! (This is a totally fictitious scenario.)

Total business registration fee and levy payable for application:

Year Period Amount
Current Year-
Validity Period: 5.10.2018 to 4.10.2019 $ 2,450
Back Years-
Validity Period: 5.10.2019 to 4.10.2020 $ 450
Validity Period: Validity Period: $ 450
Total amount payable $ 3,350

* Business registration fee of $2,000 was waived under Revenue (Reduction of Business Registration Fees) Order.

Two ways to apply for your business registration certificate

Here are the two ways to apply for the Business Registration Certificate (BRC).

  1. Using the one-stop company and business registration service

    Under the one-stop service, you can use one application to apply for incorporation, and business registration certificate.

    When you submit an incorporation form for a local limited company or an application form for registration of a non-Hong Kong company at the Companies Registry, the Registry will assume that you have made a business registration application at the same time.

    Essentially, you are applying for the business registration certificate at the same time you incorporate. With this route, you will receive the certificate of incorporation together with the business registration certificate.

    If you get the business registration certificate together with the certificate of incorporation, you would still need to notify the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) within one month after you start operations, especially if your business takes the form of partnership, sole-proprietorship, branches, or unincorporated body of persons.
  2. Apply directly after one month of operations from the Business Registration Office

    You can also apply for the business registration certificate in Hong Kong from the Business Registration Office directly. Simply complete this form IRBR 37 here and pay the prescribed fee on the registration office’s website.

    There are 3 things to do to register a business:
  3. Complete an application form.

There are different forms depending on your company structure. Here are samples of application forms for different company structures:

Sole Proprietorship
Limited Liability Company
Foreign Company Office - Branch, Subsidiary or Representative Office

Just collect the form that is relevant to you from the Business Registration Office, or complete the form “Request for Business Registration Application Form” (IRBR194) and submit that to the office.

You can also apply online through e-Tax gateway to the Inland Revenue Department’s electronic services, only if you are registering for any of the following three types of business: Sole proprietorship, Partnership, Branch

  1. Pay the business registration fee and levy
  2. Produce your proof of identity.

What are the proof of identities I need to prepare?

The documents needed to prove your identity depends on the type of business you are registering: Sole proprietorship or limited liability company. You don’t have to submit documents for registering a foreign branch office.

Sole Proprietorship
Hong Kong resident Foreign resident
  • A copy of the business owner's Hong Kong identity card.
  • Foreign resident:

    A copy of the business owner’s passport or identity card

  • Foreign non-residents:

    Appoint a resident individual and submit the form IRBR177 or submit an appointment letter stating the following details of the agent:

  1. Name
  2. Hong Kong identity card number, with a copy of this document attached to the application
  3. Residential address
Limited Liability Company

A copy of the Certificate of Incorporation or its equivalent issued by the government authority where the company was incorporated.

If the name is not in Latin letters or Mandarin, you will need a certified translation in English and/or Chinese. If you have more than one name for your company, submit them all.

Make sure that all the information submitted is accurate when you apply, otherwise, you can be charged for an offence and liable to a fine of $5,000, and imprisonment for 1 year under the Business Registration Ordinance.

Displaying your Business Registration Certificate

Hurrah now you have completed this necessary stage of registering your business. This piece of paper must now be displayed proudly at the address where your business (or its branch) is carried out at. Even if this business registration certificate was issued to you electronically or online, you would still need to print it out.

Anytime an official inspection happens by any Hong Kong government administration officer, the certificate has to be produced.

Business Registration Number

Your business registration certificate also displays your business registration number. This is a unique identifier that is issued by the Inland Revenue Department to a registered enterprise. There are 8 numerals and it is displayed on the certificate. You would need to refer to this number when you deal with the different government agencies in Hong Kong, like filing annual returns.

Must the business registration certificate use the same name as my company?

This question is common among people who are opening businesses in Hong Kong. The answer is a simple no. Difference between Companies Ordinance and Business Registration Ordinance

Now, it’s time that you apply for your business registration certificate so that you can run your business smoothly in Hong Kong. We know you can do all the paperwork yourself, but you don’t have to. Concentrate on building your business while our experienced team can help you with other matters like your accounting in Hong Kong.

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