In Hong Kong, a Business Registration Number (BRN) is a unique number assigned to a business by the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) upon registration.
Your business registration number is used as a Tax Identification Number (TIN) and it’s a requirement for legal business operations and tax payments. Whether you want to know how to check your BR number or even just see a BR sample, this article is the go-to guide for Hong Kong entrepreneurs like you.
Hong Kong BRN: What Exactly Is It?
You’ll be working a lot with the IRD.
They’re the government body responsible for managing taxes and duties via eTAX and other services.
TINs aren’t issued to taxpayers in Hong Kong. The identifier the IRD refers to for taxation purposes is your Business Registration Certificate number. You’re assigned this unique 8-digit sequence of numbers once you’ve gone through the initial process of incorporating your company, and it’ll feature on your Business Registration licence.
We’ve included a BR sample a bit further down to give you an idea of where this number is shown and the format your BRN takes.
Got a business registration number enquiry but no certificate on hand? No worries, you can get the info you're looking for easily through a search on the official government online resource. An HK BRN search is a free and pretty quick process which we’ll get into a bit further down.
Which Businesses Need a BRN?
If you’re going to register that company you’ve worked so hard for, you’re going to need a business registration number. This is not a nice-to-have, it’s an official prerequisite determined by the Business Registration Ordinance (BRO). Every person doing business in Hong Kong needs to register with the BRO within one month of starting a business.
To avoid confusion now’s a good time to remind you about the important difference between the two terms. You’ll register with both institutions listed below simultaneously if you incorporate a company in Hong Kong:
- Registering a business is about becoming a taxpayer and is managed by the IRD
- Registering a company is about forming a legal entity and is managed by the Companies registry.
Overseas companies in Hong Kong need to register with the IRD if they:
- Have a representative or liaison office in Hong Kong
- Rent out their Hong-Kong based property
- Have established a place of business in Hong Kong (even if they don’t do any business in the region)
Business activities (that don’t fall under the above criteria) are exempt from registration:
- Agriculture, market gardening, breeding and rearing livestock, fishing
- Charity work as an approved charity institution
How Do I Get a BRN in Hong Kong?
To register and be assigned a BRN, you need to submit an application and pay the fee and levy for this process. If your application is successful, you will receive a Business Registration Certificate containing your BR number.
Failing to register a business or violating any other provisions of the BRO can result in a maximum fine of 5,000 HKD and up to 1 year in prison.
BR Sample Format
A BRN is the first 8 digits of the ‘Certificate no.’ on the business registration certificate. You can spot the BR sample we’ve included below that follows this format (the rest of the digits and letters encode information relevant to the IRD):
How To Check Your Business Registration Number
You can check the BRN of any business registered with the IRD via the eTAX service. Once you’ve landed on the Business Registration Number Enquiry and Application for Supply of Information on the Business Register section you know you’re in the right place.
There are 6 steps to conduct your registration number enquiry, and it begins with stipulating the service you’re after and then providing some business-related specifics.
Look out for these button CTA prompts that’ll help you know what to look out for along the way:
Enquire Now ---> Begin Application ---> Agree (After you’ve read the Personal Information Collection Statements & NB notes) ---> Select “Conduct Business Registration Enquiry” from the services menu, then hit “Continue” ---> Fill in a few particulars and hit “Application for supply of information” when you’re ready or “New Search” to start again from scratch.
You need to type the full Chinese or English name of the business and its location to conduct a search, i.e. Hong Kong, Kowloon or New Territories.
Business Registration Number Vs Company Registration Number
To incorporate a local limited company in Hong Kong or register a company incorporated outside Hong Kong with a place of business within the region, you apply to the Companies Registry.
Successful applicants receive a Business Registration Certificate along with a Certificate of Incorporation which includes your Company Registration Number (CRN), which is the 7-digit number at the top left corner, take a look:
Company Registration Number (CRN): Need-to-knows
When Do I Need To Use My CR Number?
Providing your Hong Kong company registration number is a legal requirement and necessity during any of the following business activities:
- Annual return filing (using the NAR1 form)
- Removing an existing, or appointing a new company director
- Updating personal details (passport info or residential address) of a company director
- Issuing dividends/share certificates or issuing new company shares or increasing the share capital
- Deregistering or dissolving a company
Main Differences Between BRN & CRN?
The main difference between a CRN in Hong Kong and a Business Registration Number is in their primary functions. The CRN can be compared to a company’s Social Security Number. It is used as an official means of representing a company in legal documents and government records. The BRN serves as a Tax Identification Number and is used to identify a business to administer the country's tax laws. These ID numbers are used whenever you interact with the government or business partners or sign any legal documents linked to your business activity (open a bank account or rent an office).
Hong Kong BRN: Let’s Wrap Up
We’ve included two useful links from the IRD below but if you’re done with the research and ready to put your business plan in place, we’re here to help you succeed. Schedule a call today!