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Business Registration Certificate in Hong Kong: Everything You Need To Know

  • Modified: 26 February 2024
  • 9 min read
  • Starting a Company
Business Registration Certificate in Hong Kong: Everything You Need To Know
  • Author Gabi Bellairs-Lombard

    Gabi Bellairs-Lombard

    Business Writer

    Gabi creates content that inspires. She's spent her career writing compelling website copy, and now she specialises in product marketing copy. As the voice of our products and features, Gabi makes complex business finance and accounting topics easy to understand. Her top priority is ensuring that her words impact and inspire her readers.

A business registration certificate is not just a formality in Hong Kong — it’s a legal necessity for all businesses. This article cuts through the complexity and directly explains what a BRC is, how to secure one, and the obligations for maintaining it. Stay informed to ensure your business remains on the right side of the law.

Key Takeaways

  • The Business Registration Certificate (BRC) is a necessary legal document for all businesses operating in Hong Kong, serving as a Tax Identification Number and indicating compliance with the Companies Ordinance.
  • Businesses must apply for a BRC within 30 days of beginning operations, display it prominently at their place of business, and renew it regularly to avoid penalties and ensure ongoing compliance.
  • In addition to the BRC, businesses may require other specific licenses and permits for their operations in Hong Kong, which must be obtained and renewed as per government regulations to conduct business activities legally.

What Is a Business Registration Certificate in Hong Kong?

The BRC, procured from the Business Registration Office of the Inland Revenue Department as part of the business registration process, is a document that encompasses your business details. This is a crucial part of establishing a business with sound foundations in Hong Kong, just like all the other processes with the Companies Registry to be compliant from day one. It’s more than just a piece of paper; it is your company’s Tax Identification Number (TIN), which must be displayed in your office and proof of your company incorporation. Furthermore, by ensuring that your business complies with the Companies Ordinance, the business registration certificate process contributes significantly to economic growth in Hong Kong.

To acquire a BRC, you must complete an online application on the government’s website or business registration office and pay the business registration fee. Remember that the business registration certificate is more than a mere formality; it’s a legal requirement in Hong Kong and important for the Inland Revenue Department. It’s expected that the business applies for and receives the BRC within 30 days of initiating operations according to the Companies Ordinance guidelines.

What is a Business Registration Certificate in Hong Kong?

Defining the BRC

The BRC is a formal document that includes comprehensive details of a business and is a mandatory requirement in Hong Kong for company registration, acquired after registering your business with the Business Registration Office. The importance of obtaining a business registration certificate as part of successful company incorporation within the stipulated timeframe cannot be overstated. Failing to do so can lead to complications down the line and will disrupt your operations. The Inland Revenue Department will not compromise on the legitimacy of businesses under their watch and the consequences are dire for those who are noncompliant with the Companies Ordinance.

So, what steps does the business registration process contain? You must simply complete an online application on the government’s website and pay the predefined business registration fee. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? That’s because it is! With the right planning and preparation, the application process for a BRC can be straightforward and hassle-free to successfully complete company incorporation.

Why a Business Registration Number is important

Another key element in legalising your business is the Business Registration Number. It serves as your Tax Identification Number (TIN), which is crucial for tax compliance, company secretary services, and legitimate business activities in Hong Kong. But its function doesn’t stop there — the Business Registration Number is employed for filing annual returns. Local companies must submit an annual registration fee within 42 days after the latest anniversary, while public companies must do so within 42 days after the company’s return.

The advantages of possessing a Business Registration Number are many, including:

  • Serving as a link to Mainland China from Hong Kong
  • Receiving favourable treatment from states with bilateral trade agreements
  • Ensuring legal compliance
  • Safeguarding assets
  • Tax compliance

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Which Businesses Are Required To Have a BRC?

There are no exceptions to the types of businesses that need a BRC from the business registration office and the Inland Revenue Department. It’s required by any entity or venture aimed at earning a profit, both for local companies and offshore ones, and one month after the business commenced at the very latest. This includes:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Unincorporated body of persons
  • Non-Hong Kong company

A business registration certificate is mandatory whether it’s a partnership, an unincorporated entity, a foreign corporation conducting business in Hong Kong, or even a non-profit organisation. Therefore, it’s essential to keep track of the last revision date of the certificate to ensure timely renewal and compliance in line with your incorporation requirements. Outsourcing a company secretary service could help you stay on top of this part of your financial admin.

When Should You Apply For a Business Registration Certificate?

No matter your business type, you must start the BRC application process within 30 days of launching your Hong Kong company. While all businesses are required to apply within this timeframe, the timing may vary slightly for certain types of businesses.

For instance, businesses registered as a sole proprietorship or a partnership must specifically apply within one month of commencement. Similarly, overseas companies planning to open a branch in Hong Kong should also apply for a business registration certificate within one month of establishing their place of business in Hong Kong.

To make this process of company incorporation a breeze, ensure you have all necessary documents ready for submission, such as:

  • Proof of Identity
  • Application Form
  • Incorporation Form
  • Articles of Association
When to apply for Business Registration Certificate

What Are the Penalties for Non-Compliance?

Failing to meet business registration certificate requirements in Hong Kong carries weight and could result in hefty financial and legal consequences. These can include fines and imprisonment.

The prescribed penalties for non-compliance can be quite severe. You could be looking at fines of up to HK$5,000 and imprisonment for a period of up to 1 year. Additionally, failure to adhere to BRC regulations can have a substantial impact on your business’s functioning and could result in the forfeiture of business prospects as a consequence of penalties and fines.

Display Requirements for Your Business Registration Certificate

Obtaining your BRC isn’t just about storing it securely. It needs to be prominently visible at your place of business. Not only does this demonstrate compliance with regulations, but it also lends credibility to your business. After all, your business registration certificate is a testament to the legitimacy of your business.

Neglecting to display your BRC could lead to penalties and fines, as much as HK$5,000. Hence, it’s not just about obtaining the business registration certificate, but also about properly displaying it. But where and how should you display your BRC? Let’s explore this below.

Where and how to display your certificate

The guidelines for displaying your BRC are quite straightforward. It must be prominently displayed at the address where your business is situated. This means it should be in a place that’s visible and accessible.

It’s important to note that the business registration certificate cannot be displayed electronically. It must be presented as a physical copy. Not properly displaying your BRC can result in a fine of HK$5,000 and a maximum of 1 year of imprisonment, so ensure it’s displayed properly and prominently.

Renewal of Business Registration Certificate

The BRC isn’t a one-and-done deal. Regular renewal is necessary to maintain its validity. The business registration certificate should be renewed within one to three years after the company has been incorporated, and it’s advisable to renew the certificate at least one month before its expiration date.

Failure to renew your BRC on time can lead to penalties, including a penalty of HK$300 for late renewal. If the certificate expires before renewal, there could be additional penalties and court proceedings, and you might even be unable to continue conducting business in Hong Kong.

But how do you go about renewing your BRC? We let you know below.

Renewal of Business Registration Certificate

Timely renewal practices

Ensuring your business registration certificate is renewed on time is key to preventing disruptions in your business activities. The BRC must be renewed annually, and the renewal must be done no later than one month before the expiration date.

To renew your BRC, you need to submit the completed form, necessary documents, and a crossed cheque by mail to the designated address of the Inland Revenue Department (IRD), or you can visit the IRD office in person with your old business registration certificate to request a fresh demand note. The government also sends reminders and notifications for the renewal of the BRC, which can be quite helpful.

However, it’s a good practice to set a personal calendar reminder every 12 months to avoid missing the deadline.

Dealing with changes in business details

As businesses grow and change, certain details may evolve over time. It is crucial to update your business registration certificate when there are changes in business details, such as a new business address. Modifying business details necessitate informing the Business Registration Office within one month of the alteration to uphold the validity of your BRC.

To update your valid business registration certificate, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the Business Registration Office in person with the old certificate or digital certificate
  2. Request a new demand note
  3. Inform the office of any changes by submitting a written request within one month.

Remember, neglecting to update your business registration certificate when there are changes in your details may lead to penalties and legal repercussions.

Choosing a Business Registration Service

You might be able to manage the business registration certificate application process independently, but employing a professional company registration service in Hong Kong can bring numerous advantages. These services provide:

  • Convenience, efficiency, and accuracy in the BRC application process
  • Compliance with government regulations
  • Credibility and professionalism
  • Simplified access to the Companies Registry’s online portal

Additional assistance, such as help with opening a bank account or finding a company secretary.

The typical cost of utilising a business registration service in Hong Kong is HK$2,150, and additional charges for late renewal of your business registration certificate or other services may be included. Additionally, these services can support the registration of new businesses, such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, and branches, by aiding in preparing and submitting required documentation to ensure compliance with regulations.

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Additional Licensing Considerations

Though our focus has been on the documents needed for compliant business registration, don’t forget that you might need additional business licenses, permits, certificates, or approvals to run your business in Hong Kong. These are essential for conducting specific types of business activities and are typically issued by the Hong Kong government.

Applying for these additional licenses and permits requires you to:

  1. Identify the required documents for your specific business operations through the government website
  2. Complete the relevant forms
  3. Prior to applying for any business licenses, it is essential to have your company registered with the Companies Registry
  4. Engaging in business activities in Hong Kong without the requisite licenses is considered unlawful and may result in repercussions such as fines and imprisonment

Remember, the renewal frequency for additional business licenses, such as the business registration certificate, in Hong Kong varies based on the specific license, so always refer to the government website to comprehend the renewal requirements for each license.

Summary

In conclusion, understanding the importance of the BRC and the processes involved in obtaining, renewing, and managing it is crucial for running a successful business in Hong Kong. Whether it’s a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a foreign corporation, the business registration certificate is an essential aspect of legitimising your business operations. Remember, timely renewal of your BRC, proper display of the certificate, and updating it when there are changes in business details are all essential practices that contribute to the smooth functioning of your business. The journey of business registration might seem complex, but with the right knowledge and resources, succeeding is effortless and you'll be able to thrive in your new business in Hong Kong.

Author Gabi Bellairs-Lombard
Gabi Bellairs-LombardBusiness Writer

Gabi creates content that inspires. She's spent her career writing compelling website copy, and now she specialises in product marketing copy. As the voice of our products and features, Gabi makes complex business finance and accounting topics easy to understand. Her top priority is ensuring that her words impact and inspire her readers.

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FAQ

  • What is a business registration certificate in Hong Kong?

    The business registration certificate is a necessary document issued by the Business Registration Office in Hong Kong, providing details of a company and serving as a primary requirement for conducting business in the region. It must be obtained within 30 days of commencing operations.

  • What is the difference between a BRN and CRN in Hong Kong?

    In Hong Kong, the BRN (business registration number) functions as a tax identification number for entities, while the CRN (company registration number) is primarily used as a social security number for businesses. The BRN is for tax-related purposes, while the CRN is used in legal documents and government records.

  • What is a business registration certificate number in Hong Kong?

    The business registration certificate number in Hong Kong is an 8-digit unique identifier issued by the Inland Revenue Department, prominently displayed on the registration certificate. It is the equivalent of a tax identification number for entities in Hong Kong.

  • Which businesses are required to have a business registration certificate?

    Any business intended to generate profit, including sole proprietorship, partnership, unincorporated body of persons, and non-Hong Kong company, must have a BRC.

  • When should I apply for a BRC?

    You should apply for a business registration certificate within 30 days of initiating operations in Hong Kong, regardless of your business nature.

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