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An Essential Guide to a Business Registration Number in Hong Kong

  • Modified: 26 February 2024
  • 9 min read
  • Starting a Company
An Essential Guide to a Business Registration Number in Hong Kong
  • 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.

If you’re setting up or running a business in Hong Kong, a Business Registration Number (BRN) is indispensable for compliance and operational efficiency. This critical 8-digit number, issued by the Inland Revenue Department, streamlines your tax and legal processes, establishing your organisation’s legal identity. Our guide demystifies the BRN, outlining its importance, application process, and pivotal role in the Hong Kong business environment.

Key Takeaways

  • A Business Registration Number (BRN) in Hong Kong is an 8-digit identifier mandatory for all business entities, playing a vital role in tax filings, legal transactions, and access to government services.
  • Companies, freelancers, and non-local entities engaging in business in Hong Kong must have a BRN, which is distinct from the Company Registration Number (CRN) used for company identification.
  • The BRN streamlines operations, facilitates financial transactions, assists in opening bank accounts, and ensures tax compliance, thus serving as an essential tool for business efficiency and growth.

What Is a Business Registration Number (BRN)?

In the bustling business landscape of Hong Kong, a Business Registration Number (BRN) serves as a unique identifier to distinguish business entities from each other. Issued by the business registration office, this unique 8-digit number is utilised for official and regulatory purposes. But the BRN is not just a number; it represents the recognition of a company by the Inland Revenue Department, enabling it to be acknowledged for tax-related purposes. This is not to be confused with a Company Registration Number — we outline the differences later on.

A Hong Kong business can navigate the myriad regulatory requirements effectively by obtaining a BRN. The BRN is a crucial reference number that facilitates the smooth operation of businesses, underlining the importance of the company registration process and the issuance of company registration numbers. Although getting a business registration number is mandatory, there are key benefits of obtaining a BRN:

  • Filing annual returns
  • Engaging in legal transactions
  • Establishing credibility and trust with customers and partners
  • Accessing government services and benefits
  • Complying with regulatory requirements

By obtaining a business registration number, companies, including non-Hong Kong company entities, can ensure that they operate legally and efficiently in compliance with the Hong Kong Companies Ordinance.

What is a Business Registration Number (BRN)?

Which Businesses Require a BR Number?

The scope of the business registration number in Hong Kong extends to the majority of business entities, thereby making its possession a legal requirement for every business, including companies incorporated in Hong Kong but based offshore. Whether you’re a sole proprietor running a small local shop or a multinational corporation with a branch in Hong Kong, the BRN is a must-have for your business operations and for the IRD to collect taxes.

Even freelancers and self-employed individuals are not exempt from this requirement. As the BRN confirms the registration of individuals and entities engaged in business activities, it serves as a testament to the legality and legitimacy of a business, underscoring its importance for all businesses operating within Hong Kong.

However, certain business activities do not have to register with the IRD (according to a specific set of criteria). These include:

  • Agriculture
  • Market gardening
  • Breeding and rearing livestock
  • Fishing
  • Charity work

Business Registration Number Format

Following a specific format composed of eight digits without any special characters or prefixes, the Hong Kong BRN is unique for every business — local companies and foreign ones. This number is obtained from the Inland Revenue Department using the required business registration forms, ensuring that every business has a unique number assigned for its identification.

The simplicity and consistency of the registration number format ensure ease of use across different industries and enterprises. Whether you’re a local limited company or a foreign company, your BRN serves as a standard reference for your business, aiding in the company registration process and the conduct of legal business operations.

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What Are the Differences Between a CRN and a BRN?

While the Business Registration Number is a critical identifier for businesses in Hong Kong, it’s not the only registration number they must be aware of. The Company Registration Number (CRN) is another important identifier — a seven-digit number located in the top left corner of the Certificate of Incorporation and issued by the Companies Registry, serving as the official company ID for government acknowledgement of companies incorporated. A company’s social security number is also essential for tax and financial purposes.

But how does a CRN differ from a BRN? While both numbers play crucial roles in business operations, their purposes vary. A BRN is primarily used for tax purposes, distinguishing it from a CRN that serves as a company identification tool. For instance, while a CRN is employed in legal documents and official forms, a BRN is specifically used for tax-related purposes, including for representative offices.

Moreover, to operate within the legal framework in Hong Kong, a business needs both a company registration number and a business registration number, emphasising the significance of both these numbers in business operations. These two numbers are needed every time business owners sign legal documents, such as when opening a bank account, renting office space, or signing a contract.

Required Documents to Get a Business Registration Number

Submitting certain documents to the business registration office is required to obtain a BRN. These typically include:

  • A copy of the Certificate of Registration issued by the Companies Registry
  • Suitable identification such as a Hong Kong identity card for individuals or registration forms like Form NN1 for non-Hong Kong companies
  • Any additional documents as stipulated
  • A Notice to Business Registration

The document requirements can vary depending on the type of business, such as a representative office. For instance, the registration of a sole proprietorship business requires a copy of the owner’s Hong Kong identity card or relevant proof of identity for non-residents, along with the completed application form to the Business Registration Office. Limited companies need to register with the Companies Registry to get a limited company status. They will then have to register with the Business Registration Office to start doing business in Hong Kong.

To register a partnership business in Hong Kong, the following documents are required:

  • A copy of the Certificate of Registration
  • A copy of the Hong Kong identity card of the general partner
  • Registration documents
  • A duplicate of a valid Business Registration Certificate
Required documents to get Business Registration Number

Getting your company incorporated with a reliable business incorporation service like Osome will help streamline the process for you. We guide you on the correct documents needed and ensure your registration is successful. We also help you acquire both a company registration number and a BRN in Hong Kong. Whether you're a foreign company or a local small business, we assist with everything from helping you choose a business name to managing your bookkeeping.

How To Obtain a Business Registration Number in Hong Kong

Obtaining a BRN in Hong Kong is a straightforward process. Companies can apply for a business registration number online through the official government website, which offers a convenient and efficient method for businesses to get their unique identification number.

For those who prefer a hands-on approach, it is also possible to apply for a BRN using a downloadable form available on the Inland Revenue Department’s website. This form can be filled out and submitted in person, providing another avenue for businesses to secure their BRN.

For in-person applications, business owners can submit and pay the relevant fees to the Business Registration Office of the Inland Revenue Department.

Once the application is submitted, businesses can expect to receive their Business Registration Certificate approximately two days following the date of incorporation, in accordance with the Business Registration Ordinance. Failing to present a Business Registration Certificate to verify the legal existence of your business can result in hefty fines and possibly prison time, so be sure to prioritise this when looking to start a business in Hong Kong, even if it's a non-Hong Kong company based offshore. If you're an individual conducting business, you are required to register under the Business Registration Ordinance.

How To Check a Business Registration Number (BRN)

Once you have obtained your BRN from the Business Registration Office, verifying it for various purposes may become necessary. The verification process can be conducted online using the eTAX service provided on the Hong Kong government website. Through this service, individuals can inquire about the registration number of any business registered with the Business Registration Office.

By verifying a business registration number, businesses can access valuable information on the Business Register, including company registration details, business registration details, and trade mark registration details. This enables businesses to validate their legal establishment and ensures the accuracy of their company information by referring to government records.

Utilising Your BRN for Business Growth

Having a BRN is not just about regulatory compliance; it can also be a powerful tool for business growth. By leveraging your BRN, you can:

  • Streamline your operations
  • Facilitate financial transactions
  • Open bank accounts
  • Ensure tax compliance
  • Appoint a new company director

The following subsections explore these aspects in greater detail.

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Streamlining operations with your BRN

The operational efficiency of a Hong Kong business can be significantly enhanced by having a BRN. As a unique identifier, it facilitates easier recognition by government departments and other entities, optimising business operations. With a BRN, businesses can streamline their processes and ensure smoother operations, contributing to overall business efficiency.

Moreover, the BRN also plays a crucial role in streamlining tax compliance processes and simplifying the process of obtaining licenses and permits. With its ability to optimise business operations across different areas, the BRN serves as a valuable tool for businesses in Hong Kong.

Financial transactions and the BRN

The BRN plays a crucial role in the realm of financial transactions. Being a tax identification number, the business registration number enables businesses to carry out accurate and efficient transactions when filing tax returns.

Moreover, the BRN serves multiple functions, including:

  • Acting as a routing transit number for banks, enabling accurate and efficient currency transfer between accounts
  • Enhancing the security of financial transactions
  • Ensuring the scalability and security of the business network, particularly in relation to tax compliance

Assistance in opening a bank account

The BRN plays a pivotal role in establishing a bank account for a business. Used as a company identification tool, the BRN is necessary for properly administrating the country’s tax laws during the opening of a business account.

In fact, the business registration number is often a requirement for opening an account in Hong Kong. By presenting the BRN and other required documents, businesses can establish an account without requiring directors, shareholders, and signatories to be physically present.

Tax compliance

This registration number for your business can significantly facilitate the process of ensuring tax compliance, a key aspect of running your Hong Kong business. As a tax identification number, the BRN is utilised for filing different tax forms and for conducting tax audits by scrutinising a business’s financial records.

Businesses can optimise the process of paying tax and collecting refunds through the utilisation of their business registration number. By scanning the FPS QR code on the bill or using the TPS to pay taxes, businesses can ensure accurate and timely tax payments, thus avoiding the risk of penalties linked to non-compliance.

Summary

In conclusion, understanding the role of a Business Registration Number (BRN) in Hong Kong is crucial for businesses operating in the region. From serving as a unique identifier to facilitating tax compliance and financial transactions, the BRN plays a pivotal role in business operations. By leveraging the business registration number, businesses can ensure regulatory compliance and unlock numerous benefits that contribute to business growth and operational efficiency.

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 the business registration number in Hong Kong?

    In Hong Kong, a Business Registration Number (BRN) is a unique number assigned to a business by the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) upon registration. It should be displayed at the registered office address and on the Business Registration Certificate.

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

    In Hong Kong, the main difference between a BRN and a CRN is that a BRN functions as a Tax Identification Number, whereas a CRN is akin to a Social Security Number issued by the Companies Registry, serving to identify a business for tax and legal purposes.

  • What is the business tax number in Hong Kong?

    The Business Registration Number (BRN) in Hong Kong is a unique 8-digit number issued by the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) and serves as the tax identification number (TIN) for businesses. It is essential for legal business operations and tax payments in Hong Kong.

  • Is company registration and business registration the same?

    No, company registration and business registration are not the same. Company registration establishes a company's corporate status, while business registration allows a company to conduct business legally.

  • Which businesses require a business registration number in Hong Kong?

    Regardless of its structure, every business operating in Hong Kong must have a Business Registration Number (BRN). This includes non-Hong Kong companies, sole proprietorships, limited liability companies, freelancers, and self-employed individuals.

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