The first step to your startup journey in Hong Kong is to go through business registration. Without a valid business registration, your startup won’t legally be able to conduct any business within Hong Kong’s jurisdiction.

Every local business in Hong Kong, including foreign companies with local operations, must be registered with the Business Registration Office under the Inland Revenue Department.

Many entrepreneurs who want to establish a startup are often confused by the procedures and materials needed to register a company, such as what documents are involved at which step, how to file for a business registration certificate, etc.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the business registration process, the required documents and fees, and how to get a business registration number and certificate to help you set up your business in Hong Kong more efficiently. 

What is Business Registration?

Every business in Hong Kong must register at the Business Registration Office under the Inland Revenue Department. To submit a business registration, you’ll need to fill in relevant forms and provide required documents, such as proof of identity for individuals (e.g., HKID or passport) and a Certificate of Incorporation for Corporations. 

Whether you are a sole trader, own part of a partnership, a corporation, or a business carried on by a branch office of a foreign firm, you must register your business.

The following types of “businesses” must be registered, according to the Inland Revenue Department: 

  • Any form of trade, commerce, craftsmanship, profession, calling, or other activity carried on for the purpose of gain;
  • Any club which provides facilities, services, and exclusive club premises to its members for social intercourse or recreation;
  • Every local company or overseas company that has established a place of business in Hong Kong, regardless of whether it is carrying on any business in Hong Kong; and
  • Every overseas company that has a representative or liaison office in Hong Kong, or has let out its property situated in Hong Kong, regardless of whether it has established a place of business in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Business Registration 

Before you register your business, you must first decide whether you want to set up a limited or unlimited company. Their main differences are legal status, liability, and tax arrangements. 

The business registration process for a limited company differs from an unlimited company, with unlimited company registration being comparatively more straightforward.

Registering an unlimited company

Setting up an unlimited company only requires business registration by filling out Form 1(a) for a sole proprietorship or Form 1(c) for a partnership business and submitting it to the Inland Revenue Department with the required identity documents. 

You can apply in person by visiting the business registration office in Wan Chai or online through the IRD.

In most cases, obtaining a business registration certificate for an unlimited company takes only one to two working days.

Registering a limited company 

Business registration for a limited company is more complicated compared to an unlimited company. 

If you want to skip going through the process yourself, BINERY offers incorporation services at an affordable price. 

To register a limited company, you’ll need to submit your application to the Companies Registry. There are two steps.

First, choose a unique company name. You may perform a company name search for free on the ICRIS by the Companies Registry. 

Then, submit the following required documents: 

  • Incorporation Form – Form NNC1 (for company limited by shares) or Form NNC1G (for company not limited by shares);
  • A copy of the Company’s Articles of Association; and
  • A Notice to Business Registration Office (IRBR1).

After submitting the required documents, it will typically take 5 to 7 working days for the application to be processed. Then, you will receive your Certificate of Incorporation and the Business Registration Certificate. 

How much is the Business Registration Fee?

The business registration fee varies depending on the types of business registration certificates, namely the 1-year certificate and the 3-year certificate. The total fee for a 1-year certificate is HK$250, while the total fee for a 3-year certificate is HK$3,950. 

In addition, fees for a Branch Registration Certificate are different. 

IRD Business Registration Fee & Levy Table,source: IRD

The IRD periodically reviews and updates the fees. Checkout the IRD Business Registration Fee and Levy Table for the most updated information. 

What is a Business Registration Certificate (BRC)?

A business registration certificate is a document issued by the Business Registration Office that contains information about a company and is one of the most critical prerequisites for starting a company in Hong Kong. 

If your company is based in Hong Kong, you must apply for a BRC within one month of starting operations. If any of the information of your business changes, you must contact the Business Registration Office within 30 days so that the registry can be updated accordingly.

A BRC will typically have the following information:

  • Name of Business/ Corporation
  • Address
  • Nature of Business
  • Status 
  • Date of Commencement
  • Date of Expiry
  • Certificate Number 
  • Business Registration Number
  • Valid Period
  • Fee and Levy

How and When to Renew a Business Registration Certificate

Once you successfully register a new business with the Inland Revenue Department, the IRD will issue a business registration certificate. 

For renewal, IRD will issue a new business registration certificate about one month before the date of expiry. The company must pay the fee to renew the BRC within one month. Otherwise, there may be additional charges for late renewal. 

What is a Business Registration Number

A business registration number is a unique identifier assigned to a registered business by the Inland Revenue Department, shown by the first eight digits of the business registration certificate number. 

business registration certificate sample
Business registration certificate specimen, source: IRD

When working with various government authorities, such as filing annual returns with the IRD, you’ll need to fill in your business registration number.

Business registration in Hong Kong: Conclusion

For limited company formation, the quickest way to get your business registration certificate is using a professional incorporation service to make the process hassle-free and straightforward. 

In addition to company formation, a professional company formation service provider can also arrange company secretarial services and other valuable add-ons such as registered addresses and accounting advice to help your startup on its feet. 

Try BINERY’s business registration services today!