Hong Kong companies are required by law to pay profit tax from profits derived from conducting business in Hong Kong. However, calculating the profit tax payable can be quite confusing, as it requires understanding the various components of profit and knowledge of whether an expense is deductible.
Knowing the type of deductible expenses available for your company is important to stay compliant with the corporate tax laws. Claiming expenses that are non-compliant with the Hong Kong tax requirements could result in a penalty of $10,000 plus 3x the amount of the undercharged tax.
This article will guide you on what qualifies as deductible expenses on profit tax computation for Hong Kong companies.
Deductible expenses are expenses incurred in the production of chargeable income.
“Capital allowance is a tax deduction claimable for the decline in value (depreciation) of capital assets, such as your investment property.” Source: blog.capitalclaims.com
Physical assets such as buildings and machinery naturally degrade over time, causing their value to drop. As such, a depreciation allowance lets you claim back a portion of the expense. These allowances fall under three categories:
Industrial Buildings Allowance
Allowances on industrial structures and buildings, calculated as follows:
- Initial allowance: 20% on the cost incurred when constructing the premises
- Annual allowance: 4% on the cost of building
- Balancing charge on the disposal of premises. The charge is restricted to the sum of the annual and initial allowance previously given.
Commercial Buildings Allowances
Allowances on commercial structures and buildings are calculated as follows:
- Annual allowance: 4% on the cost of construction
- Balancing charge on disposal. The charge is restricted to the previous annual allowance.
Plant and Machinery Allowances
Allowances on plant and machinery used in the company, calculated as follows:
- Initial allowance: 60% on the capital expenditure
- Annual allowance: rates are 10%, 20%, or 30% on the reducing value of the asset depending on the type of asset. The reducing value is the asset’s original cost less allowances (initial and annual) and sales proceeds.
- A balancing allowance is only available on cessation of business. A provision for balancing charge is made when a plant or machinery is sold at a price that is more than the reducing value of the asset.
Research & Development expenses (R&D)
Expenses incurred during research and development with effect from 1st April 2018. There are two types of qualifying R&D expenses, denoted as type A and type B expenditure.
Type A expenditure is any other R&D expenditure other than the expenses listed under Type B. For example, a payment to a foreign university for R&D activities related to your business.
Type B expenditures include
- Payment to a designated local research institution for research and developments activities related to a company’s business
- Qualifying expenditures related to business or trade activities
- Payment to a designated local research institution where the object in the research is related to your business trade
Type A expenditure qualifies for 100% deduction of the expenditure amount but is subject to certain conditions. Type B expenditure qualifies for a 300% deduction for the first HKD 2 million and 200% for the remaining amount.
Qualifying R&D activities are undertaken in Hong Kong. They include:
- Activities in the applied or natural science fields
- Application of knowledge or research findings to produce new, improved products, materials, devices, or services
- An original investigation to help with gaining new technical or scientific knowledge.
Qualifying R&D activities exclude:
- Any activity that won’t contribute to solving technological or scientific issues
- Application of open-source findings to a design
- All work related to developing non-technological or non-scientific aspect of an improved or new product, material, service, device, or process system
- Sales promotion, management study, efficiency survey, feasibility study, or market research
Donations to approved trusts, Hong Kong government Special Administrative Region, or charitable institutions are deductible. The donated amount should be more than $100 but not more than 35% of assessable profits.
Expenditure on building refurbishments is deductible over a 5-year period in equal installments.
Environmental protection facilities
Expenditure on environmental protection facilities is deductible as follows:
- Environmental protection machinery: A full deduction is allowed from the year 2008/09
- Environmental protection installation: From 2008/09, 20% of the expenditure is allowable over a 5 year period. From 2018/19, a full deduction is allowed on the basis period instead of over a period of 5 years.
- Environment-friendly vehicle: From the year 2010/11, a full deduction is allowed
Bad or doubtful debts
Bad or doubtful debts are deductible if they are proven to have turned bad during the assessment period. The deduction is limited to debts included in assessable profits or debts related to money-lending business.
There is a special rule on reporting bad or doubtful debts for companies that use the fair value basis when filing profits tax that states that impairment loss is deductible if it’s credit-impaired.
If the bad or doubtful debts and impairment losses are recovered, they should be treated as taxable income for the year they were recovered.
Interest is only deductible if it was incurred in producing the company’s assessable profits. This means money borrowed to help fund activities or asset-producing profits.
There are limitations to application because the money has to be borrowed from a person or institution that is taxable in Hong Kong.
Mandatory and voluntary contributions to Mandatory Provident Fund-exempted and MPF schemes are deductible to a limit to 15% of the total employee emoluments.
Rent for premises or offices used in generating company profits is a deductible expense.
Any amount incurred when repairing company equipment or any other item used in production for profit is deductible.
Amounts paid as remuneration to company directors may be deducted.
Payments to foreign affiliates
Amounts payable or paid to foreign affiliates are deductible if they’re incurred when producing company profits.
Other allowable deductions
- Registration costs on patents and trademarks
- Costs incurred when purchasing patent rights but the rights shouldn’t be purchased from a person associated with the company
- Technical education expenses
How to Calculate Profit Tax
Profit tax in Hong Kong is calculated based on adjusted assessable profits. The corporate tax liability is calculated by adjusting the assessable profits, as shown below.
Total assessable profits XXXX
Non-assessable profits XXXX
Deductible business expenses XXXX
Unutilized losses XXXX
Capital allowances XXXX (XXXX)
Add Balancing charges XXXX
Taxable income XXXX
The tax rate for corporate companies is two-tiered:
- 8.25% on the first $2,000,000
- 16.5% on assessable profits over $2,000,000
Let’s look at what is recognized as assessable profits, non-assessable profit, and unutilized losses.
In Hong Kong, assessable profits for a company include
- Interest income
- Profits from conducting business activities in Hong Kong
- Rent income from leasing moveable properties
- Grants or subsidies
- Receipts from use of tapes or films
- Gains from certificates of deposit or bills of exchange
- Intellectual property royalties
- Refunds from retirement schemes
- Recovered trade debts
- Rebates from trade associates
Non-assessable profits include:
- Revenue from the sale of capital assets
- Revenue from the sale of business goodwill
- Dividend income where profit tax is already assessed
- Profits from business activities outside of Hong Kong
- Trading profits and interest income from long term debt instruments
- Early termination compensation
- Profits and interest on bonds issued
Operating losses incurred by a company should be carried forward to offset profits until they’re utilized, but they cannot be carried backward.
We’ve touched on deductible expenses, on the flip side, there are also non-deductible expenses, these include:
- Capital expenditure, e.g., purchase of fixed assets
- Company formation expenses
- Private and domestic expenses such as medical expenses
- Traffic penalty incurred when delivering goods
- Expenses related to renting non-business premises
- Taxes paid on company profits
- Amounts recoverable under insurance
- Withdrawal or loss of capital
Profit Tax Computation for Hong Kong Companies: FAQ
How to file a profits tax return?
The Inland Revenue Department in Hong Kong issues profit tax returns every year on the first working day of April. Companies are expected to file tax returns one month after receiving the tax request.
The deadline can be extended as follows:
- 15 November the same year for a company with an accounting year ending between 1 January and 31 March
- 15 August the following year for a company with an accounting year ending between 1 December and 31 December.
Computing profits tax in Hong Kong can be daunting, but it’s essential for all businesses.
By understanding the types of expenses that are deductible and non-deductible, you can ensure that you are taking full advantage of all available deductions.
Remember to keep good records and consult an accountant or tax specialist to ensure you take advantage of all the tax deductions available.
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