Difference Between an Accountant and a Bookkeeper

 

This article is originally found here: https://www.globalfromasia.com/accountingandbookkeeping/

All too often we can’t wait to get our Hong Kong limited open.

You’ve been enjoying the Global From Asia podcast and blogs here on the site. Now you are looking into what are the ongoing costs.

We had a popular post for the Upkeep for HK company, today we are going to focus specifically on:

What is the difference between an accountant and an auditor?

Drink so coffee (or tea) and don’t sleep on me here. Yes, this stuff can get dry – but the more we understand it, the better business owners we can be!

Accountant Definition

What is an accountant?

Think there are 2 cases.

Case one is the accountant as a bookkeeper. He or she will receive all your financial statements, either by paper or online access. They will setup your books and chart of accountants. You will then watch in awe as they classify your transactions in different income and expense accounts.

Bookkeeping should be upkept throughout the year. Ideally real time. Of course there are many of us with not tons of activity on a daily basis and we can’t afford to have a full time accountant. So I recommend weekly.

It’s not just for the work, but also for you as a business owner. To look at the numbers, the reports, the summary and see your business as a dashboard.

So this type of accountant is a bookkeeper.

The second option is the accountant as a tax form filing specialist. They specialize in a certain geography / government. Let’s say for here its Hong Kong. They know what all the different tax forms are, how to fill them out. Also, if they have experience, they will be able to tell you how to best keep the forms filled out. How to optimize your tax strategy.

This type of accountant is I believe what most of us think of when we hear a tax accountant. Having a good grasp of that government’s tax law and advising clients how to file for their personal and/or businesses.

Auditor Definition

Auditor, for many Americans (myself included) will cringe. We all hear about an IRS tax audit. The mental picture I get is a group of government officials in suits pounding on your office door to do a sudden check on your books. The business owner rushing to shred all the documents before they break the door down.

Do you get such a dramatic mental picture as that?

Well, that isn’t what we’re doing here – at least in the Global From Asia – Hong Kong tax sense. An audit here is one you pay a Hong Kong CPA (certified professional accountant) to check your books.

This auditor is the same as those who are rummaging through your shredded documents but this time you pay them to do it. Or at least you’re required by the Hong Kong Internal Revenue Department (IRD) to do so.

They will not enter your transactions into an accounting system or excel. That you should have done already. What they will do is check over your financial statements such as your profit and loss statement and balance sheet. They’ll see if it makes sense. Such things as your margins, your expense account sizes in comparison to your revenue numbers. Are you hiding something.

They are to snoop around in your financial statements, and your transaction history looking for things that may not add up.

This is their job. And they are using their expertise – AND LICENSE – to do it.

You may ask yourself, why would they dig into it if I’m the one paying them. Wouldn’t they want to keep me as the paying client happy?

You would think so – but the Hong Kong government gives them a license. Their job is on the line. If they don’t do their job and the IRD checks it later and feels the CPA was negligible, they jeopardize their license.

Make sense?

An Accountant Can Also Be An Auditor

You can use the same person to do both of these tasks. They will accept it, because it means more money for them!

It may make sense too. They will understand the books as they have been working with you on entering the transactions and speaking to you throughout the year on questions you have. You should have a good regular communication flow with your accountant. Alert them of new products, services, and other financial related changes in your business. Taking a new business loan? Might be a good time to alert your accountant, so they can add that as a new account in your bookkeeping system.

Will You Save Money If You Use An Accountant As Your Auditor?

I’m sure you’re wondering, will you save money if you combine your accountant and auditor? I would say yes. There are a few ways you can say it will save you money:

1) They can give you a lower bundle price than separating the services.
2) They can save time in the audit as they know the books already.
3) You will spend less of your own time re-explaining the situation 2 times.

But, you also need to remember, for a Hong Kong company audit, you need a Hong Kong local accredited CPA. Hong Kong, as we have found out from these blogs in the past, is not the cheapest. Check out cost of living in Hong Kong article for examples. So of course those costs will reflected in your pricing.

You can use an accountant anywhere in the world. you may save money on the accounting side if you outsource or have your own staff do it. Then you only use a local Hong Kong CPA to check over the books and submit the auditor’s report.

Doing that may save money as a total bundle price – but dollar for dollar – the coordination and back and forth of your own time may drag you down a bit.

It comes down to how well organized you can be.

What To Look For In An Accountant for your Hong Kong Books

So we discussed the differences, now what should you look for in an accountant. I’ve seen some people I have worked with who use an American based accountant to do it.

You can use an accountant based anywhere in the world.

While we can provide this service and would love to work with you on your case. Yet to be clear, your accountant can be someone you find on Upwork. You pay to have someone do your transactions entry in Xero or Quickbooks. Also we’re a Certified Quickbooks Advisor in Hong Kong, so look for that from others you may hire.

Some tips in looking for your accountant:

  • Multi-currency experience.

    The beauty of Hong Kong for your global business is the multi-currency accounts. But for accountants, that is an added complexity. Ask your accountant if he or she has ever done bookkeeping for someone who has a wide range of currencies, and multi-currency bank accounts.

  • Do you have multiple entities in other countries?

    Do you also have a USA company or mainland Chinese company? Maybe you have an outsourcing center in Philippines. Who is doing the accounting there? What is the relationship of those companies to this company? Will you have those books done by this same accountant, or will you have a separate bookkeeper for that country? This is something the accountant you are looking to hire will need to know.

  • Do you have a lot of transactions?

    Are you an online based business with a lot of Paypal and merchant account transactions? Especially in B2C, you will have a lot of small purchases. Do you expect your accountant to have experience with these e-commerce payment systems? Many accountants are not familiar with this and you should keep on top of this before it gets out of hand.

  • Do you expect them to be “online” based or “offline” based?

    As mentioned in point 3, many accountants still haven’t fully embraced the internet and computers. Don’t laugh! At least in Hong Kong, many still are getting a grasp of keeping on top of their email inbox! In your communication with the potential accountant, see what types of communication methods they prefer.

  • Can they work direct with your online banking systems?

    When doing the transaction entry, can they work direct with your online banking systems? Again, technology. I imagine if you’re reading this blog post – then you are tech savvy. More than many of the accountants you may find out there! I am not trying to make a jab. Spoken from experience, do you expect the accountant to be able to login to your online banking with their own logins? Will you be OK with sending them a bunch of PDFs? Heck, maybe some will even want you to mail them the physical paper statements!

This is just a small list. Of course you have to trust them! And you have to agree with the way to communicate. Don’t get into the deal to only get frustrated with them later on when they are slow to respond to your emails. The only way I can reach a lot of accountants is to call them and schedule an appointment at their office in Hong Kong!

The Traditional Flow of Accountant And Auditor in HK

So let’s put this into context. You have a new Hong Kong limited company, and it’s B2B import export trading. You opened the company and then got approved for an HSBC Hong Kong bank account.

Your agency got you to sign up for their bookkeeping service, and you may send them your bank statements. You don’t have too many transactions, so you just send it to them monthly when you get the statements.

They enter the transactions into their accounting software. Many of them do not use online based accounting software and it will be locally stored on their computers in their office. A lot of times it isn’t even on a computer but instead written down on paper! Yes, this blog post is being written in the year 2016!

After about a year, you fly into Hong Kong to do some banking updates, maybe go to a trade show or 2, and check in with your accountant. You hand them a stack of receipts and your paper statements that the bank has been sending you. If you elect to pay the extra fee for the paper statements rather than e-statements, or you can print them out.

They prepare the books, and the accountant may have a few questions about some transactions in your business. You also want to make sure that your accountant understands all parts of your business, and also any kind of shareholder loans or special cash accounts, etc. If they are good, they will give you some ideas on how to better maximize your tax preparation, and other tips to optimize your company financials.

The first year you have a few extra months to file your audit, so let’s say you wait until the 18 months past. The accountant can also act as the auditor (If they are an accredited HK CPA) and they will prepare the auditor report and profit tax return. They will present it to you and show you your tax liability. You’ll then accept it by signing off, and then submitting everything to the Hong Kong IRD (Internal Revenue Department)

Then you go about your normal business life for the next 12 months, until you need to repeat the process above.

Moving to More Online Based Accounting Flow

So, we’re all lovers of the internet age. We are reading this guide online, off our mobile phone, listening to a podcast while in an airport in Dubai.

The internet is good.

So we work with an accountant who is more online based. We find one online, not based in Hong Kong, and work out a monthly payment plan. Maybe they offer packages. You signup, and get a renewing credit card transaction agreement going.

Talking to an account rep on email, they tell you to pick an online accounting software of your choice. Xero, Quickbooks, or the many others. You will also need to get a plan that works with multiple currencies, so they are normally a bit more than the basic software. You’ll get setup and link your online banking (HSBC HK supports Quickbooks), Paypal, and other systems. This can be tricky, and hopefully the accounting agency can work with you to make sure it all syncs up.

Once the initial setup is going, you have them enter the transactions manually that may not come from Paypal and online merchant accounts, such things as petty cash. You’ll also probably have times you need to explain certain transactions so they are classified correctly.

The year goes by, and you need to prepare for your HK audit.

Your Hong Kong company secretary will email you that you received a profit tax return from the HK IRD. You’ll have a few months to prepare your books and prepare the auditor’s report. This can be done with the referral of the company secretary, or you can use another accountant, CPA – auditor. Up to you.

The auditor will check the books, and ensure that you have properly accounted for revenues and outflows and he/she is willing to sign off that the books are legitimate. This is the risk of their certification and relationship with the HKICPA – Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants. If later the books seem “Cooked” – I’m sure the HK tax department will question the auditor on why they didn’t find this issue at the audit step.

Once you agree with all the books, the auditor report, you’ll need to sign and submit the profit and tax return. Write the check, and you’re done.

How Much Does This Cost? Comparison

So let’s think about how this all comes together. There are a few different things you need (recommended to get)

  • Accounting software.

    In today’s online world, and the fact that you’re reading this blog post off your computer monitor instead of a printed newspaper, you need software to balance things. Most choose Xero or Quickbooks. Maybe also better to ask your bookkeeper what they are familiar with. Cost – 20 to 40 US dollars a month. If you have an international business, you’ll need the more expensive multi-currency account options.

  • Bookkeeper.

    You can outsource this, with a HK accounting firm, with your own staff, or you can do it yourself! It is best to have someone on call in case there are questions or issues that arise later. Plus when there is a transaction you are not sure how to classify, the bookkeeper and accounting specialist is there to help out.Cost. Depends on how much activity you have. Let’s say from the $150 USD to $400 USD a month. Again, you can always opt to do your own bookkeeping, or have someone in your organization do it.

  • Audit.

    Yes, this is where people wonder how much will it cost. And online you won’t find anywhere that has a standard table of prices for a Hong Kong auditor’s report. Price depends on the amount of transactions, how many revenue streams, how good your books are kept, and how familiar the auditor is with your type of business.Cost – Depends on how many transactions, how active, etc etc. But I know you want a range. Low is 900 US dollars and high is up to $2,500 USD. The higher range is when you’re in the millions of dollars in revenue and it shouldn’t be as big of a cost as a percent of your profits. The lower range I have found is harder for the smaller businesses still finding their traction.

  • Signing and mailing the profit tax return

    This will need to be filled out and signed by you, or one of the directors.Cost. The courier fees from Hong Kong and back. This needs to be mailed to your Hong Kong address, and if you’re living and working overseas, it will need to be signed by you. Or you can always take a trip to Hong Kong for this process. I always recommend meeting your company secretary, accountant and auditor yearly. Make sure you are comfortable with everything. Check in with the year in the past, talk about the future year.

Remember – Accountant Can Be Anywhere, CPA For Audit Must Be in Hong Kong

So we have drove this topic home for you. You can do your bookkeeping and accounting data entry from anywhere in the world. This person should have experience balancing company books, general ledgers, and online accounting software.

You, as the overachiever entrepreneur, may want to learn to do this yourself. I respect that. Heck, I remember learning it on Sunday afternoons back in 2004 with my first e-commerce business! Taking a Quickbooks training seminar in NYC and trying my best to classify everything. It is a good skill to have, to understand the inflows and outflows of your business.

Yet I can imagine it may not be your favorite task to do. Find someone in your company, or a trusted accounting firm to take care of it for you.

But, as skilled and knowledgeable about this as you are – you cannot do your own audit. A Hong Kong licensed CPA must do it. And, I know it is frustrating – the price is not black and white. Budget around $1,500 USD for it, a bit more if you’re in the multi-millions in US dollar revenue.

Have the books as “Clean” and prepared as possible for the auditor. The price will be lower than if it is just a big pile of financial statements.

How About Your Experience?

How has your experience been dealing with accountants and auditors? Of course I’m more focused on Hong Kong today, but even if its in America or other places- any tips for dealing with these consultants?

I’d love to hear it, as well as other readers – so please leave your comments below!

Also, our company offers bookkeeping services and audit reports – we’d love to work with you!

Hong Kong Visas & Immigrations with Stephen Barnes

Listen to the podcast here: https://www.globalfromasia.com/hong-kong-visa-immigration/

Today we sit down with Stephen Barnes from Hong Kong Visa Centre and discuss how business owners should consider the visa and immigration process in Hong Kong. Is it right for them? Will they be registering a HK Limited and planning to remain in Hong Kong, or working “offshore”?

Its a rather complex topic, and we’re lucky to have the “Hong Kong Visa Geezer” break it down piece by piece to help get our heads around it and deal with it properly!

Topics Covered in this Episode

  • Brief introduction of Stephen Barnes and his Hong Kong Visa Service company
  • Entrepreneurs in Hong Kong and out of Hong Kong, thought process of considering a Hong Kong visa
  • Investment Visa, what it is and who its for.
  • Comparing an Investment visa to an Employment visa to a Student visa, and a Tourist visa. Putting it all together, which one is for who, and why.
  • Those Hong Kong companies in Mainland China (Like me) or in Southeast Asia or other countries, how they are treated
  • Diving Deeper into the Investment visa for entrepreneurs and small to medium sized businesses
  • Newbie tip for a Foreigner in USA or Europe looking to make the move to Hong Kong to startup.

People / Companies Mentioned in this Episode

Episode Length: 21:44

Podcast Transcription

Below we had this podcast converted to text, as it is a top listened episode, enjoy!

Introduction: Welcome to the Global From Asia podcast, where the daunting process of running an international business from Hong Kong is broken down into straight up actionable advice and now your host, Michael Michelini.

Mike: Okay. Thank you everyone for tuning in to Global from Asia episode 4. I’m here with Steve Barnes from Hong Kong visa center. Thank you for coming, Steve.

Steve: Mike, it’s my pleasure entirely.

Mike: Okay. Great! So let’s just jump right in. Maybe you could introduce yourself and your company to our listeners today.

Steve: Steve Barnes, been in Hong Kong for 27 years, started immigration practice in Hong Kong 20 yrs ago. I’ve been practicing ever since.

Mike: Okay, great! Yeah, I met you actually at a seminar where you were sharing your knowledge and appreciate you being on podcast for everybody today. It’s a hot topic, visa and immigration…

Steve: Yeah.

Mike: For expats here in Hong Kong. So I think a lot of our listeners are sometimes in Asia where they are coming through Hong Kong, doing their either startup or their entrepreneurial endeavors as a small business or medium sized business. What do you kinda advice them for immigration or visas in Asia or in Hong Kong specifically?

Steve: Well, I’m just telling that my expertise is Hong Kong. I’m gonna limit my comments to Honey Kong, it is an immigration opportunity for anybody who want to established a joint business here but effectively, if you’re a foreign national and you want to reside in Hong Kong to promote, pursue your business activity, you need to make an application for an investment visa, which is an employment visa a credit cases on you undertaking an active investment in Hong Kong and probability test. Together this institution show that you are in a position to make a substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong. Now, in many ways, everyone asking how long is visa strings, right? But there are certain things that run a bit advice around every investment visa application that goes on to get approved. The things that you need to show through your planning and through your, through early months of your operation that you are in a position to create local employment opportunities. Don’t get any local jobs on day 1. If you have a business plan that you put into immigration department for investment visa application and there is no opportunity to locally create a local employment, then you’re going to travel together and the second thing that the immigration department are looking for, a suitable business premises and there is a premises that kind of vibe for who you are and implementation direct going to time of your plan. You can kick off with a mere virtual office, which you borrow to cheap place, but the expectation is, then your course, sooner or later, once your business plan arrived at point where you’re hiring your first employee. That first employee will have some more sensible to report, to work to each day, because you can’t expect this person to going that, fulfill their employment duties where employee from your kitchen table or a spare bedroom so no matter how economically to have any kind of bring some quality time, place for your employees to work, you need time to spare and prepare the pre-requisite for a proper engine course. The 3rd leg of approvability still is actually divided into two parts, the first is cash and the second is resources. Cash million dollar question everybody asked me is literally how much cash you need. It all depends on the circumstances. in my experience, if you have less, less than 500,000 Hong Kong dollars, you may find that your application could be compromised, so deem to be weak especially with the other aspect than your plan is a little bit marginal but if you got a half a million or more, it’s reasonable to achieve that you can go on, to expect the consideration of the immigration positively approved rather than negatively think if you haven’t enough cash. So half a million can do it but I’ve seen in application they approved less cash as well but it’s not hard and fast. The trick is to understand that you shouldn’t be really thinking that the immigration department gonna buy into your startup laying type activity which is fine without at least having some cash because you know, laying doesn’t mean cashless, laying means having a money and spending the right kind of money so that’s an important consideration. The max and the more have the issue, it is swiping very smartly got to eye level funding so that’s always good. So that deals with cash and the other element is resources, Now resources are usually all the kind of things that are driving you to make a decision to pursue investment will come in the first place. So if you got a bit of code and you already developed, you wanna use new investment in Hong Kong to be able to build on that. The fact you’ve got a basic version of your product written already. It’s a resource for first of your application if you’re coming to Hong Kong and youre general trading, and you’ve got some kind of clientele that are already in place, that’s all good. Any other resource will allow the immigration department to objectively conclude that your business, if you use those resources together with the cash that you’ve got will eventually go on to results in a solidly and commercial enterprise, that’s the challenge.

Mike: Okay, got it. Thank you so much, Steve. So I just like to recap. He mentioned 3 points. That you’re going to employ local Hong Kong residence or Hong Kong people in the business.

Steve: Anybody in Hong Kong includes lawful employable but without further promiscuous of the immigration department

Mike: Lawfully employable.

Steve: Those people are account as well for persons for the purposes of local employment

Mike: Okay, got it. And that was not to be immediate but yeah to have convincible, clear playing that you will do that. I mean what time of year, 1 year?

Steve: That’s what your plans is, right? I always say to clients, “dont think about structuring your business around immigration, think about structuring your business and ask yourself actually what does this business works for immigration purposes and you will find that there is a quite close-call relation doing business that you will expect to be successful`and those businesses which immigration department approved.”

Mike: Got it. Okay. And then second point is the office, for when you’re employing the workers that is suitable location.

Steve: Suitable environment for them to work. That’s correct, yes.

Mike: And the 3rd is the cash and the resources. I think I just like to kinda some like convert to dollars when we talk, so he’s saying, of course it is always hard, I knew everyone asking how much money.

Steve: Let’s say $75000 – $80000 US dollars into Hong Kong business bank account. Interesting there is you don’t actually need to have all the money in the business bank account. You can have enough money in the Hong Kong business bank account to finance first 6 months of cash flow, and the rest of the funds is you can attest in your personal account anywhere in the world. So you can show you’ve got the money ready to deployment into the business. You need loan those funds by the way then efficiently through at least 2 years it means before you make out a purchase so the best part would good confident proof that you are not just borrowed money and shot fine it back which is always just the perks of visa application. They all know the tricks. They’ve done it.

Mike: Yeah, I can imagine. Okay. So those are the 3 main points. I kinda a lil bit follow up the resources, so code, I mean your degree, or like education…

Steve: Yeah, your service, yourself is also a resource, your background, what you bring into, you got to have a good track record and business in the past, if it becomes successful, they come through all those types of businesses. All that stuff.

Mike: Okay. So then I think some people used a trick of employment visa even though maybe they are not familiar or for a small business. I know you don’t that more greyer.

Steve: This is an old guess not. People think that you can somehow separate ownership from your business vehicle and become a third party and also an employee, You can’t. So during the currency of the application if its a new business situation, you’ve come to this interaction, that the existing composed interaction they’ll going to look to say who the owners and director of the channel is are. i would say that you putting yourself as an employee but you’re actually own the company and director of the company. You expected on how you dresses up. They are going to comply the investment visa probability test here. that’s the hard to test of substantial contribution to the economy rather than the lesser test which is do you personally possess special skills and and expected knowledge that are not already available in hong kong . So your personal skills in the contacts of business that your shares it will be seeing merely as a resource and they will apply an investment visa approval test on you but if you’re making the application for an employment visa, and you don’t have an interest in the business and then address you will just apply special skills and obviously, experience to anyone move so much to the ability of the business to substantial contributions to the economy of Hong Kong.

Mike: Got it. So there’s a 3rd option I heard of, student visa?

Steve: Well, student visa will get you on ground of Hong Kong but you not lawfully employable, you can’t join a business of your own based on Hong Kong, you can only study and thats it.

Mike: Okay, okay. Thank you for that. Lets, so we talked about, this is kinda recap, I think there’s a three even four I mean, technically there’s a tourist visa, to make on your passport. I am on my US passport holder. I have 90 days stay.

Steve: Yeah.

Mike: So I actually never legally work in Hong Kong. I’m an offshore Hong Kong company.

Steve: RIght.

Mike: So, I sometimes visit Hong Kong, sometimes working up a coworking space, gather some meetings. I’m okay, right?

Steve: Well, they say, it’s all about residing. So if you, as I know you are living in China but you spent most of your time in Hong Kong and pursue some business you establish here and your status is visitor, if your intentions to reside, it’s crystallize, then visiting days are just actually suitable in various before, because you’re effectively directing, controlling, employees of your company and visiting is not what it intend to do. the visitation is supposedly to come, interaction with Hong kong as a regular visitor and you gonna depart again. So, when you end up spending a great deal of time in your visiting days status instead in reality your intention is to reside is crystallized then you need to change your status from visitor to investment that you’re running in Hong Kong.

Mike: I understand. So, yeah. I mean, it’s actually complicated for me, so we talked about it, i think the correct way is, I, as entrepreneur and I wanna reside in Hong Kong as an investment visa.

Steve: Absolutely. You need to incorporate a company, get a business registration, you need to have a really good business plan which doesn’t actually need to be reflective in form of document cause in many ways immigration department normal one want to register their business plan that you might have write to an ipad. So if you’re self funding your business, there’s no formal need of business plan that might be a good practice to crystallize your thoughts and the immigration department will look at your stories as whole. They need to see that you got all the resources that you just discussed. They need to be satisfied that there is no security objection to you being granted decision to reside in Hong Kong to employ your business plan. When you have a good story, you carry can the arguments, you can tickle the bosses and you got the right level of money and there’s no security reason for you not being granted a permission you’re looking for, there’s no reason to expect, the immigration department will give you what you need.

Mike: Okay ,time frame normally?

Steve: 6 – 8 months.

Mike: 6 – 8.

Steve: 4 – 6 months, I’m sorry.

Mike: 4 -6 months.

Steve: If you’re not a resident in Hong Kong, you live somewhere else like, you do, when you want to make an application it’s going to take 4 – 6 months. If you presently reside in Hong Kong and you’re actually working for another employer and you want to stop working for another employer and start up for yourself, you still need to pass in investment visa probability test. Thus an existing residents that application dealt with different section of immigration department. It applies the same criteria but it’s a different team that handles the work. And because you’re an existing residents, that thing will finalize your application 6-8 weeks not 4 -6 months.

Mike: Okay, got it.

Steve: Make sense?

Mike: Yes. Thank you so much. So yeah, to kinda recap. Even if, so if you are working for a company in Hong Kong and you’re a resident of Hong Kong, when you wanna start your own business, apply for an investment visa, it’s a little bit shorter a month, two month and a half, still have to the money in your control.

Steve: Yep.

Mike: Either a company account or personal accounts.

Steve: Yep.

Mike: But if you’re doing it offshore or like me on China or others in Southeast Asia or West or as a visitor, so then if I came on 90 days stay and i’m staying in a hotel.

Steve: You can apply for guest status while you’re here but the immigration department dont allow the fact that you have a pending investment visa application to somehow advantages you in relation to 90 days of your stay. You have to leave before the 90 days are up and make a re-entrance some station if you want to comeback as a visitor before the immigration department approve your investment visa application.

Mike: Got it and really, really viable information, Steve. So again, I like to always ask on this talks. One kind of tip for newbie listener. I think a lot maybe don’t have the 500,000 Hong Kong Dollar but they are educated hustler entrepreneur. What kind of information would you give them?

Steve: Well, bear in mind that the visa class by definition called for active investment. So the fact that you may be a viable entrepreneur and you can you know, duck, dive and wave above by the best of it, that’s all well and good but you gotta understand that immigration department applies to the security of you that are mandate to make sure that they don’t approve foreigners who set up business here that have access to red label broker credit terms that you can find in Hong Kong and basically you know spend your way to disaster, trail of Hong Kong creditors on your way so even though you may have,maybe you made a license peripheral stuff to crack on with it, with very little capital using all year, argument and natural skills the immigration department don’t actually do not place a great deal creations on that. You still have to have a body of cash behind you to support yourself while doing this.

Mike: Got it. It kinda gives me a followup question. So if I answer investment visa issued, do I have more advantages on business?

Steve: Well, once you get investment visa, the immigration will approve you initially for 12 months to undertake the work you’re planning to do to promote that business as reflected in your business planning that you’ve told the immigration department is going to do on how you gonna spending your time in the context of that company and that company so you can get approval but just to do that business nothing else. Now, if opportunity put the things developed that perhaps you need to private half way through you often do something else because 1st activity is not working, that’s okay. Bear in mind that some point you even have to report that to the immigration but you won’t have to report that, the point where you privative but if, as they usually do this type of start up scenario, they grant you an approval subject to business reviews at the end of the first 12 months, so then the first 12 months immigration department will going to lift up the full and everything you’re doing in the business so if you privative in the meantime you have to explain to them. The more importantly they’re looking to see that through the lackluster performance that you have in fact been engaged in the activities that they can objectively conclude, willing to you to make a substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong. So you get the approval to performance, saying ok, we like your story, we believe you, see to it at 12 months mark, 80% of new business situations do not very well capitalized, tend to get approve subject to business reviews 12 months will lift up. If they do not subject to business reviews, if they really like your story from get go, then you will get what I call a freeing clear approval which means that the 12 months mark, the process to get your first extension is really just manage to get bags and you can expect that you’ll can go on to get 3 limits of stays and then you go and get numbers 1- 2, 2 -3 years pass which gives you a potential full 8 years in Hong Kong, to managing, directing, control that business. At the seventh or most people do taking constant history in temporary residents here, they want to application for permanent residency and up there absorbs same responsibility to have keep working in that business because this is a permanent residency and actually you can employ or engage your own business without further reference in the immigration department.

Mike: Got it. Wow! That’s a lot of information. So just to recap, after you get an investment visa, even if you passed, another 12 months later you’re gonna have to fly, go back,

Steve: There’s an 80% chance that they will subject your initial approval to business review.

Mike: Okay and then if you passed that usually, you have 2 years.

Steve: And if marginally, strike through that 12 months then you’d expect to business review, if you have created local jobs if you don’t have much cash in the tank. If you have been able to meet your revenue projection whatever it is, you know, just be in reasonable milestone in the first 12 months. If you have achieved that, you may find immigration department really extends you up to 2 years but then they can give you 12 months and that is subject to business approval again at the end first 12 months. But if you have a good story and slippy on the text phase and halfway supply of cash there’s no reason to expect that they respond and they will say no based in my experience.

Mike: Great! Okay. Lastly, there’s a lot of listeners that wanted to contact you. We’ll put your website upon the website too but what’s your…

Steve: Oh! We have a number of websites. We have a website which is called the HongKongVisahandbook.com and that’s basically our foundation content. It’s a DIY definitive guide to Hong Kong process. No singing, No Dancing completely free of charge, no registration required and textbook if you will, although it got videos, screencast, podcast, templates, the whole shooting match, all completely free of charge, hongkongvisahandbook.com. Tthen I do daily immigration content of the site blog called hongkongvisageeza.com and I post on that 4, 5 actually on my mind 7 times a week i don’t usually plan this so that feeds you sorts of updates of information, all completely free charge.

Mike: Great! Yes, it’s really great and we will linked that on golbalfromasia.com/episode4.

Steve: I have a, I’m gonna be Shenzhen, a week on Friday, you might put on your show notes at the boathouse. I think.

Mike: Oh, yeah.

Steve: I’m giving a talk. Oh! Not Friday, Thursday it is.

Mike: Okay.

Steve:At the boathouse, yeah.

Mike: Yeah.

Steve: So perhaps if you put the link in your show, the people listening to me, I’ll talk about my favorite subject live.

Mike: Okay. You’re very passionate and you’re also good Internet Marketer. Your blog and your content and your handbooks, you also know a lot of listeners are Internet Marketers too. So we like the, you are also up in the game.

Steve: Our marketing was built in by design and our product is driven from marketing of inspector.

Mike: Great! That’s definitely the right way to do it. So alright. I guess if there is any last points right before we end here.

Steve: Right. I wanna, just so basically, carries anyone that is thinking about Hong Kong to understand that Hong Kong is very open. W are set and very welcoming and what might have been your early experience from the immigration agency if been to either Thailand or China, don’t expect that you’ll have that kind of experience in Hong Kong. We have very rule of law, incorruptible public service at the immigration department. We have a customer service mandate, very open, accessible and friendly but there’s a lot of stuffs that you can have access to because the immigration department play the role of gamekeeper and coucher at the same time at their website is designed to inform and not give you advice and the immigration department shows to inform and decide not to advice. So a lot of people look at Hong Kong immigration department website, they look at investment visa category and they say “Oh just get to put these document, fill this forms and i’m home and hopes.” It doesn’t work like that. There’s a 4 -6 months interrogative process where you have to show that you can make that substantial contribution to the economy of Hong Kong and if you can do it, clean and honest enough, you got the money, you got the will, you made a right entrepreneurial stuff, you have 95% chance of getting what you’re looking for and that’s how it works.

Mike: Great! Okay. Thank you so much. I’m sure we, I enjoyed you talk a lot. Thanks, thanks a lot.

To get more info about running a business via Hong Kong please visit our website at www.globalfromasia.com that’s www.globalfromasia.com. Also be sure to subscribe to our iTunes feed. Thanks for tuning in.

Setting Up Your Bookkeeping in Hong Kong

This article is originally found here: https://www.globalfromasia.com/hongkongbookkeeping/

Many entrepreneurs cringe when they hear the word bookkeeping and accounting in Hong Kong. To be frank, I used to, and in some ways still do. But rather than running away from it and hoping it will go away – it’s best to suck it up and take charge.

Today we’ll go through the thought process of organizing your bookkeeping for your HK Limited company.

Get a cup of coffee, jot down some notes, and get inspired. Now let’s go!

What Your Business Type Matters For Bookkeeping

Not all bookkeeping is the same. There are a few different criteria to consider:

  • Products Business, Service Business, or Mix of Both? Are you a business that earns money by selling products (hard goods), or are you making money by providing a service. You can sell online or offline, as in bookkeeping terms it doesn’t matter (of course the technical method for online and offline is a bit different).
  • B2B or B2C? Buzz words you probably hear quite a bit. B2B means you are selling from your business to another business (business to business). This means that your customers (oftentimes I call them clients when they are a business account) are companies, not an individual. B2C is the opposite, you’re selling to end consumers, often called retail customers. These people are individuals making decisions for their own benefit and use, or as a gift for a special someone. You might say “well, I do both B2B and B2C”, so don’t get stressed out, but be aware that you are doing both.
  • What Is Your Industry? Various industries have a lot of different ways to have their businesses operate. Normally when you do accounting, it will only really let you put in 1 or 2 different industries in the system.

Create a Chart of Accounts

Cringe. Yes, this is overwhelming for newbies. But this is the center of your business. Here is how your accounting and business will flow. Many accounting software packages will help auto-generate them based on your industry and other questions you answered above. Yet I would still recommend working with your bookkeeper to ensure nothing is missing.

Here are typical accounts that you would list on a chart of accounts:

Income

Services
Parts / products sold
Sales write offs

Cost of Goods Sold

Materials
Labor
Outside services/Subcontractors
Supplies
Small tools

Expenses

Advertising
Marketing costs
Inventory used for promotion
Automobile Expense
Bank Service Charges
Cleaning
Contributions
Depreciation Expense
Discounts Taken
Dues and Subscriptions
Insurance
Subaccounts:
Auto Insurance
Business Liab & Contents
Disability Insurance
Life
Medical

Interest Expense
Licenses and Permits
Maintenance & repairs
Meals & Entertainment
Merchant credit card fees
Office Expenses

Subaccounts
Computer expenses
Postage and Delivery
Office Supplies

Other Office Expenses
Payroll Taxes
Professional Fees
Rent
Salaries -Office
Salaries – Officers
Telephone
Travel
Utilities

Other Income

Interest Income

Other Expenses

Don’t stress too much if you miss something or want to remove something later. Of course it’s ideal to have it all set from the get-go, but you can go back to this as your business develops.

Add Your Products & Services

Once you have the chart of accounts setup, now it is time to add in the data you’ll be working with to buy and sell. This is a strategic event and you should do it before you start to enter all your transactions.

You can use the template spreadsheet in Quickbooks and download it to your desktop. There you can match up the products in your shopping cart or your service offering page. The more details you put in here the better, as it will save you time from entering it one by one each time you put in a new transaction.

List Out Client and Supplier Accounts

Next you will want to write out your customer accounts and supplier accounts.

Now this is when B2B or B2C comes into play. If you’re doing B2C, yes it’s a lot of transactions! You will not manually type in each individual’s name, address, and contact details in your accounting system. That is insane! So you can call them “Retail customer” as a general journal entry. Another way is you will integrate your ecommerce or POS system to your accounting software.

If you’re doing B2B, you may want to spend time putting in your bigger clients company name, contact person, address, email, and phone number. This way when you create an invoice to charge them for a product or large product order, it will auto-fill. And you can also run reports to see who your top clients are, as well as those who are late on paying you.

Do the same thing for supplier side. This is again up to you how detailed you want to get and how many suppliers you want to input. If you are buying from a supplier on a regular business and the monthly or yearly amount is significant, take care. I would recommend to invest the time to put their full company contact details there.

You can also use an Excel spreadsheet and then if you have software bulk import it to save time.

Start Entering Transactions

Now that you have the charts setup and the client/supplier information prepared, next you should start to put in some transactions.

This is where the magic happens! There are a few ways to get you transactions into the system:

Manually Create Invoices and Purchase Orders

This is the traditional way, and if you’re a B2B business, might be the main way you will enter your business transaction flow.

When you want to receive money, you will create an invoice. You can then export it as a PDF and email it to the client. Many times accounting software has the ability to send the email right inside the system. As you have the customer information already entered in it’s easy! The invoice will auto-complete their contact details in the invoice.

If you have products or services already created, you can then choose them from the dropdown menu. Either it will auto-fill the price and description, or you can manually type in what you need.

On the supplier side, for the most part it’s the same thing, except you make a PO (purchase order). If you have their contact details and what you’re buying pre-defined this is fast as well.

Once you make the payment, or the client pays the invoice, you can mark it as paid, and it will balance in the accounting system.

Import via CSV (Excel Spreadsheets)

Most online banks now allow you to export your transactions. Normally they let you do as a PDF, as a Excel, or as a CSV (comma separated values) file.

Most accounting software systems work with CSV format. Let’s hope your online banking system supports it.

You’ll then download the file from the online account and the import it to your accounting system.

You may need to make sure the “mapping” is correct. This is where the “First Name” field in the excel spreadsheet connects to Fname in the other system (it’s what the database calls first name, for example).

It is nerve-racking at first, and normally it will ask you for your confirmation before doing the import. I’ve had some messy times trying to undo imports when the mapping was wrong – so be a bit alert, especially the first couple times you do this.

Automatically Pull From Online Banking & Merchant Accounts

Are you a B2C business, selling on Amazon, eBay, or other e-commerce shopping carts? There is no way you can have the time to have a team member entering in all these transactions. That’s because you’re doing high volume (you and I both hope!) and making tons of money selling lower priced items.

This is where the magic of technology comes into play!

You’ll look into integrating your business with an accounting software solution. Check if it works with Paypal, eBay, and whatever e-commerce provider you have. The more the better, so that you can avoid having to deal with

Make Sure It’s In Sync

Once you do link up the various third party integrations, you’ll need to check on a regular basis to make sure they stay connected.

Why do they disconnect? This is for your security, and different systems have different lengths of times. The better ones will let you set the length depending on which service you integrate with – for example 30 days, 90 days, 1 year, or indefinitely.

But alas, all these systems integrating together each one has their own preference. Just be ready to get an alert that you need to re-authorize the connection. Your bookkeeper may help check it for you, but it is still best you as the owner and director check it on a monthly basis, or even more often.

Pick Reports You Want To Read

Now, time to reap the rewards of keeping your books in order – reports! Quickbooks and any accounting software loves to take the data you’ve been entering it and give you a bunch of summary reports to see.

Some of the more popular reports you may access:

  •  P&L (Profit and Loss)

    This is the most important one in my opinion. This will take the total amount of each transaction classification and then take a total for the time period you are running the report for. Looking at this report will see if you have made or lost money during that period.

    It’s hard to hide a loss here, if you’re sales are less than your expenses, it will be an ugly and scary red loss or a negative number.

    But this is why having books will help! Double click on one of the numbers and it will run a report of all the transactions there. See where you’re spending your hard earned dollars. Knowing where your inflow and outflows go is essential in the success of your business. Don’t delegate this to anyone, this is the key role of a business owner.

    Tip – I like to run this report for the past 12 months, and to have it divided up by month. That way I can quickly see which months the business is making money, losing money, or has high / low margin times.

  •  Balance Sheet

    Another critical report, this shows you how much cash you have in the bank. How much debt do you owe? Who owes you money. This report will show you how much money you would walk away with if you closed up shop today. That is, paid off your debt holders and took out all the money from your bank. There is also Shareholder’s Equity, which you consider as intrinsic value of the business. It is taking A-L (assets minus liabilities) and becomes the third part of the balance sheet.

    This report will show you how “strong” your business is if things start to get difficult going forward.

  •  Aged Receivables

    Do you let your clients pay you later? Such as Net 30 terms, which means they pay you a month after they receive the goods. Then you should keep a report like this bookmarked. Here it will show you which of your customers are late paying you and maybe get you off your butt and making calls to remind them to send the money in! The longer it waits, normally the lower the chances are of you getting it. Business moves fast, and maybe they will shut down – the more old receivables on this report, the more nervous you should be!

  •  Expense Reports

    Here is where you should look at the monthly breakdown. Check which vendors are getting a lot of your money. Also look at the report by type of transaction, such as office expenses. Maybe don’t be such a detail freak that you count how many reams of paper you bought, but at least be aware what your average cost is on those accounts. And question some people sometimes, keep them in check. Make sure your team knows you are running these reports and analyzing the numbers. Also shows them you are being responsible and care!

  •  Budget vs Actual

    A cool feature of accounting software is you can put in your monthly budgets. If you have an expected amount of money you’ll be spending each month, or a target for your sales team, put it in here. In this report, you can get a better idea if your company is staying on track of what it said at the beginning of the year. Way off track? Schedule an executive meeting scheduled ASAP! Decide do you lower your forecasts going forward or is the team able to bring things back up to where they predicted?

I’m sure you’ll have more reports you’ll want to run. Each business is different. The main idea is you should have a good grasp of what money is coming in, what’s going out, who owes you money. Check on a regular basis and ensure you are on track from what you predicted at the beginning of the fiscal year.

Keeping Things In Order For a Smooth Auditor’s Report

Another benefit of keeping on top of your books throughout the year is when you get your Profit Tax Return from the HK IRD, you’ll be ready. Just run the latest reports from the software and submit to your HK CPA auditor.

Not many people enjoy digging into the numbers, but we need to take responsibility as business owners. Hope today motivated you.

Any Questions or Need Help?

So that’s all we have for today. Get to it, and start entering those transactions into your favorite accounting software. Need help? We offer full bookkeeping services and you can check out our plans and pricing.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to leave a comment below. Let us know how you are keeping on top of your books.

Why You Need a Hong Kong Company Credit Card

This article is originally found at here.

Company or thinking about registering one? Do you buy things online too? For your company, not personal. Right.

Then you’ll need to get a business credit card.

First, There Aren’t Debit Cards, Just EPS/ATM Cards

In Hong Kong, they don’t have what we know of as “debit cards”. It would make life a whole lot easier for us though, and I may not even need to make today’s guide post.

A debit card is a card that has the Visa / Mastercard logo on it, and you can buy things online just like a credit card. The difference is it takes that cash out of your bank account that the debit card associated with it.

Nope, not available in Hong Kong, for what reason, I’m not sure.

So you will get a “card” when you get your bank account, but it won’t have a Visa / Mastercard logo on it. Instead it will have no “credit card” logo on the front.

What logos are on it? If you flip it over, you’ll see:

  • EPS
  • Unionpay

Now, EPS is electronic payment system. This you can use to buy things at merchants who accept EPS. This I have only found at shops inside of Hong Kong borders. You then swipe this card and enter your ATM PIN code and they directly debit the cash from your bank account.

UnionPay, this one is a Chinese version of Visa / MasterCard. But in the case of the bank account card you get with the new account, you can’t use this as a “credit card”. Instead, this means you have to find an ATM network that has the UnionPay logo. There is where you can use the ATM to withdraw cash from your bank.

Unionpay network is expanding everywhere, but please keep this in mind and look for ATMs that have it. Also, make sure you turn on the overseas ATM limit, so you can withdraw cash when outside HK. And also make sure you have HKD (Hong Kong dollars) in the checking or savings account. This is because you can’t take cash out of other currencies at the ATM, anywhere in the world. It will always take out from the HKD account (yes, even if you’re in Thailand and have Thai Baht in the account).

OK, well we’re getting in a bit deeper than I planned for the “default” card explanation. Just remember you get this when you open your bank account in Hong Kong, but you can’t use it to buy things online.

Get a Credit Card So You Can Buy Things Online

Yes, so if you open a Hong Kong company and live overseas, you’ll notice later that you can’t buy things online with your bank card. As we just covered, it will not have the Visa / MasterCard logo on it.

Next you will then apply for the credit card, so you can buy things online – in your business name. I’ve met many blog readers and podcast listeners who get the bank account opened, fly back to Thailand, get approved. Which is great. But then they realize a couple weeks later they can’t use the card to do online business.

So if you’re doing business around the world, you’ll need to find a Hong Kong based credit card for our business – as 99.9% likely you’ll need to buy things online.

Related – we have a podcast about getting credit cards for your HK company with Chris Gormley.

The other option. If you have a company overseas for your operations there, you can keep your expenses in that company and on that company credit card. Then keep the Hong Kong company as a trading company, only for bank transfers.

Try To Keep Your Business Expenses Separate From Personal

Another reason you’ll want a Hong Kong credit card is that you have a personal credit card for your own life. Yes, you have a life and aren’t a walking company. That would be weird.

Bookkeepers and accountants hate it when you mix up your personal and business expenses. Governments hate it even more. If you do ever get an inquiry from the Hong Kong IRD (Internal Revenue Department), let’s just hope you don’t. If talking about your business expenses and start whipping out personal credit card statements – watch out. That can be the beginning of a long, long back and forth discussion.

This is another reason why you should get a business credit card. At least, have a separate credit card for your personal expenses and another credit card dedicated only for your business expenses.

The Credit Card Will be in Hong Kong Dollars (HKD)

Whether you like it or not, Hong Kong works in Hong Kong Dollar currency. Sure, the government locks the HKD to USD at about 7.78 HKD/ 1 USD. But when you buy something, you’ll see it on your credit card statement as a HKD amount. Well it will show the USD amount (or whichever foreign currency) on the left column, and on the right it will show the HKD amount.

So yes, you’ll pay in HKD, and then if you have USD in your bank, you’ll need to convert that to HKD to pay the bill. That means you can do 2 foreign exchanges for 1 transaction, the first for buying the goods in USD, and the other for converting to HKD to pay the HKD denominated bill.

While this sounds like a lot of FX exchanges (and spreads to pay banks), this will still help you keep all your income and expenses in 1 company account. Will make accounting and bookkeeping much easier, and keep all business activity in one company.

The other option is, have a credit card in another country and wire money over to pay it. Or have multiple companies in multiple countries and pay the bills from one company to another, etc etc. You get what I mean, that is another overhead and expense.

There Is An Annual Fee, But Can Get It Waived

There is an annual fee for the HSBC card. It’s about 125 USD. Yes, you can get a refund if you call and ask. Just put a reminder to do so!

Points and Benefits

There are points added to the account but nothing like US credit cards. I got like a wallet one time or something. The big benefit I use is the free airport lounge pass at HK airport – take a shower, get buffet, grab a nap. Not sure how often you come through HK international airport?

Main Benefit

What’s the benefit of picking up the card? I’m assuming I’ll get a debit card with the bank, do you use the CC for expenditures to make it easy on accounting? or rack up some nice points for anything?

The benefit of the card is to keep your company expenses in the company accounts. The points aren’t as good as in USA and other countries, but you do get to go to the HK airport lounge free when traveling. There are points but not so great.

Need a Security Deposit

The credit card we recommend is a secured credit card. That means that you need to put a deposit of the matching amount the balance is. The lowest amount if 10,000 HKD (about $1,200 USD). If you want to have a higher balance, you need to have a higher security deposit.

If accepted, they will mail it to your correspondence address 3 weeks after they approve your bank account.

the credit card security deposit: Is that locked into the credit card and I only get it back when / if we close the account? Or does this deposit somehow become ‘available funds’?

The security deposit cannot be for operations. You can get the deposit back by closing the card. After requesting to close the credit card, it will take 60 days to release the security deposit. Which will then post to your HSBC HK HKD account. So keep that bank account open!

The “security deposit” on the credit card itself… I’m not familiar with the mechanics of this. Does this mean it’s a card that you “load up” with cash and have access to the cash you’ve “loaded”? I.E. You put 10k on the card, and can spend that 10k. Or, is the security deposit permanently “held”?

The security deposit will not be able to be used for operations. It is essentially locked in a time security deposit account accruing something like 0.0001% interest. You can get the deposit back by closing the card. After requesting to close the credit card, it will take 60 days to release the security deposit, which will then be posted to your HSBC HK HKD account.

Unsecured Credit Card Is Possible

Don’t want to lock up your cash in a time security deposit? Yea, we understand.

The banks do offer unsecured credit cards – but that application process is a bit more stringent.

First, what’s an unsecured credit card? It is a credit card that most people are familiar with! Its where you apply, and then get a credit line for X amount of money. Say its only $1,000USD. This means that the client can spend a thousand bucks and not pay it back. Sure, it will hurt their credit score and they won’t get approved for another card – but it is possible the bank could not get that money back.

So its unsecured, they don’t have your house, or cash, or other assets to claim (take) if you don’t pay it back.

So in Hong Kong, this is riskier – it’s not USA and they don’t look at your American credit score. They don’t know who you are and if you don’t pay it back, maybe you’ll just never come back to Hong Kong and they’ll have no way to even “mark your account” in a credit system.

This is why it’s more difficult, in general, to get credit in Asia. There aren’t these credit bureaus with established systems like in America.

So you can try to get an unsecured card in Hong Kong – but you should have some kind of track record in Hong Kong. And almost 100% sure you will need a Hong Kong residential address. They just feel safer if you live in the Hong Kong boundaries.

Cancelling Your Secured Credit Card

So, it’s always good to think ahead, to think with the end in mind. So what happens when you want to close the account? I hope you’re not starving and waiting for this security deposit to come back.

It will take 60 days to credit back to your account. Yup – 2 months. So there are ways to speed it up a bit, pay some fines and get it in a month. But still a long time. So you’ll need some patience.

Best to just not expect to be able to use this security deposit for quite some time.

Hope This Helped! Consider Letting Us Help You?

We hope this guide helped you out today. These are questions our banking clients always ask us, so why not share it with everyone.

If you want us to work alongside you through this credit card application process, we have a service just for you! Check it out.

Also, have you applied yet for a credit card? Any issues or questions, we’d love to hear from you in the comments. Let others learn from some of the issues you’ve had!

Tap & Go Prepaid Credit Card in Hong Kong

This is the site:
http://tapngo.com.hk/chi/index.html

In terms of shopping or paying, there is no greater thing than a cashless transaction – it is fast, easy, and accurate in terms of paying the exact amount; it has made online shopping easier, and it is safer. Since Hong Kong banks do not offer debit cards, and you may find credit cards a little too complicated, there’s another option called Tap & Go.

Tap & Go is basically an e-wallet / prepaid mobile MasterCard that can be accessed at your fingertips through your smartphone.

Application for Tap & Go offers 3 plans with different eligibility requirements and features

TYPE A B C
Age All ages 11 years old or above 18 years old or above
Supporting Documentation & Information None valid Hong Kong/Macau identity card or Macau/PRC passport or Exit-entry Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau (a) A copy of your valid Hong Kong/Macau identity card or Macau/PRC passport or Exit-entry Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau; and (b) A copy of your permanent residential address
Account Balance Limit HK$3,000 HK$38,000 (HK$3,000 if aged between 11 and 17) HK$38,000
Daily Aggregated Total Deposit HK$25,000 HK$38,000 (HK$25,000 if aged between 11 and 17) HK$38,000
Annual Aggregated Total Deposit HK$25,000 HK$100,000 (HK$25,000 if aged between 11 and 17) Unlimited
Maximum Account Opening One (1) per Hong Kong/ Macau/ PRC mobile number 1 5

(Source)

How to Use Tap & Go

To use Tap & Go with your mobile phone, your operating system must be iOS 7 / Android 4.2 or higher for you to be able to download the app either from Google Play or App Store.

Once you have downloaded the app, you have to purchase a Tap & Go Card through a designated branch or retailer. The easiest way to acquire a card is at 7-Eleven, which is basically available on almost every corner in Hong Kong.

To activate your account, you will have to link the card with your mobile app. In this step, you will have to submit/upload an identification card using your phone’s camera.

Here are links to more detailed tutorials on how to use Tap & Go:

1. Pay with Tap & Go
2. Top Up / Bank Transfer
3. Withdrawal
4. Paybuddy (Peer-to-Peer transfer)

Tap & Go Advantages

  1. No annual fee
  2. Can be used in 7-Eleven, 1010, csl, etc.
  3. The card is customizeable; they have a limited promo called Selfie-a-Card wherein you can choose any photo to use as the design of your card — it could be a selfie. Cool, right?
  4. Peer-to-peer fund transfer
  5. Discounts at selected stores
  6. It enables you to settle payment anywhere worldwide or online via MasterCard® contactless technology embedded in the SIM or Tap & Go Card

Tap & Go Disadvantages

  1. Fees – $300 cancellation fee if you wish to close your account within 1 year from date of activation, and the refund for the remaining balance takes a maximum of 3 months to arrive. Moreover, if you do not use the card within 6 consecutive months, your account becomes dormant; hence, you will be charged a HK$10 maintenance fee every month.
  2. Unlike a debit card, there is no interest payable on the account
  3. Not many rewards

Tap & Go for Foreigners?

Based on their website, it says that as long as you are aged 11 and above and possess a Hong Kong/Macau identity card, you may be able to open and activate a Tap & Go card. Unfortunately, as per Tap & Go’s terms and conditions, a US citizen may not be qualified to open an account. See below for reference:

1. WHO CAN APPLY FOR TAP & GO

1.1 By activating for Tap & Go, you confirm and declare that you are not a US Person as defined in US Tax legislation or a U.S. taxpayer for any other reason, in particular, (i) you are not a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident or U.S. green card holder; (ii) you do not fulfill the “substantial presence test” in the U.S.; (iii) you are not born in the U.S.; and (iv) you do not have a mailing address or contact details in the U.S

If Tap & Go does not allow Americans to open an account, then that’s another addition to its disadvantages. Overall, it’s far less complicated than applying for a credit card in Hong Kong, so to me, Tap & Go could be a great alternative for cashless and online transactions.