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!

New Tax Laws for Foreigners in China

This post is originally found here: https://www.globalfromasia.com/china-global-tax/

China is the world’s largest manufacturer and it has the second largest economy next to the United States. For this reason, China plays an important role in the global economy. Unsurprisingly, many expats relocate to China for business purposes. China’s financial capital is very attractive that many expats move in for incredible opportunities. From a survey conducted by HSBC, an expat in China earns $170,970 average gross personal income per annum, compared to the global average expat income of $99,900. Interesting, right? However, taxation in China is very complex that many expats find it difficult to comprehend. Just recently, a draft amendment to the Individual Income Tax Law was proposed and expats will surely be affected when the basket of changes take effect. What’s in the draft law? And what are the new tax laws coming for expats in china? Read on to learn more.

China’s Draft Amendment to the Individual Income Tax Law

1. Revision on determining tax residency status. Foreign nationals who have physical presence in China for at least 183 days would become liable for Individual Income Tax (IIT), unlike before when non-residents have one full year year before he/she be subject to IIT. Its purpose is basically to protect national tax rights and interests. Whether the income is sourced inside China or not, the tax residency status will be based on how long an individual resided in the country.

2. New tax system, rates, taxable income brackets

Current IIT Law Draft Amendment
Categories Tax Rates Categories Tax Rates
Income from wages and salaries 3%-45% 7 brackets of progressive tax rates
Comprehensive
income
– 3%-45%
7 brackets of progressive
tax rates
– Adjusting the taxable
income brackets of lower
tax rates (i.e., 3%, 10%,
20% and 25%)
– Taxable income brackets
of higher tax rates
unchanged (i.e., 30%,
35% and 45%)
Income derived from
remuneration for personal services
20%- 40%
3 brackets of progressive
tax rates
Income derived from
remuneration for manuscripts
20%
Income derived from royalties 20%
Income derived from
production and business
operations by individual
industrial and commercial households
5%-35%
5 brackets of progressive
tax rates
Business operation
income
5%-35%
5 brackets of progressive
tax rates
– The minimum threshold
applicable to 35% tax rate
increased to RMB
500,000
Income derived from
contractual or leasing
operations of enterprises or institutions
5%-35%
5 brackets of progressive
tax rates
Category removed with relevant income
incorporated into comprehensive income or
business operation income respectively
Income from interest,
dividends and bonuses
20%
Unchanged
Income from lease of property
Income from transfer of
property
Contingent income
Other income

Source: PwC Global

3. Anti-avoidance Rule. Anti-tax avoidance rule was introduced in the draft law – wherein authorities are strengthening tax collection especially to individuals having cross border transactions and tax plans. Its main purpose is to avoid multinationals to transfer or move profits to affiliates in low-tax havens and to tighten the IIT’s overall application and enforcement.

4. Additional special expense deductions including children’s education, major illness medical expenses, continued education and housing loan interest and rent. Its purpose is to reduce the amount of income subject to income tax therefore raising the taxpayers’ income and boosting household consumption.

5. Tougher stance on foreign companies. Foreign companies should pay special attention to changes affecting the timing of the tax levy on foreign employees, foreign labor costs, contract profitability, and budgeting requirements, as well as the rippling effects they have on withholding and tax equalizations.

6. New Tax Brackets that would benefit middle and low-income groups.

Current Bracket (RMB) Proposed Bracket (RMB) IIT Rate Effect
< 1,500 <3,000 3% Widened
1,500 – 4,500 3,000 – 12,000 10% Widened
4,500 – 9,000 12,000 – 25,000 20% Widened
9,000 – 35,000 25,000 – 35,000 25% Narrowed
35,000 – 55,000 35,000 – 55,000 30% Unchanged
55,000 – 80,000 55,000 – 80,000 35% Unchanged
> 80,000 > 80,000 45% Unchanged

Source: China Briefing

Apparently, high-income earners don’t really benefit so much from this amendment. So, basically, if an expat in China earns USD170,970 average gross personal income per annum or around 95,000RMB per month, no matter where that income was sourced and regardless of where the payment is made, he/she would be subject to 45% IIT tax.

China is indeed a booming economy with unending opportunities. The proposed tax reform simply relieves the tax burden of small and medium sized enterprises as well as middle and low-income individuals while optimizing the business environment through higher consumption.

Disclaimer: if you’re an expat in China, it’s best to consult a taxation specialist in China to help you more understand the country’s upcoming overall tax amendment that is expected to take effect on January 2019.

Neat HK: A Solution for the Hong Kong Banking Nightmare?

Looking for a Hong Kong online business bank account that you can connect your Paypal and Stripe / Braintree merchant account to? Wouldn’t that be amazing, without the utter nightmare Hong Kong business owners are going through now begging these archaic banks to allow them to deposit their money.

Here at Global From Asia – we know the pain our entrepreneur and hard-working global business owners have been going through. As digital nomads and e-commerce sellers and FBA business owners, we feel the pain ourselves. This is why our clients for our corporate services enjoy working with us – we understand you.

And we know the biggest pain point for almost 2 years now has been – such a basic need – a business bank account solution in Hong Kong.

One with credit cards – for you and your staff. One that can link to your Paypal and Stripe.

We’ve been testing so many and talking to so many – and today we’re talking about one we’ve been following for years.

Neat.HK Business Banking for Online Business Owners

So I am focusing today on their business banking product – Neat Business Account. I know exactly what you guys are looking for – and here is a list of their features:

* Unique Account / IBAN number – you will have your own dedicated account number with Standard Chartered. This isn’t like some other solutions where you have a sub-account and need to put in your TT (telegraphic transfer) banking notes your sub-account number. This is a dedicated account number ONLY FOR YOU And your business. I’m not sure the technical way they got this – but this is the amazing part – that allows you to do the following

* Connect /Verify your Paypal Hong Kong – we have a Paypal Hong Kong guide that gets a lot of attention on how to verify your Paypal. You need a “unique” or dedicated IBAN number. This Neat Hong Kong business solution give you that – unlike other online / virtual banking solutions I have come across.

* Connect / Verify your Stripe HK or Braintree merchant account – similar to Paypal, you need a unique bank account in your company name in order to get Stripe and any other merchant account setup. Don’t worry – this will work here too. We have a full list of merchant account comparison here that is popular as well.

* Issue Company credit cards – You can order credit cards! Yes – finally – you can see a company credit card in your company name here in HK without having to sign your life away and deposit your life savings! Seriously, readers know it is hard to get a Hong Kong credit card.

* Deposit paper checks – many ask how to deposit checks (yes, Hong Kong does still use quite a bit of paper checks). This works too. You need to go to Standard Chartered Bank – in person – and deposit. Can’t do it at the ATM.

* English, Online Banking – and of course, it has online banking. Well, that is actually something we need to write as a bullet point, as some banks we are forced to work with in our partner corporate services agency, don’t have online banking. Or it takes forever to get issued. And the banking is in English.

I think this has huge potential, and I may finally be able to rest well at night when we get new clients for a Hong Kong company (read our Hong Kong registration guide here) setup and – yes – their request to get a local HK bank.

Big Plus – Don’t Need To Come To Hong Kong To Apply

Here is the big – big one – that I know our readers at Global From Asia will love – you can apply and get approved online. So now, once we get this moving smoother – we can help clients open a HK company and HK bank account without needing to fly here.

Can you say…

Game changer!?!

Wow, Hong Kong may be back open for business. It’s been a rocky road since March 2016 but we may be out of the ice age and entering normal business climate.

How I Came Across Neat

I met David Rosa, the founder of Neat.hk a couple years ago when they were in their early stages. He visited me in my TST office and we chatted about the struggles of banking in Hong Kong and Asia in general. I had been doing my podcast already for a couple years then and was helping clients open up companies and banking. I explained the utter nightmare it was to beg a bank like HSBC to please let us deposit money with them.

At that time Neat was focused on the consumer banking side (individual accounts) but he said once that was going he’d work on their business banking solution and let me know.

I also have gotten to know others on his team, and he had been merging with other local Hong Kong fintech startups I had been following.

It’s true – Global From Asia is a great blog and media source for Fintech in Hong Kong and Asia. So I am always getting startups trying to solve this nightmare banking issue find me and send me their new products and solutions.

It is my biggest pleasure to be able to blog about this and give everyone hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel and I really hope this disrupts these archaic banks who destroy small business owners livelihood.

Let’s give power back to the SME and let’s leverage online banking – who needs to visit a corporate banking branch anyway?

Can You Trust This New Fintech Startup?

As I have been telling clients about this new banking solution – some are still a bit nervous. A startup holding your funds is a big ask, not as simple as a social media app where you share what you ate for dinner.

True, I always have to disclose you need to use any financial solution at your own risk. But they are recognized in Hong Kong as an accredited Fintech company and work inside Cyberport. I should get him on the podcast as well.

Ready to go and get this new Hong Kong Business Banking solution? How To Signup?

So I probably have you on the edge of your seat (I hope!) and I have you excited to apply.

If you are starving and about to die of starvation as you have a HK company already and just need a freaking bank account – you can browse over to Neat Business Account and get on their waiting list. I do have a special code that can help you get expedited but am not allowing to link it publicly so if you’re a client of our corporate services division (Unipro) then talk to our client services department to get that going.

Don’t have a HK company yet and now feel more confident you can get a HK company and bank account together – then let’s work together. Check out our HKVIP package and let’s do some business together.

This may have just re-opened the doors to doing business in Hong Kong for online business owners. That plus the corporate tax rate has been dropped to 8.25% (from 16.5%) for SMEs with less than 2 million HKD in revenue. Ice age in HK may be past us, let’s hope and we will keep you updated as this progresses.

Ears On The Ground

Here are some messages we have been hearing on the web that we believe is helpful

have you succeeded with HSBC ? [Surprise] A lot of variables will come into play, especially fiscal residency and company’s “establishment” location. Generally speaking, will be harder for countries like me France to apply in today’s banking conditions. Anyways, NEAT business is good although they are launching and still developping. However pay attention -> they have merchant limits as they are NOT a bank, they can only hold funds under a 2million HKD limit. This means, if you generate large amounts of revenue, you won’t be able to store all of your funds with NEAT, you will need like a traditional bank account for savings for example. I currently work it out this way : 1/ I use sendwyre to do as much as I can with supplier payments and other online payments then send the remaining to NEAT 2/ I use NEAT for other purposes like the mastercard to purchase stuff online, also will do HK based transactions or other operational stuff I may need on a week to week basis. 3/ I have a traditional bank account I was able to open after almost a year of issues and 3 banks denied. This one is not being used right now and I unfortunately pay fees to keep it opened. However the aim is to keep this bank account in order to have a back up plan in case NEAT goes bad + it allows me to grow my business where when I will cross the 2million HKD in balance on NEAT, I start sending over to my bank. Remember -> you may have sometimes over 2million HKD for just couple weeks , in that case NEAT won’t accept your funds. So long term wise, you need a traditional bank too and play around those limits.mobile online forum

Input from Neat, March 2018

Here’s an update from Andre in our GFA Community Wechat group who has this update on the Neat bank situation for HK:

“Ok guys so answers from neat: still no multi currency accounts, cannot currently deposit cash, to withdraw cash standard neat charge of 2.5% is charged, the main partner bank is standard chartered. So currently it’s best just for users purely doing online business.”Andre

Can I wire in USD or other foreign currencies?

Yes, you can wire incoming currencies no problem.

Can we transfer money to EU banks?

For wiring out, you can only send money within HK. But you can use a cross border payment company such as Aurelia Pay.

Check our blog on cross border payment companies.

What’s the account limits?

2,000,000 HKD (a bit over $250,000 US dollar) as of March 2018.

A question from a Client

“I have a question, we set up the neat account and everything went smoothly and the account is open and active now.however, it shows the account only accepts incoming wire.

Is there anyway you can help us with that? I tried looking for information on how to contact the bank directly but they only have a q & a with 15 questions.

the main reason we wanted an account was to pay our supplier in China to expedite the process of importing our product to USA. Can you please give me some information and also if you can let me know how we can open account with a better bank.”

We suggest using a cross-border payment service provider in the middle.

Information You’ll Need to Apply

Here is a copy/paste of their latest application form

This form collects information about your company so that we can complete the application without the need to travel and visit our office.

We will gather information about:

  • Your company
  • Directors
  • Shareholders
  • Ultimate Beneficial Owners (natural persons who ultimately own or control the company)

In order to complete the application you will need the following documents:

  • Valid Business Registration Certificate – example – (or equivalent for companies not incorporated in Hong Kong)” – example
  • Photo ID of Directors and Ultimate Beneficial Owners

Neat HK will also help you to generate a Board Resolution that authorise you or one of the directors to open an account with us on behalf of your company.  The form is pre-filled and requires just a signature.

NOTE: Please be as accurate as possible – this will speed up the review process and increase the chances of your application being successful.

P.S. You can save your application work at any time and come back to it later on. Just click on the “Save” button and input your email.


Input from Neat, March 2018

Here’s an update from Andre in our GFA Community Wechat group who has this update on the Neat bank situation for HK:

Ok guys so answers from neat: still no multi currency accounts, cannot currently deposit cash, to withdraw cash standard neat charge of 2.5% is charged, the main partner bank is standard chartered. So currently it’s best just for users purely doing online business.Andre

What is Neat HK?

Neat is a mobile current account that makes everything accessible and at ease. It only takes 10 minutes of your time to have a Neat account. You do not have to worry with your local and international purchase, with over 50 currencies available with Neat, they got you covered!

With Neat, you can manage your money anywhere, receive salary and make payments, and send money to your friends.

There is also an available Neat Card for free. It is a prepaid MasterCard issued by ePaylinks. Browse the following incurring fee before you avail a Neat card.

What are the fees needed to acquire Neat HK?

There are no reflected monthly or annual fees and for acquiring a Neat Prepaid Mastercard. However, a lost or stolen card of Neat HK will cost HK $50 for a card replacement.

Each ATM withdrawal with a minimum fee of HK $25 will have an incurring fee of $25. Transaction refund is for HK$4. Those merchants in Hong Kong who are under an international brand is included with 1.5% fee in HKD Transaction Foreign Merchant. When you inquire for your balance on an ATM, there is a fee of HK $4.

Also, a consecutive six months of inactivity will be charged HK$12.5 a month. Unless, the balance is zero.

How to get the Neat HK application?

Neat application is available for both iOS and Android devices. You can just download the app at their respective app stores.

How to get a Neat HK Card?

To have a Neat HK Card, complete the registration process on the Neat Application. The only requirement you need is a passport or a Hong Kong Identity Card.

Is there a Business Account offered by Neat HK?

Yes, there is a current business account offered. There are number of benefits for your business when you use Neat HK for your business!

  • An increase in productivity will be achieved with Neat Business HK. They offer you tools that can help you operate your business efficiently. The dashboard can give you the insight and control of the progress of your business finances.
  • Just like the personal subscription, business account is a quick setup. You have the access of your bank account anywhere and anytime.
  • The offered business account is timely. There are integrated features that automatically organize admin tasks. This feature will help you focus more on your business.
  • You will be assigned with a dedicated Hong Kong bank account number. Neat supports many e-commerce platforms. This allows you to receive payments and manage disbursements.
  • More so, business accounts offers a feature that can easily pay invoices and employees.
  • There is an expense card available to enable your employees make purchase online and offline, and withdraw cash at ATMs.
  • Now, lost receipts are not a problem anymore. Its feature has an ability to add pictures of receipt.

This business account is still developing. There are two features to be added on its update: powerful reporting and automated accounting.

How to apply for Business Account?

Neat Business Application

You have to fill out the Neat Business Application, information about your company are collected. The catch is, you do not have to travel to Hong Kong to apply for a business account. Filling out this application will only take you 10 to 15 minutes. If you have some things to do, you can save the application any time and finish it later.

Informations regarding the company, the ultimate beneficial owners, shareholders, and directors. The said ultimate beneficial owners are those who naturally owns or controls the company.

The following documents are needed to complete the business application:

  • Valid Business Registration Certificate (see example)
  • Passport of Directors and Ultimate Beneficial Owners

Neat also helps you produce a Board Resolution that will authorize you or one of the company directors to open a business account in behalf of the company. The form will be pre-filled and it will only require a signature.

Before you plan to fill up a business account application with Neat HK, please check whether your company meets the compliance requirements.

List of Restricted Nationalities

  • Afghanistan
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Central African Republic
  • Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Eritrea
  • Guyana
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos)
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Uganda
  • Vanuatu
  • Yemen

List of Restricted Industries

  • Adult related
  • Antique Dealers
  • Arms Dealers
  • Auctioneers
  • Cryptocurrency Dealers
  • Defence System
  • Foreign Exchange Dealers
  • Gambling and Casino
  • Jewel, Gems, and Precious Metals Dealers
  • Nuclear Power
  • Pawn Shops
  • Plane Dealers
  • Products and Services Illegal under Hong Kong Law
  • Pyramid Selling Schemes
  • Stock Securities Companies

If you think you meet the compliance requirements, start filling out the application.

What are the features of Neat Business?

Neat Business is yet only dedicated to Hong Kong dollars current account and a local bank account number. However, the company plans to offer a multi-currency account wherein it will support a multi-currency account.

Payments made from anywhere around the world will be received to the business account. Any outgoing payments from local third-party banks in Hong Kong are also supported. However, the outgoing payments to international banks is still about to be offered.

It is also planned that Neat HK and Xero Cloud accounting should be integrated. This is to enhance online banking through seamless accounting and account reconciliation.

Why choose Neat?

Neat is a highly secured mobile currency account that you can fully trust, either you will use it for your business or for your personal use.

You can manage, operate, and send your money anywhere in the world.

Neat may be developed at Hong Kong, but you do not have to go to their office to acquire an account and a card. More so, there are no requirements needed for personal use. Receive payments and send money to your friends

Neat HK is a revolutionized and patented account opening process. .

Get your mobile app at the Apple Store or Google Play!

Buying a Hong Kong Owned Chinese Company Out of the Box

We have heard a lot about buying a shelf company in Hong Kong, this is common talk in the blogosphere. But have we heard about buying a Hong Kong company that has a Chinese WFOE (Wholly foreign owned entity) with it?

Today, we will dig into this, why you would consider it, and what you need to do

Getting More and More People Approaching Me To Buy / Sell Their HK/ China Business

As the Global From Asia blog gets out there more and more, we get emails from people for all kinds of things. One has been people who are looking to buy or sell their businesses here in Hong Kong and China. It is a pretty complex process, and there are a few different case studies we can cover in future blogs.

One I received recently is interesting. The client has a couple of Hong Kong company businesses that each own their own Chinese WFOE company, all setup and operating. He would be open to selling and transferring it to a new buyer.

He sees that there is more and more discussions about buying companies here. Getting plugged in fast with the China market for those who still haven’t tapped in yet.

Why Buy a HK / WFOE Combo?

So as part of the sale, it would not include the customers or supplier database. It would be the structures set up with their licenses and banking accounts. So you’re not buying this business for the customer assets or any IP – but instead to:

  • Save time. Getting banks in HK has become slow and tedious. China is also, and has been like this for quite some time.
  • Business in a box. All the banking arrangements are setup, and the licenses you need for an import / export company are ready to go.
  • Aged company. These are older businesses. Having some years already put away for the company history always helps out. Use it when applying for financing or other “intimate” business relationships.
  • Get all the licenses you need, right away. Many people want to do business in China, but aren’t sure if they are getting all the licenses and paperwork they need. This will make sure you have it all, used for years that way.

How Would a Transfer of a Hong Kong Company with a Chinese WFOE work?

Ok, so you’re interested in this and still with me here – great!

Because the Chinese company is 100% owned by the Hong Kong company – all the activity would happen at the Hong Kong level. You would become the new owner and director of the HK limited company. Then you would automatically own the Chinese subsidiary because it is owned by the HK parent company.

There would be transferring of bank account signers on the Hong Kong side as well as the Chinese side, and that would do in person.

There would also be some updating of the legal representative in the WFOE side, which the seller can help you with.

So, you will then be the owner of an optimized and functional trading company. That is, without the months of headaches and the current issues with banking.

How Much For What You Will Get

You’re now asking yourself, ok, how much? The price won’t be less than if you started one from scratch – but this shouldn’t be the reason you’re doing this. This is to get an operational and functional import and export business without the headaches.

This is for trading and manufacturing WFOES with full import-export rights. This means you can use it for VAT rebate facilities and even domestic sales.

The price is negotiable for how much involvement you need from the seller, and we will take serious inquiries if you contact us.

The price range is starting at $200,000 US dollars to $350,000 USD. The range is dependent on your specific terms and requirements.

Sound Feasible?

I’d love to hear your feedback and comments on buying a full on HK/China trading company operation. This is for serious business owners who are doing serious business in their home countries and want to plug right into the Hong Kong and China market fast and seamlessly.

Will keep people posted on the progress, in the meantime please leave comments or questions about this in the comment section below.

Can You Get a Job from a Hong Kong Company Overseas?

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

Do you have a job from a Hong Kong company full time? But living in America most of the time?

When did this insanity start?

Life used to be so simple. We would all stay in our own countries, have our address in the same town as the company we worked in, and pay taxes to that city / state / country.

Nowadays it seems so complex.

But it is awesome. And I get to hear great questions from readers like today’s post.

Let’s share the question here:

(Disclosure: we are not tax professionals, just making a conversation and thought process for your own situation and to ask your own tax professional before making decisions)

Today’s Question

The last two years or so I have been consulting for an American pump manufacturer. Helping them with supply chain and other issues in China, Hong Kong and even Vietnam and India (haven’t been to India physically though).They are now talking about hiring me full-time. It seems that for budget bucket reasons, they want to hire me via their 100%-owned Hong Kong trading company. I would be the first employee there. I really just have one big question set:

How much time would I need to spend in Hong Kong physically to be counted as an employee? And, of course, pay Hong Kong’s beautifully lower income tax rates. My wife and kid are now in California and I would want to spend time with them but if I could do that AND spend time in HK (for the lower taxes) that would be ideal. I am going to be going much more often too — so might as well place me as an employee over there.

Mike – I would really appreciate your time and thoughts on this. Let me know
(Reader’s name removed upon request)

Factors To Consider

As almost all advice, please do you own due diligence. I’m not a lawyer, and am sharing as best to my knowledge and research can provide. Disclaimer, don’t blame me if I am wrong!

Are You American?

I think first question is, are you a US citizen? Believe this will make things more complicated.

Especially if you are living and residing in California, the most expensive state in the United States. They will want your tax income. I believe you are still seen as a California resident, and have to declare this income to the state and pay taxes on it.

Tricky one, as it’s not a US based company.

Where Do You Spend Your Time? Where Do You Deliver The Work / Value?

So, where are you going to be most of the time? Still in California? If you are in USA more than 330 days a year, you fail the exemption status for foreign earned income.

If you are to be outside of America, especially California, for more than 330 days, as an American, this foreign earned income could be exempt from taxes.

But I can’t imagine the US tax department liking you getting paid offshore and sitting at your home office in California most of the time. Make sense?

The Hong Kong Company is Giving Your Proper Employment Contract

They intend to hire you full time, right? So then I would assume you would get an employment contract from them, in Hong Kong.

As an employee in Hong Kong, you would need to then get a Hong Kong ID card. That isn’t a bad thing, it has a lot of perks and advantages. But HK immigration will want the company to see if the company can hire someone in Hong Kong locally first. That is just normal immigration things, Hong Kong is seriously overcrowded and they are getting strict on who they allow to come into the region.

In Hong Kong, to get a job from a Hong Kong company, you’d need to get a proper employment contract as well as a HKID card.

Then, of course as an employee, you and the Hong Kong company hiring you would need to pay the associated taxes in Hong Kong. Which, you mentioned are much lower than in USA and most other parts of the world.

Hong Kong employment tax rates.

How Will The Hong Kong Company Pay You? HK Bank?

How will this company be paying your salary? I would assume you have to have, or setup, a personal bank account in Hong Kong. Then they would setup payroll and have the funds deposited to your bank account either every couple weeks or monthly.

Will you need to access these funds right away? Will you use these funds to pay for your cost of living in California, USA? If so, I would then imagine you’d have to wire transfer the money from Hong Kong into your American bank account.

That money would then be treated as income in America? You will put those transactions in your personal bank statement. At the end of the tax year you’d have to figure out how to classify that to your tax accountant.

But, to stress, you can’t hide your money in Hong Kong from the US tax authorities anyway. You were never supposed to, but nowadays it is impossible. So you’ll have to declare this income to the IRS and explain that it comes from Hong Kong and that you’re hired by a Hong Kong company.

If you are doing it this way, you’ll be paying monthly bank wiring fee, and then declaring taxes in America as, a sole proprietor? Not sure to be honest.

How Big Is This Company?

The next point to look at, how big is this company? And when I say company, I mean the entity registered in Hong Kong. Doesn’t matter if this company is a massive conglomerate registered in the UK. What matters is how big the company is in Hong Kong.

That means, how much revenue. How big is the “real office” (not a serviced address or virtual office). How many full time staff, located in Hong Kong, and a legal hiring with employment contracts are there. Also, there is a difference between how many local Hong Kong people have jobs as a percentage of how many foreigners have jobs.

Any company that has a lot of locals hired, and is doing a lot of payroll tax is contributing to the local economy. Governments love job creations – for their people.

So these kinds of figures will help in your case as a foreigner in a Hong Kong company.

This is a Local Hong Kong Limited Company (Not Offshore Elect)

I am assuming that this Hong Kong domestic company (as opposed to offshore elect) and paying the 16.5% corporate tax rate on earnings. If you think you can get the 0% offshore election option and you can still get a local job in the company, you’re a bit mistaken.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

If you’re an offshore company, that means you have no local Hong Kong operations. One of those factors being a Hong Kong employee – which you are trying to become.

What’s Your Salary? Above or Below Market Value?

Another thing the Hong Kong government looks at, as well as any government, is it is a fair salary? That means is your salary what a local Hong Kong person would be in this same position? If you’re the director of the company trying to give yourself a lower salary to avoid taxes, may not work.

Other cases are if you give a lower salary to yourself or your foreign staff in exchange for support on the employment visa. Some people are willing to take a lower salary just to be able to stay legally in Hong Kong. But this will also raise flags and be problems.

You need to pay what the market will bear for someone in your exact position, in Hong Kong.

Has The Company Tried To Hire a Local?

Are you trying to use this salary and income as a way to immigrate to Hong Kong? There may be instances where the immigration department wants to see if the company has put out a job advertisement to place this position in the job market. That means, give a chance to the local Hong Kong market to get this job if they are capable and willing to accept that salary level.

You may say, why does that matter, the owner and director of the company picked me! Again, this depends on the case of how hard it would be for the company to find a local person to do the same role as you. Maybe you’re so special that no one else in Hong Kong can do this job? There are of course cases where that is true, especially in computer programming and technical roles. There is a big shortage of supply in the job market for this job speciality.

So if you’re working in a position that is in short supply in the Hong Kong job market, you’ll have a better chance of this Hong kong salary scheme you’re working on.

What’s Your Long Term Goal with this Job?

So you need to ask yourself, you’re living in California, you’re American. Your family is there too, you’ll be flying back and forth between the 2 continents. Where do you want to spend your time?

Do you want to immigrate to Hong Kong? Bring your wife and kids here, go through the education system here? Or is this just a temporary income stream at the current employer. You want to use it to get more cash, save some taxes, and build some international experience on your resume.

Nothing wrong with either case. But of course, if your long term plan is to relocate to Hong Kong, going through these hurdles will be more logical. If it is a short term play, you may re-consider all the paperwork and hassles your employer and you will have to go through.

Do You Need / Care About a Hong Kong ID?

Another thing, from the email I got – it seems there is no interest in getting a Hong Kong ID (HKID).

A HKID is a pretty valuable thing to have, wherever you are in the world.

As a local resident in Hong Kong, you will get access to the medical system. Sure, public hospitals are not as good as private – but if you’re in a bind, you can always rely on public hospitals taking care of you.

Related: We talk about Hong kong medical options and insurance plans here.

You’ll also be able to cross into Mainland China much easier. Take it from me, as someone without a HKID, my friends who have it zip past me on the borders. If you’re an international business person going between USA, Hong Kong, and Mainland China – you’ll like to get this ID card if you can.

What Do you Think? Get The Job contract in Hong Kong?

So that covers my points. What do you think?

There are other options for how you’re compensated. You can always be an independent contractor and get paid in cash / wire transfer. You’ll file with your US taxes as an independent contractor and your US tax accountant will be able to classify this.

Disclosure, I am not a tax specialist, and this article is a general guideline and free help for those curious on the topic.

Feedback, comments, and hate mail is welcome!