Incorporating an IT enterprise in Hong Kong

Hong Kong proffers unparalleled opportunities for information technology entrepreneurs to elevate commercial endeavours onto the international stage and thrive under its propitious pro-business policies and competitive tax regime. As a preeminent global financial hub with world-class infrastructure and copious capital, coupled with its role as a gateway to Mainland China and the Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong holds manifold competitive advantages.

Hong Kong consistently ranks highly on global indices: 3rd in WB Ease of Doing Business, 9th in Global Innovation for infrastructure development, 15th in Global Opportunity Index and 6th in Asia for ICT Development.

This article examines the prime benefits of incorporating an information technology company in Hong Kong, requisite registration steps and other salient legal formalities.

Reasons for starting an IT startup in Hong Kong

Foremost is the unfettered access to extensive international markets. Mainland China has facilitated market entry substantially through the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement. Hong Kong’s legal framework governing incorporated entities is rooted in English common law, furnishing company owners with manifold rights and protections.

Domestic legislation delivers a reliable framework for structuring and operating businesses, while sturdily safeguarding corporate assets. Another drawcard is Hong Kong’s competitive tax rates — 8.25% on profits under HK$2 million and 16.5% above. The relatively low cost of conducting business has lured multitudes of entrepreneurs and investors.

Incorporating in Hong Kong proffers access to its comprehensive banking sector, regarded among the most reliable globally, with around 60% of international banks maintaining regional outposts. Funds can be readily manoeuvred between countries lacking stringent foreign exchange controls. Banking tariffs are more competitive than in other global financial centres.

The government has instituted sundry initiatives to support information technology company incorporation and leverage strengths in this sphere. With Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development openings, relocating here could enable scaling while accessing the Asian market. Foreign entrepreneurs can also obtain residence permits through IT startups or entrepreneur visas.

Incorporation process

  • When establishing a startup in Hong Kong, firstly delineate the business model.

Define whether you will purvey products or services. A product provides solutions to clients, manifesting as applications or platforms. Users remit fees for subscriptions or one-time access. Services entail aiding other companies in product creation or performing digital tasks like design and testing.

Distinctions between product and outsourcing firms

Outsourcing companies render development, modification, and customisation services for sale. Product companies commercialise end-user solutions, with revenue predominantly from product sales. The former focuses on client project management, while the latter revolves around product lifecycles.




Offering to Clients

A software development company provides services and sells them to the target audience, e.g., development, modification, customisation of software.

A product-based software development company deals with end products and sells them to target customers. This type of IT company has products or a set of products that generate the bulk of the company's revenue.

Client Remuneration

For the finished result.

Payment when utilizing the software.

Primary Activity

Managing client projects with time and budget constraints.

Managing your products: creation, promotion, support.

Company Focus

With projects.

With products.

  • Company naming

Verify your preferred company name thoroughly to eschew conflicts. Choose English names cautiously with “Limited” rather than “Ltd”, or register a Chinese name. The Registrar of Companies can assess availability.

  • Selecting a legal entity

Consider Public Limited Company (PLC) or Partnership status. Compare structures regarding taxation, operations, and suitability for your enterprise. Appoint directors to manage company affairs and shareholders to hold ownership and sign off on finances.

  • Preparing constituent documentation

The Registry provides an incorporation form requiring a shareholder signature. Submit your business plan, identification documents, and Articles of Association codifying internal governance. Remit the fee, then acquire the requisite licences. Open a Hong Kong bank account with a minimum deposit. Share capital requirements are flexible, with no predefined thresholds or schedules.

With this strategic guidance, technology ventures can seamlessly incorporate in Hong Kong. Our specialists can support company formation and banking needs for frictionless market entry.

Key requirements for incorporating a Hong Kong company

  • At a minimum, one shareholder and one director are necessitated, both of whom can be foreign or local individuals over 18 years of age. The same individual may occupy both posts concurrently.
  • No prescribed min. capital injection is obliged, however an amount of approximately HK$10,000 is typical practice.
  • A registered corporate address within Hong Kong jurisdiction is requisite.
  • Appointing a Hong Kong resident or corporate body secretary with a Hong Kong office is compulsory.
  • Assigning a Designated Representative to maintain a Significant Controller Register.
  • Annual audits and general meetings for shareholder approval as the registered company progresses into the operational phase following incorporation.

Safeguarding IP rights for startups in Hong Kong

Intellectual property protections are paramount when developing products for information technology companies, as source code, algorithms, and data constitute their most valuable assets. Hong Kong boasts a robust intellectual property rights regime to cover such intangible assets through mechanisms like software patents and copyrights.

As a signatory to various international IP agreements and conventions, Hong Kong guarantees evolving global protection standards compliance. Domestic legislation furnishes a comprehensive framework governing registration formalities along with enforceable protections for patents, copyrights, trademarks, industrial designs and integrated circuits.

The Intellectual Property Department is the main agency administering and enforcing IP laws. The Customs and Excise Department also upholds laws against local intellectual property rights infringements.

For information technology companies launching in Hong Kong, intellectual property commercialisation and licensing can catalyse immense business development upsides. Intellectual property licensing agreements allow other parties usage rights in exchange for royalties. Such technology transfer through IP licensing is widely utilised in Hong Kong.

Licensing models include:

  • Exclusive licences, restricting IP usage to the licensee only.
  • Non-exclusive terms enabling parallel usage by multiple licensees.

Our specialists provide detailed guidance on asset protection and licensing for IT enterprises in Hong Kong, alongside comprehensive setup and launch support.

Optimal legal structures for incorporating IT in Hong Kong

When establishing an IT startup in Hong Kong, entrepreneurs may consider two predominant forms:

PLC structure offers personal asset protection, insulating owners' personal assets from company debts and liabilities. In case of insolvency or litigation, owners’ liability is restricted to their invested capital contributions.

Additionally, this form allows scalable growth without necessitating legal structure changes, enabling attracting investments, expanding into new markets and adapting to evolving business needs organically over time after initial incorporation. There are no prescribed capital requirements.

LLP constitutes an alternate incorporation model, similarly insulating personal assets of partners. Partners determine operating and profit distribution arrangements via internal partnership agreements.

A key distinction is that LLP are subject to taxation at the individual partner level, with profits allocated to partners personally rather than the entity itself. This contrasts to the PLC which faces corporate taxation.

In summary, while other structures exist, the forms we describe above, present two optimal vehicles for information technology entrepreneurs to efficiently establish and grow ventures in Hong Kong with inbuilt protections. Our specialists can advise on the best structure aligned to your aspirations and requirements.

Tax considerations

Hong Kong constitutes an advantageous jurisdiction for information technology companies from a taxation standpoint, implementing a territorial system. Tax liabilities principally apply only to income derived from transactions within Hong Kong. Foreign-sourced income largely qualifies for exemptions.

Corporate tax rates
  • 8.25% on profits up to HK$2 million
  • 16.5% on profits over HK$2 million
  • 0% capital gains tax rate
  • 0% tax on dividend distributions
  • 0% tax on foreign income
Other salient aspects
  • No VAT, GST, or sales taxes
  • No restrictions on capital import or export
  • Free cross-border fund transfers as dividends, interest, royalties etc.

Hence, the territorial tax regime enables IT companies in Hong Kong to potentially minimise tax liabilities and maximise control over investment profits as well as transferability of funds. Our specialists can advise in detail on structuring your enterprise to leverage these incentives.

National support programmes

The Hong Kong government actively nurtures the innovation and technology industry through various initiatives, assisting startups and fostering an enabling ecosystem. Key programmes include:



Investment amount

Target audience

HKSTP Venture Fund

Directly invests in seed to Series A technology startups, co-investing with private VCs. Especially beneficial for early-stage ventures seeking global scalability.

HK$1 billion

Seed to Series A technology startups

Strategic Technology Fund

Co-invests in pioneering information technology companies worldwide to facilitate expansion into Hong Kong and Asia-Pacific markets. Early growth stage entities are eligible.

Not specified

Pioneering information technology companies

HKSTP Acceleration Program

A two-year initiative aiding high-potential startups across sectors. Offers funding up to HK$4.8 million covering various areas such as public relations, professional services, etc.

Up to HK$4.8 million

High-potential startups across sectors

Cyberport Macro Fund

Delivers Series A onwards capital injection alongside private/public co-investors into scalable Hong Kong digital technology firms associated with Cyberport’s incubators, etc.

HK$1 million to HK$20 million per company

Scalable Hong Kong digital technology firms associated with Cyberport

Technology Startup Support Scheme for Universities (TSSSU)

Sponsors six local universities to assist student and faculty-based startups with commercializing R&D. Provides teams with up to HK$1.5 million over three years.

Around HK$16 million annually

Student and faculty-based startups with R&D commercialization needs

Other available programs include the BUD Fund financing market expansion into ASEAN and FTAs, the Innovation and Technology Fund sponsoring R&D and startups, and schemes building the IT talent pool and culture. Specialists can advise on optimally leveraging incentives to expedite launching Hong Kong information technology ventures.

Residence permit in Hong Kong

The Immigration Department may confer Hong Kong IT startup residence permits to aspiring entrepreneurs leading startups supported by stringent government programmes.



StartmeupHK Venture Programme by InvestHK

Program designed by InvestHK to support startups in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Incu-Tech Programme

Incubation program at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation aimed at nurturing technology startups.

Cyberport Incubation Programme

Incubation program at Cyberport, focusing on supporting digital technology startups.

Innovation and Technology Commission Small Entrepreneur Research Assistance Programme

Programme aimed at providing research assistance to small entrepreneurs in the innovation and technology sector.

Entrepreneur Residence Permit Requirements

- Minimum 3 years of experience

- Local office

- Undertaking local job creation

Technology Talent Admission Scheme (TechTAS)

Scheme facilitating the absorption of overseas technology experts into research and development roles for Innovation and Technology Commission approved companies. Key prerequisites include sponsorship by a company with a valid TechTAS quota, specialization in sectors like advanced communications, artificial intelligence, robotics, fintech, STEM degree qualification from a recognized university, and minimum salary conforming to market benchmarks.

Top Talent Pass Scheme

Scheme enabling top international talent to pursue opportunities in Hong Kong through 2-year stays. Applicants under respective categories must demonstrate:

- Category A: Annual income above HK$2.5 million

- Category B: Qualifying university graduation with minimum 3 years of experience

- Category C: Recent graduates from designated universities over the past 5 years

Hong Kong facilitates information technology entrepreneurs to obtain residency for launching ventures through various channels. Our specialists can advise on the most suitable route aligned with your background and business plans.

In summation, Hong Kong proffers manifold advantages, including unfettered access to international markets, staunch financial stability, a conducive free market environment and streamlined incorporation procedures enabling rapid setup.

The sophisticated technological infrastructure of high-speed connectivity and contemporary office spaces creates an optimal base for information technology operations. As a cosmopolitan city housing multitudes of multinational corporates, the favourable conditions spur innovation, partnerships, and growth.

However, expert guidance remains invaluable when planning and launching ventures. Our specialists furnish detailed consultancy on Hong Kong's regulatory landscape for information technology companies, supplemented by exhaustive support across all aspects of information technology business incorporation, from ideation to exit. We invite you to leverage our capabilities in realizing your entrepreneurial aspirations in this world-class city.
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