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Business Taxes In China. Feels Just Like Home.

China independent contractor

Ernst & Young is out with an informative online publication on indirect taxes in China, Navigating Chinese Indirect Taxes [link no longer exists]. It gives an overview of these taxes and how they can, and almost certainly will, impact your China business.

It starts out with the following general comments regarding indirect taxes in China:

Indirect taxes (specifically Value Added Tax, business tax, customs duty and consumption tax) play an important role in China, accounting for almost 60% of the government’s tax revenue. Newly revised regulations are changing how indirect taxes are treated in China. But these are often the forgotten tax on business. Tax directors may overlook these costs as they are above the line and usually not directly visible within the accounts or financial statements.

We are often surprised to learn that many companies have yet to grasp the significance of the indirect taxes passing through the organization. More often than not, indirect taxes are viewed as process-oriented throughput costs rather than as a direct charge to the bottom line that should be managed through proactive and concerted efforts. It is not common for companies in China to employ dedicated resources accountable for the risks and costs that arise from processing indirect taxes. This approach creates risks and results in missed savings opportunities.

My law firm’s international business lawyers constantly telling our clients that taxes in China are really not that different from taxes in the United States. China’s business tax system is generally (cough, cough) logical and manageable and is not to be ignored.

What this means is that if you are a small to mid-sized company doing business in China legally, you need someone either inside or outside your company handling your financial books and you need a good accountant overseeing it all. Because you are a foreign business and your operations may have tax repercussions not only in China, but also in your home country, it also usually makes sense for your accountant to be familiar with both China’s tax laws and those of your home country. These sorts of accountants are few and far between and cannot be found at all outside China’s bigger cities.

What do you think?

9 responses to “Business Taxes In China. Feels Just Like Home.”

  1. Cool…. A marketing brochure. It’s a nice informative marketing brochure, but it’s a marketing brochure.
    The Chinese tax system is quite different from the tax system of the United States and similar to that of Europe. One thing that I found amusing is that China choose to adopt a VAT tax rather than something like a corporate income tax was precisely so that companies *wouldn’t* think of the tax consequences of what they were doing, and that they wouldn’t make decisions based on tax reasons rather that business reasons.

  2. At this point you are probably asking too much work for an accountant, and you probably want a tax lawyer that will to a one time consultation and give you the general information about what you need to watch out for. Once the accountant knows the basic issues then can do the work.
    Most of the really big tax issues aren’t ongoing issues, but one time decisions in which you want to bring in a tax lawyer. How you set up your corporate structure to begin with.

  3. What I think is that no foreign business conducted in China can afford to overlook its (indirect) taxation issues. Keywords should be ‘know your Business Scope’, ‘get your percentages right’ and ‘comply’.
    If one was to look into Chinese recent taxation laws, bylaws and regulations, he would soon get pretty busy (like my colleague and I lately) in obtaining a clear cut view of how it works; especially now, that it has consistently changed over the last two years.
    I am not familiar with the American taxation laws, however, the Chinese recent 2009 VAT Tentative Regulations, the BT Tentative Regulations and other detailed provisions on income tax on foreign-capital-run businesses in China on consumption tax etc, are quite detailed and make sense all along.
    As for the people technically getting dirty with the numbers, I most likely believe they are hard to find outside most commercially driven cities here in China. If anything, because of better opportunities in the cities. Let us not forget that business accounting must be written in Chinese or in Chinese and English.

  4. Higher taxes and more aggressive taxing are coming soon boys and girls. Record drop in FDI and the crackdown on ROs. It’s do or die time.

  5. Theres a world of difference between China and US taxes and the US has far more indirect taxation than China does. Health care being one example.

  6. If Americans read this and assume as a result China’s tax system is similar to theirs I think they’ll have a big shock coming to them. China tax and accounting is definately an area where on the ground expert advice is needed – in China.

  7. Johnny be good: Can we say Hong Kong Holding Company?
    Can we say…. This is why China’s major taxes are VAT-based and not income-based? A holding company in HK or the British Virgin Islands isn’t going to help you against the VAT-man.

  8. The Transnational Law School
    Much to my surprise and fascination, Peking University (“Bei Da”) opened a School of Transnational Law in the Fall of 2008 that has a curriculum nearly identical to that of a U.S. juris doctor (JD) program and requires three years of study. Even more a…

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