Hong Kong does not impose income tax on individual total income. Instead, three main types of income, namely business or trading profits, employment or office income, and rental income from property, derived by individuals are taxed under different income taxes. Income from employment, office or pension is taxed under the salaries tax.
A resident individual with different types of income can elect ‘personal assessment’ which is an assessment on the total income of the individual (see the Tax administration section for more information).
Territorial basis of taxation
A person’s residence, domicile or citizenship is not relevant in determining liability to Hong Kong salaries tax under the domestic law. The term ‘resident’ is defined in each of the double tax agreements (DTAs) signed by Hong Kong and is used in applying a DTA.
Hong Kong adopts a territorial basis of taxation. All individuals, whether a resident or non-resident of Hong Kong, are subject to Hong Kong salaries tax on (i) Hong Kong-sourced employment income, (ii) income from an office held in Hong Kong, and (iii) income from a Hong Kong pension.
A person has Hong Kong-sourced employment income if the employment is a Hong Kong employment or in case the employment is a non-Hong Kong employment, the employment services are rendered by the person in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Inland Revenue Department (HKIRD) will generally accept that employment is a non-Hong Kong employment if all of the following three conditions are met:
- The contract of employment was negotiated and entered into, and is enforceable outside Hong Kong.
- The employer is a resident outside Hong Kong.
- The employer’s remuneration is paid outside Hong Kong.
If any of the above conditions is not met, the employment will likely be considered by the HKIRD as Hong Kong employment.
For a Hong Kong employment, employment income is not taxable if all of the employment services for a year of assessment are rendered outside Hong Kong. In determining whether all the services are rendered outside Hong Kong for a given year of assessment, no account is taken of services rendered in Hong Kong during visits not exceeding 60 days in the basis period for the year of assessment (the so-called ‘60-day rule’).
For a non-Hong Kong employment, only income attributed to services rendered in Hong Kong is subject to Hong Kong salaries tax (the so-called ‘time apportionment basis’). Similar to Hong Kong employment, the 60-day rule will apply in considering whether there are any services rendered in Hong Kong in a given year of assessment under a non-Hong Kong employment (i.e. services rendered in Hong Kong during visits not exceeding 60 days in the basis period for the year of assessment will be ignored).
Where the employment income of an individual is subject to tax both in Hong Kong and overseas, a unilateral income exemption may be available under the domestic tax law to provide relief from double taxation (see the Foreign tax relief and Tax treaties section for more information).
There are special rules for taxing employment income derived by seafarers and aircrew.
Income from an office
The source of income from an office (e.g. directors’ fees) is determined by the location at which the company paying the fees is centrally managed and controlled. The ‘60-day rule’ and ‘time apportionment basis’ discussed above do not apply to income from an office.
Pensions are, in practice, subject to Hong Kong salaries tax if the funds out of which the payment is made are managed and controlled in Hong Kong, and the pensions (other than a government pension) are related to services rendered in Hong Kong. Similar to income from an office, the ‘60-day rule’ and ‘time-apportionment basis’ discussed above do not apply to income from a pension.
Personal income tax (salaries tax) rates
In general, a person’s income from employment, less allowable deductions and personal allowances, is chargeable to Hong Kong salaries tax at progressive rates ranging from 2% to 17% as follows:
Net taxable income (HKD)
|Tax on column 1 (HKD)
||Percentage on excess (%)
|Over (column 1)
The maximum tax for 2017/18, however, will be limited to tax at the standard rate (15%) on the net assessable income (after any business deductions) less concessionary deductions and charitable donations but without the deduction of personal allowances.
In rare cases where the total amount of allowable deductions exceeds the assessable income of an individual taxpayer in any year of assessment, the excess can be carried forward indefinitely to set off against the taxpayer’s assessable income in subsequent years of assessment.
Local income taxes
Hong Kong does not impose any local, state, or provincial income taxes.