Hong Kong. The 2013/14 budget. Salaries tax. Profits tax. One-off relief measures

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1 Hong Kong Extending the concessionary profits tax rate (i.e. 50% of the normal profits tax rate) currently applicable to offshore reinsurance business to the offshore insurance business of captive insurance companies. The 2013/14 budget The Financial Secretary announced the 2013/14 budget (the first one for the new administration) on 27 February Two profits tax incentives for the financial services industry were proposed in the budget. For salaries tax, there will be an increase in the child allowances and deduction ceiling for self-education expenses for year of assessment 2013/14. As in last year s budget, a number of one-off relief measures were also proposed in view of the much better than expected financial results for fiscal year 2012/13. The tax measures and major one-off relief measures proposed in the 2013/14 budget are summarised below. Profits tax The profits tax rates for companies and unincorporated businesses for year of assessment 2013/14 remain unchanged at 16.5% and 15% respectively. The 2013/14 budget proposed to introduce the following two tax incentives for the fund industry and captive insurance business respectively: Expanding the types of specified transactions for the purpose of profits tax exemption for offshore funds to cover transactions in private companies which are incorporated or registered outside Hong Kong and do not hold any Hong Kong properties nor carry out any business in Hong Kong. This expansion will allow some private equity funds to enjoy the profits tax exemption under the offshore funds exemption regime. Salaries tax There is no change in the marginal tax rates, marginal tax bands and standard tax rate of 15%. However, the basic child allowance and additional child allowance (which is available in the year of birth) will each be increased from HK$63,000 to HK$70,000 for year of assessment 2013/14. To encourage self-education and lifelong learning, the deduction ceiling for self-education expenses will also be increased from HK$60,000 to HK$80,000 for year of assessment 2013/14. In addition, as a result of the increase in the maximum level of relevant income (i.e. from HK$20,000 to HK$25,000 per month) for Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) contribution which took effect from 1 June 2012, the maximum annual tax deduction for employee s mandatory MPF contributions will be increased from HK$14,500 (for year of assessment 2012/13) to HK$15,000 from year of assessment 2013/14 onwards. One-off relief measures Major one-off relief measures that benefit the public at large include: Waiving 75% of profits tax for 2012/13 (subject to a HK$10,000 ceiling) to be deducted from the taxpayer s final tax payable for the year. Waiving 75% of salaries tax and tax under personal assessment for 2012/13, subject to a ceiling of HK$10,000, to be deducted from the taxpayer s final tax payable for the year. Hong Kong 19

2 Waiving business registration fees for 2013/14. Waiving rates for 2013/14, subject to a ceiling of HK$1,500 per quarter for each rateable property. Granting a HK$1,800 subsidy to each residential electricity account. Paying two months rent for public housing tenants. Providing one additional month of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Payment, Old Age Allowance, Old Age Living Allowance and Disability Allowance. Creating a level playing field for Islamic bond s In order to consolidate Hong Kong s position as an international financial centre and tap into the fast growing market of Islamic finance, the HKSAR Government indicated in the 2009/10 Hong Kong budget that it would work on improving Hong Kong s regime to facilitate the development of Islamic finance in Hong Kong. On 28 December 2012, the much anticipated draft legislation that provides the taxation framework for Islamic bonds (i.e. sukuk), namely the Inland Revenue and Stamp Duty Legislation (Alternative Bond Schemes) (Amendment) Bill 2012 (the Bill), was finally gazetted. The Bill aims at introducing various amendments to the Inland Revenue Ordinance (IRO) and the Stamp Duty Ordinance (SDO) to level the playing field for the five most common types of sukuk in the global market vis-à-vis their conventional counterparts for profits tax, property tax and stamp duty purposes. The Bill also seeks to provide the necessary clarity in terms of tax treatment for sukuk. The underlying principle of the proposed legislative amendments is to treat the qualified bond arrangement and qualified investment arrangement under a specified alternative bond scheme as debt arrangements for the purposes of the IRO and the SDO. Both the bond and investment arrangements will need to satisfy certain specified qualifying conditions in order for the special tax treatment to apply such that the arrangements are regarded as debt arrangements. The Bill is currently under the scrutiny of the Legislative Council and is expected to be passed later this year. The administration has indicated that an interpretation and practice note will be issued upon passage of the Bill to clarify a number of tax issues arising from a sukuk arrangement. Proposed stamp duty measures Proposed adjustments to special stamp duty Special Stamp Duty (SSD) was introduced by the HKSAR Government in November 2010 to curb residential property speculation in Hong Kong. SSD is imposed on top of the ad valorem stamp duty payable on disposal of residential properties on or after 20 November 2010, with a few exemptions. On 26 October 2012, the HKSAR Government announced that the following adjustments regarding the rate and holding period with respect to SSD would be made: Holding period (x) Current SSD rate Proposed SSD rate x 6 months 15% 20% 6 months < x 12 months 10% 15% 12 months < x 24 months 5% 10% 24 months < x 36 months 0% 10% The bill containing the relevant legislative amendments to implement the above adjustments, namely Stamp Duty (Amendment) Bill 2012, is currently under the scrutiny of the Legislative Council and has not yet been passed. The proposed adjustments, once enacted into law, will have retrospective effect from 27 October Asia Pacific Tax Notes

3 Introduction of buyer s stamp duty In addition to the proposed adjustments to the SSD, the HKSAR Government also announced the introduction of Buyer s Stamp Duty (BSD) on 26 October It was proposed that BSD will be imposed on Hong Kong residential properties acquired by any persons (including Hong Kong and overseas incorporated companies) on or after 27 October 2012 except an individual who is a Hong Kong permanent resident (HKPR). BSD will be charged at a flat rate of 15% on the stated consideration or the market value (whichever is higher) of the property acquired. BSD will be imposed on top of the existing ad valorem stamp duty and SSD, if applicable. Exemptions from BSD will be available under a list of circumstances that is largely similar to that for SSD as well as for certain property redevelopment projects, etc. The bill containing the relevant legislative amendments to implement BSD, namely Stamp Duty (Amendment) Bill 2012, is currently under the scrutiny of the Legislative Council and has not yet been passed. The proposed BSD, once enacted into law, will have retrospective effect from 27 October Proposed adjustments to ad valorem stamp duty On top of the two measures mentioned above, to further address the overheated property market in Hong Kong, the HKSAR Government announced on 22 February 2013 that it would make the following two adjustments to the ad valorem stamp duty on transfer of immovable property in Hong Kong: Introducing a set of increased ad valorem stamp duty rates on transfer of immovable property In addition to the existing normal ad valorem stamp duty rates ranging from HK$100 to 4.25% (normal rates), a set of special ad valorem stamp duty rates ranging from 1.5% to 8.5% (special rates) will be introduced. Upon enactment of the relevant legislation, the special rates will be applied retrospectively to transfer of any Hong Kong immovable property on or after 23 February 2013, with a few exceptions. The circumstances under which the normal rates will continue to apply include: (1) acquisition of a residential property by a HKPR who does not own any other residential property in Hong Kong on the date of acquisition and (2) certain transfer of residential property between closely related persons. A refund mechanism will also be put in place for (1) certain redevelopment projects and (2) HKPRs who acquire a new residential property (replacement property) before disposing of their previously owned one (original property) and pay ad valorem stamp duty at the special rates but subsequently dispose of the original property within 6 months after the acquisition of the replacement property. In those cases, the difference between the ad valorem stamp duty paid under the special rates and the normal rates will be refunded where certain specified conditions are met. Advancing the charging of ad valorem stamp duty on nonresidential property transactions from the conveyance on sale to the agreement for sale (i.e. to make agreements for sale of nonresidential property chargeable with stamp duty). The bill containing the relevant legislative amendments to implement the above adjustments, namely Stamp Duty (Amendment) Bill 2013, is currently under the scrutiny of the Legislative Council and has not yet been passed. The above proposed adjustments, once enacted into law, will have retrospective effect from 23 February Liberalising the exchange of information regime Further to the launch of a public consultation on whether Hong Kong should put in place a legal framework that enables it to enter into Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) with other jurisdictions in May 2012, the HKSAR Government has introduced a bill to the Legislative Council in April 2013 to liberalise the exchange of information (EoI) regime in Hong Kong. The bill intends to introduce amendments to the IRO to liberalise the EoI regime in Hong Kong in the following three aspects: To put in place a legal framework for Hong Kong to enter into a TIEA with other jurisdictions where necessary. To expand the coverage of tax types and usage of tax related information under the EoI regime such that the scope of information exchange will not be restricted to information related to the tax types covered under a treaty. To allow the disclosure of information generated prior to the effective date of a treaty/tiea which may in fact be forseeeably relevant to the tax assessments after the treaty/tiea comes into effect. The HKSAR Government envisages that the above proposed changes will bring Hong Kong s existing EoI regime in line with the latest international standard on EoI and enable Hong Kong to further expand its treaty network. The bill containing the relevant legislative amendments to implement the above changes, namely the Inland Revenue (Amendment) Bill 2013, is currently under the scrutiny of the Legislative Council and has not yet been passed. Hong Kong 21

4 Developments of Hong Kong s treaty network Treaties signed/ratified in the past 12 months Since the last issue of Asia Pacific Tax Notes, four new treaties were signed by Hong Kong with Canada, Guernsey, Italy and Mexico respectively. In addition, the treaties with Malta, Mexico, Portugal and Switzerland were ratified and entered into force. As of April 2013, Hong Kong has signed 28 treaties with various Asian and European countries and 25 of them adopt the latest international standard on EoI. Other than the five treaties signed before 2010 (i.e. those with Belgium, the Mainland, Luxembourg, Thailand and Vietnam), the implementation status of the 23 treaties signed by Hong Kong since 2010 and the tax years from which these treaties became/will become effective in Hong Kong and the other contracting states are summarised as follows: Country Date of signing Date of entry into force Effective from year of assessment (Hong Kong) Effective from (the other contracting state) Treaties signed in Brunei March 2010 December /12 1 January Netherlands March 2010 October /13 1 January Indonesia March 2010 March /14 1 January Hungary May 2010 February /13 1 January Kuwait May 2010 Pending Pending Pending 6. Austria May 2010 January /13 1 January UK June 2010 December /12 1 or 6 April Ireland June 2010 February /13 1 January Liechtenstein August 2010 July /13 1 January France October 2010 December /13 1 January Japan November 2010 August /13 1 January New Zealand December 2010 November /13 1 April 2012 Treaties signed in Portugal March 2011 June /14 1 January Spain April 2011 April /14 1 April Czech Republic June 2011 January /14 1 January Switzerland October 2011 October /14 1 January Malta November 2011 July /14 1 January 2013 Treaties signed in Jersey February 2012 Pending Pending Pending 19. Malaysia April 2012 Pending Pending Pending 20. Mexico June 2012 March /15 1 January Canada November 2012 Pending Pending Pending Treaties signed in Italy January 2013 Pending Pending Pending 23. Guernsey April 2013 Pending Pending Pending 22 Asia Pacific Tax Notes

5 Latest status of treaty negotiations The table below shows the latest status of treaty negotiations between Hong Kong and a list of countries with which negotiations have taken place recently. Countries with which negotiations were completed 1. United Arab Emirates Initialled on 19 July Qatar Initialled on 15 November South Africa Negotiation completed on 8 November 2012 Countries with which negotiations are in process 1. Korea 1st round completed on 17 November India 2nd round completed on 21 April Saudi Arabia 2nd round completed on 25 May Bangladesh 1st round completed on 25 August Finland 2nd round completed on 21 September Mauritius 1st round completed on 16 January 2013 This article covers tax developments in Hong Kong for the period from May 2012 to April Hong Kong 23

6 PwC. All rights reserved. PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see structure for further details. HK C1

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