Withholding Tax in China

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By Dezan Shira & Associates
Editor: Jake Liddle

In China, withholding tax (WHT) is levied on the income of foreign enterprises that do not have a physical establishment in China but provide services to China-based businesses. Any China-derived income arising from such a transaction between an overseas entity and a Chinese business is withheld by the China-based client, deducted from the gross income amount, and taxed by the Chinese tax authorities at a flat concessionary rate of 10 percent.

Thus, it is the responsibility of the China-based client to ensure the transfer of tax onto the tax bureau. If they fail to do so, or do not pass on the correct or relevant amount from an invoice, the local tax bureau will take up repayment with the China-based client, and not the overseas entity.

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According to China’s Corporate Income Tax Law (2008), passive income of non-tax resident enterprises in China is taxed at 20 percent, though this was reduced to 10 percent in the detailed implantation regulation of the law. This rate is applied to any dividends obtained by an overseas entity from a resident company. However, rates vary under the various tax treaties that exist between China and other countries, as shown here:

Tax treaty withholding tax rates for dividends UPDATE

China’s withholding tax policies have tightened and changed. For non-tax resident enterprises, with or without a physical presence in China, as well as those with income not effectively connected with a physical presence, their China-sourced income is subject to CIT. This includes income deriving from:

  • Sales of goods;
  • Provision of services;
  • Transfer of property;
  • Dividends and profit distribution;
  • Equity investments;
  • Interest;
  • Rent;
  • Royalties; and
  • Donations.

Corporate income tax payable will be withheld at the source, with the payer acting as the withholding agent, who will withhold tax from the amount of each payment when it is due. Therefore, the withholding obligation arises when income is either remitted or when the payer accrues the amount as a cost or expense. Correct calculation of tax liability is as follows:

Withholding tax payable = Taxable income × Tax rate

For dividends, interest, rental, and royalty income, the taxable amount is the gross amount remitted before deduction of any taxes, including business tax. If the withholding tax and business tax is borne by the payer, the amount of income should be added up to produce the taxable income.

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For dividends paid overseas, no business tax is levied. For income from the transfer of property, the taxable income amount is the balance of the total income amount minus the net value of the property. For other income, the taxable income amount can be calculated according to the formulae of the preceding two items.

Determining tax liabilities

Though it is common for overseas non-tax resident entities to provide services for clients in China, or their own subsidiaries located there, whether or not withholding tax applies to their transactions is not always clear. Even if it is certain that China-sourced income is subject to withholding tax, the correct tax base and rate still may not be apparent.

Enforcement is not uniform in China, with each case and transaction subject to the discretion of local tax authorities. The actual applicable tax rates are therefore only set once tax officials have completed a review of tax clearance documentation and have issued their final decision.

General taxation frameworks provide only a guideline, and more precise estimations can be obtained by narrowing down to the type of service activities provided by overseas entities. It is advisable that such entities obtain professional consultation when determining the nature of withholding tax for their services.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on September 22, 2010, and has been updated to include the latest regulatory changes.


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54 responses to “Withholding Tax in China”

  1. Richard Oppmann says:

    It is not clear whether the Withholding Tax applies to travel and other expenses which are invoiced to the client, or local Chinese company. Are these expenses exempt from income that is subject to WH tax, or mustthey be “upcharged” to accomplish full reimbursement for such expenses?

  2. Byron Nichols says:

    We are doing business for the first time in China…The client has decucted 15% from our invoice, which they explain is the necessary tax they must pay and that we will get a certificate. Does this mean we are out the 15% or we can claim it as a decuction on our tax return

  3. GAEA Technologies India P Ltd. says:

    Will you be able to clarify a doubt regarding Withholding Tax Certificate?

  4. Preeti Gupta says:

    An indian commision agent receives Commision from chinese company after deducting tax of around 5.6% . Please explain as to what kind of tax is this. whether it is direct tax or indirect tax or any other form of tax. Also whether in light of India -china DTAA , should chinese company dedut this tax.

    Thanks,
    Regards,
    Preeti Gupta

  5. Editor says:

    According to the Business Tax Law of the PRC, where the service provider or recipient is located in China, the service fee will be subject to business tax, which, including the applicable surcharges (i.e. Urban Construction and Maintenance Tax and Education Surcharge), amounts to 5.6%. Therefore, the Chinese company you mentioned is required to deduct the business tax plus surcharges totaling 5.6%, before remitting the commission to the Indian agent for the service the agent provided.

    Further, the taxes that fall under the DTA between India and China, do not include business tax (only income taxes are included), therefore the Chinese company is required to withhold the 5.6% tax.

  6. Frances says:

    I thought the WHT is 15% for Australia?

  7. @Frances – WHT has never been levied at a 15% rate. Better check why you think it is. – Chris

  8. williamchin says:

    I have question. Company in china as subsidiary pay dividend to Singapore company which is holding company, is the dividend subjects to withholding tax? who bear the withholding tax? and what is the rate?

  9. Dear William, Singapore does not charge tax on dividends from an overseas subsidiary. Corporate income tax in Singapore is 17%. If you need further assistance please email our Singapore office at Singapore@dezshira.com
    Thanks
    Chris

  10. Cate Thero says:

    For U.S. service providers working with Chinese clients in China, what is the withholding rate? Can that then be included in tax returns as Foreign Tax Withholdings? We’re planning to just gross-up our fee — is that common?

  11. Hi Cate, withholding tax varies depending upon the service rendered. In terms of grossing up your fees, the issue you will face is that this will make you uncompetitive compared to companies providing the same service as you do, but who are licensed and have offices and pay taxes in China (because they are not subject to withholding tax as they pay business tax and profits tax instead). If you need further advice, please email us with your specific questions at tax@dezshira.com
    Thanks – Chris

  12. Rishi Sharma says:

    Do you know….Once the taxes are paid to the government in China..their is no claims or any kind of refund.

  13. Avin Kohzadi says:

    We are a company in UAE.
    Previously we had service contract with a Chinese company and when they want to pay us, they deducted 5.6% as tax.
    Now we signed a sales contract with them and delivered the equipment by DHL , Now they paid us 94.4% of our invoice and told us, as the equipment delivery is without documents, bank automatically deducted 5.6% as tax!
    I think they are cheating. It was a sales contract not service .
    Please advise us the real situation

  14. @Rishi – there are rebates applicable in China, especially with customs and VAT, however these like all refunds need properly prepared documentation. If you require help, we can assist. Please email to china@dezshira.com.
    @Avin – It is difficult to fully understand your situation without being privy to the contract and other details. Can you email us please at china@dezshira.com including details of where in China this Chinese company is, and our pertinent regional office will get back to you. Thanks – Chris

  15. Is the Transfer of shares’ amount of a Chinese JV (51%) previously held by an Italian company to the Chinese partner subject to the withholding tax according the PRC tax law?
    If yes is the rate 10%?

    Thank you very much in advance for your reply.

  16. Greg says:

    When is the payor of interest payments required to remit the 10 percent withholding? When actually paid or when accrued?

  17. @Greg: The “payor” has no part in the process. The 10% withholding tax is deducted from the invoice due by the Chinese client, who settles the withholding tax amount via his bank before they are permitted to convert RMB in forex and send the remaining money overseas in settlement. – Chris

  18. Danny says:

    Hi, we’re a Singapore company with a service contract to an establishment in China. All payments have 13.1% tax withheld. We were being told that 5.6% is Business Tax but cannot figure out what’s the other 7.5% for. Any idea what’s 7.5% for?

    Also, we were told that a service contract with a tenure longer than 1 year is subjected to higher withholding tax. Would you be able to advice if this is true withholding tax rates are different for longer tenures of service contract?

    Thanks in advance for your advice.

  19. Danny we’re replied directly to you on this via email.
    Best regards;
    Chris

  20. Veronica says:

    We are providing reports to a company in China. What is the amount of withholding tax that will be deducted from payment to us and do we need a Chinese local tax agent in order to get our invoice paid and what is the fees like for the tax agent?

    Thank you

  21. Veronica Tan says:

    I have read some online messages and understand there is possibilities of claiming for a tax refund in China and would like know more about this services.

    Is there a contact that I can reach to discuss the matter in more details?

    Thanks and regards,
    Veron

  22. @Veron – Yes there may be possibilities to reclaim this tax. I have replied directly to you via email. Contact for such enquiries is tax@dezshira.com
    Best wishes
    Chris

  23. manish says:

    Pl advise when is the withholding tax is paid by the Bank in case of depost by the Non Resident / Overseas party (on interst)? Is at the time of accrual or at the time of maturity of Deposit or on the time of remittance of maturity proceeds(including Interest earned).

    If the witholding tax is to de deducted on accrrual basis i.e. when ever the interest is accrued (say monthly but paid on maturity 12 months) Do the bank have to deduct the WHT on monthly on accrual and deposit to tax authorities even it is actually paid to depositor after 12 months or Bank has to deduct it after 12 months on maturity when it is actuall paid to depositor.

  24. @Manish – Thank you for your comment. Does this relate to a personal savings plan you entered into in China as an individual? If so, under PRC tax laws interests from personal deposits are no longer taxable under individual income tax as from 2008. This is applicable for both Chinese nationals and foreigners.

    Generally speaking, where withholding taxes do apply, the withholding taxes only become payable at the time of remittance out of the country. If the amount is over USD50,000, banks are under instruction from SAFE to request for proof of related tax clearance from the sender before funds can go out.
    Hope that helps – best wishes – Chris

  25. Denis says:

    We are considering Selling Software and related consulting services in China and setting up a WFOE to sell in China. On payments from the Chinese Customers to the WFOE, I don’t expect any Withholding Tax. Is this correct?
    On payments from the WFOE to the parent company Is there withholding tax when the WFOE is paying parent company invoices for;
    a) software
    b) consultancy services

    Denis

  26. @Denis, you are correct.
    1) There will be no withholding tax liability from your China customers to your WFOE.
    2) There will be withholding tax applicable and deductible on invoices from your parent company to the WFOE. The procedure to remit this is as follows:
    i) Parent invoices WFOE (in foreign currency)
    ii) WFOE calculates applicable WT (be aware this can change depending upon type of service, and also potentially be reduced depending upon whether your parent company is in a country with a Double Tax Treaty with China. Ask us if you need more info on this. We also wrote about China DTA here: http://www.china-briefing.com/news/2013/07/15/double-taxation-agreements-and-your-china-investment-strategy.html
    iii) WFOE pays applicable WT and obtains tax paid receipt
    iv) WFOE takes tax paid receipt and invoice to the State Administration of Foreign Exchange or to their bank (some banks can now issue SAFE clearance directly)
    v) Remaining balance less WT is remitted in forex as specified on the invoice to the parent.

    There’s also more on calculating and filing Withholding Tax here: http://www.china-briefing.com/news/2013/06/14/calculating-and-filing-withholding-tax-in-china.html

    Best regards – Chris

  27. Christeoh36@hotmail.com says:

    I wonder, those reimbursement of Travel Expenses subject to withholding tax too?

  28. @Christeoh – Legitimate travel expenses are a cost and to avoid WT issues I’d bill them directly through your China entity or your parent company and not attempt to bill back from one entity to another. – Chris

  29. Rodel says:

    Hi Chris Devonshire-Ellis.
    Our company in the Philippines, which has no branch office in China, provides training and consulting to a China branch (e.g. Citibank China) of a multinational company (e.g. Citibank). The China Branch of the multinational company pays us for the services we render to them and deduct a withholding tax. My questions are : 1. can we claim the tax withheld certificate as tax deduction when we prepare our income tax payable here in the Phils? 2. If not, what is the better way to set up our business – should we create a WFOE in China, so the tax withheld will be avoided? or remain as is and accept the reality that the tax withheld is an expense in doing business with China companies? Thank you.

  30. @Rodel: You should check with the competent tax authority in Philippines to see if you can claim tax withheld certificate as tax deduction. The Chinese tax authority will deduct a withholding tax (dividend tax) if companies want to repatriate their profits overseas, so even if you set up a WFOE in China, types of withholding tax cannot be avoided.

    Best wishes
    Chris

  31. Rodel says:

    @Chris, thanks Chris…how about if our business is in Hongkong? Is HK considered by the China Tax Authorities as a non-Chinese country? Thanks.

  32. @Rodel; for all intents and purposes Hong Kong is treated as a separate jurisdiction, albeit one that is Chinese sovereign territory. This means the tax treatments and so in in Hong Kong are different than mainland China. However Hong Kong companies do enjoy some preferential tax treatments, including Withholding tax issues under the “Closer Economic Partnership Agreement” (CEPA). You may use the search function on this site to look for data on this. However there is a qualifying period to take advantage of CEPA benefits (which broadly halve WT) and newly established companies have to wait five years before these benefits kick in.
    Best regards
    Chris

  33. Rodel says:

    @Chris…thanks

  34. annie says:

    hi there, I have a pretty similar question as Danny please see his questions attached below:-

    1. we are also a singapore company providing consultancy services to a China establishment, we have yet to receive payment from our client yet but wonder what is the expected tax rate to be deducted from payment made to us by our client
    2. what is the 7.5% that Danny is referring to?
    3. similarly service contract for a longer period more than a year, is the withholding tax rate higher than normal?
    Thanks for your help

    Danny says:
    February 27, 2013 at 7:01 am
    Hi, we’re a Singapore company with a service contract to an establishment in China. All payments have 13.1% tax withheld. We were being told that 5.6% is Business Tax but cannot figure out what’s the other 7.5% for. Any idea what’s 7.5% for?
    Also, we were told that a service contract with a tenure longer than 1 year is subjected to higher withholding tax. Would you be able to advice if this is true withholding tax rates are different for longer tenures of service contract?
    Thanks in advance for your advice.
    – See more at: http://www.china-briefing.com/news/2010/09/22/withholding-tax-in-china.html#sthash.PIZNbUxV.dpuf

  35. @Annie, the answer to this lies in two parts; firstly the type of service being provided to the China entity as the tax burden depends upon the service; these rates vary. Secondly, the WT rate may be minimized by invoking the Singapore-China Double Tax Treaty.
    You need professional assistance to answer these points. Please email our Singapore office at singapore@dezshira.com for assistance.
    Kind regards,
    Chris

  36. annie says:

    Thank you.

  37. Roy says:

    Hi, we are provide service to a China company and they need to withhold a tax %. They told us that if we find a tax agent to pay the tax for us, the rate will be lower than what it should be. Is this true? and is there a must for finding a tax agent to pay the tax for us? How are we able to make payment for the tax if the China company does not want to pay the tax amount for us?

  38. @Rory – this is not true. It sounds like an excuse to delay paying you.
    The Chinese company must “withhold” the tax (hence the name) by deducting it from your invoice. They must take that money to the tax bureau, together with your invoice and pay the amount due, and obtain a tax paid receipt. They then take this to their bank who will arrange to notify SAFE and transfer the balance left and due to your account overseas.
    It is possible they are not familiar with this process. In which case you can ask them to contact our firm at tax@dezshira.com to explain the process (no charge).
    Otherwise they are just messing you around. It is not your responsibility to find a tax agent it is theirs to withhold the tax and pay it as they have received your money.
    Trust that clarifies the issue.
    Best wishes
    Chris

  39. Roy says:

    Thank Chris for the reply. Is it a must for the China company to pay the tax for us or they can request us to make the tax payment by ourselves? If we are paying the tax in China, how do we do it.

  40. @Roy – You can’t pay tax in China, you are not a company registered in China. It is the responsibility of the Chinese buyer to deduct WT from your invoice and process the payment. Its highly unusual that they don’t seem able to do this. If they wish they can contact us and we’ll walk them through the procedure. I suggest you commence this by emailing me at chris@dezshira.com and letting me know where the Chinese company is, and then I can introduce our pertinent regional office to you and them and we can get this sorted out. No charge.
    Best wishes
    Chris

  41. John Carter says:

    What is the amount of tax that Chinese company withholds from UK company for services like promoting export sales in specific country outside PRC, i.e. sales agent. Any application of DTAA UK-China coming into force from January 2014?

  42. @John: Being an oversea sales agent of a Chinese company could be subject to business tax or value-added tax depending on what kind of promoting service you provide. It may also depend on what kind of product you are promoting. In addition, there is corporate income tax involved which would be imposed in accordance with the China-U.K. DTA.
    For more information, please contact us directly at china@dezshira.com.

  43. Patrick says:

    Hi, I am a Malaysian individual investing in H shares in Hong Kong (China mainland company listed in Hong Kong). When I get my dividend, it was deducted with 10% withholding tax. Is there any way for me to claim the 10% back from China / Hong Kong or claim it from my home country, Malaysia?

    Thanks,

  44. @Patrick: This is a complicated issue and dependent upon whether you are an individual or a corporate. I explain as follows

    1. According to Guo Shui Han Fa [1994] No. 440, ” In the case of a foreign national holding B shares or overseas shares(including H shares), income received in the form of dividends (bonuses) from the enterprise within Chinese territory which issued the said B shares or overseas shares(including H shares) shall be temporarily exempted from individual income tax levies.”
    Consequently, if a Malaysian individual invested in H shares, the dividend shall not be taxed.

    2. According to Guo Shui Han Fa [2008] No.897, “Where a Chinese resident enterprise pays dividends for the year of 2008 or any year thereafter to its H-share holders which are overseas non-resident enterprises, it shall withhold the Corporate Income Tax thereon at the uniform rate of 10%.”
    Besides, as stipulated by Article 10 of the China-Malaysia DTA, “Dividends paid by a company which is a resident of China to a resident of Malaysia shall be taxed in China according to Chinese laws, but if the beneficial owner of the dividends is a resident of Malaysia the tax so charged shall not exceed 10 per cent of the gross amount of the dividends. ”

    That is to say, if the investor is a Malaysian enterprise investing in H-shares, its dividend is taxable under the China-Malaysia DTA and Chinese Law, and is subject to the 10% rate.

    I trust this clarifies your position.
    If you require further assistance please contact us at china@dezshira.com
    Best wishes
    Chris

  45. Patrick says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your prompt reply. In this case, I am a Malaysian individual investing there. My investment is done by my Private Banking account with an institution in Malaysia and the taxed withheld was at 10%. If I understand your reply correctly, I shall not be taxed, am I?

    If I am not to be taxed, is there any way for me to claim the 10% withholding tax back?

    Thanks

  46. Angus Stewart says:

    Hi

    We (UK) trade with China and have 10% With-Holding deducted from our payments.

    This is not a problem. However there are £50,000 of reimbursable hotel bills incurred in pursuance of our services which is included in our invoices that they are taking 10% off. This cannot be logical?

    They are also deducting roughly 3.5% which they state is With-Holding VAT. We have asked other Chinese companies about this but no one has replied. This makes With-Holding for the UK 13.5%.

    Is this correct and could you kindly elaborate on these two points please.

    Thanking you.

  47. Hi Angus

    Thank you for your comment and I hope to address your questions. I can assume that your services require you to be in China to conduct business, which you have incurred the £50,000. This is a substantial amount, which would suggest a prolonged stay. This could qualify as a Permanent Establishment in the Tax Authority’s eyes, and you would then be subjected to the further 10%. For more information about Permanent Establishment please refer to the following:

    http://www.china-briefing.com/news/2013/05/15/triggering-permanent-establishment-status-in-china.html

    The 3.5% VAT is a tax on your services and simply put there isn’t anything further to be done with that.

    If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me by email: stephen.oregan@dezshira.com

    If you can provide me with your contact information, service description etc. we can discuss this in more detail

  48. Vincent says:

    The prevailing China withholding tax rates for Beijing and Shanghai are 16.72% and 16.78% respectively which comprised the following:

    Enterprise income tax 10.00%
    Enterprise Value Added Tax (VAT) 6.00%
    Urban construction and maintenance Tax 0.42% (7% of VAT)
    Education Tax 0.18% (3% of VAT)
    Local education Tax 0.12% (2% of VAT)
    River maintenance Tax 0.06% (1% of VAT – applicable to Shanghai only)

    Is there a way to avoid the 6.72% or 6.78% withholding VAT and surcharge as the foreign income recipient will only be able to claim foreign tax credit on the 10% enterprise income tax in the home country ?

  49. Fabian Knopf says:

    Hi Vincent, thank you for your comment!

    This specific example for withholding taxes is applicable to services (charged with 6% VAT) received from a company outside of China.

    I’m afraid that the applicable VAT is a required tax for these transactions. I understand your reasoning that this translates into a tax loss, but it’s currently the status quo.

    Hope this clarification helps to at least create the certainty that businesses need in their strategic operations.

    Best,
    Fabian

  50. David McConochie says:

    Hi,

    We are U.K. company supplying to China and have invoiced 200k:
    – 50k hotel/travel
    – 40k sale of components
    – 110 k engineering work in China (over 3 month period)

    10% withheld, is this correct?

    Rgds

  51. aftab says:

    We are sales agents of various companies (producers and exporters) of industrial chemicals, food and feed additives. We provide services to get export orders from Pakistan to our Chinese Principals.
    In Pakistan there is an Income Tax (Withholding Tax) applicable if commission income received at the bank from overseas (foreign) principals (Exporters/Suppliers).
    Please advise if our sales commission income is applicable in China at the time of remittance. If so, isn’t double income tax is going to be applied for one income (both in China and Pakistan).
    Your expert opinion is requested.

    Regards
    Aftab

  52. John says:

    When purchasing/contracting services in China, does 5.6% tax apply to payments transferred for these services? I’ve been informed the Chinese government automatically deducts this tax from all bank/international wire transfers. And would the tax also apply in the scenario where you are reimbursing for costs incurred locally?

    Your feedback would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks in advance.

  53. Abdul Razak says:

    We are a WOFE and soon getting serveries from a French company. As per the DTA between China and France, the French company is entitled to get the credit for the withholding tax deducted in China (Article 22(2)(b)). Can you please elaborate on this more? What is the form, we need to send to the French company so that they can get credit in France.

  54. Maurice C says:

    Does withholding tax apply for IIT as well?

    What I’m asking is: Assuming I am in China, if my Chinese employer fails to withhold my tax to the government, is there any chance that I, the employee, could get in trouble? What should I do in this scenario? For some reason, I am very scared about this.

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