How to Keep a Company Dormant in China: Essential Guide

How to Keep a Company Dormant in China: Essential Guide

A dormant company occupies a unique and often misunderstood position in Chinese business law and regulations. A dormant company has been registered under the Chinese corporate regulatory framework but is not currently engaging in any business activities or generating revenue. This state of inactivity, however, does not exempt the company from legal recognition or obligations under Chinese law.


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The concept of a dormant company in China is rooted in the need for businesses to preserve their legal status and corporate identity even when they are not actively trading or operational. This could be due to various reasons, such as strategic business planning, economic downturns, or a temporary operation halt. Regardless of the cause, maintaining a company as dormant involves adhering to specific legal requirements and regulations to ensure compliance with Chinese corporate laws.

For several reasons, understanding the process of maintaining a company in a dormant state in China is required:

  • It allows the company to retain its corporate structure and legal status without engaging in regular business activities. This can be particularly beneficial for businesses planning to recommence operations in the future, as it provides them with a ready-to-go corporate framework.
  • Even though dormant companies are inactive, they are still subject to certain legal and regulatory requirements. These include filing annual returns, maintaining proper records, and ensuring compliance with local and national regulations. Failure to adhere to these requirements can lead to legal complications, including fines and the potential revocation of the company's legal status.
  • Understanding and navigating the nuances of maintaining a dormant company in China can help in strategic business planning. It provides a safety net for businesses looking to temporarily scale down operations without losing their corporate identity. 

In this article, we discuss the essentials of obtaining and retaining a dormancy status for a company in China.

Understanding dormancy in China

Business suspension or dormancy within Chinese business law is a strategic tool that enables companies to navigate challenging periods without relinquishing their legal status or corporate identity. Under the stipulations of the Administrative Regulation of the People's Republic of China and its Implementing Rules, this policy offers a vital lifeline for businesses impacted by unforeseen events such as natural disasters or public health crises.

It allows them the flexibility to pause operations for up to three years, providing a buffer to reassess, restructure, or wait out adverse conditions. Importantly, the dormant status does not equate to the dissolution of the company but rather represents a temporary halt in activities, preserving the company's potential to reactivate and return to the market when stability is restored. This approach reflects an understanding of the fluid nature of business and the need for legal frameworks that can adapt to varying economic climates and challenges.

The dormant status in China, akin to practices in countries like the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Hong Kong, offers unique benefits and is governed by specific characteristics:

  • No business activities: A dormant company in China is distinguished by its lack of engagement in business operations, sales, or services. This period of inactivity is a defining feature.
  • Minimal financial transactions: While completely inactive in business terms, these companies might still incur essential financial transactions, such as minimal bank charges or statutory fees necessary for maintaining their legal status.
  • Retention of Legal Status: Despite being inactive, dormant companies retain their registration as legal entities in China. This status comes with certain obligations, including compliance with reporting requirements.
  • Potential for reactivation: A key aspect of a dormant company is its ability to reactivate and resume operations when the management or owners deem it appropriate.

Legal definition in China

Under Chinese regulations, companies can enter a dormant state for various reasons, including natural disasters, public health events, or other incidents that disrupt business operations. This policy applies to  legal entities engaged in profit-making activities, including Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises (WFOEs).

Reasons for choosing dormancy.

Companies in China may opt for dormancy for several reasons:

  • Strategic decisions: Firms may enter a dormant phase to reassess their business strategies, undergo restructuring, or prepare for a major directional shift.
  • Regulatory issues: Non-compliance with regulatory standards or delays in license renewals can lead companies to choose dormancy as a temporary solution.
  • External factors: Political unrest, natural disasters, or supply chain disruptions are external factors that might temporarily compel a business to become dormant.
  • Assets preservation: Dormancy can be a strategic choice to preserve a company's branding, intellectual property, or physical assets like property.
  • Cost and time efficiency: Companies can save on the time and expenses of closing and reopening a new entity by choosing dormancy over winding down.

Legal considerations and compliance

Reporting and documentation requirements

Even when a company assumes a dormant status, it remains bound to fulfill certain reporting and documentation obligations. This includes submitting annual reports and financial statements to the appropriate regulatory bodies. Although less extensive than those for active companies, these requirements are essential to maintain the company's legal standing. Additionally, companies are expected to keep their records current, including information about directors, shareholders, and financial statements.

Tax filings for dormant companies

An important aspect of compliance for dormant companies is the continuation of tax filings. Despite potentially having no income to report, these companies must file tax returns to uphold their compliant status and adhere to prevailing tax regulations. This ensures that they maintain their legal integrity throughout the dormancy period.

Work visas for foreign employees

For dormant companies with foreign employees, work visas are specifically considered. Given that the company is not conducting business, it may not satisfy the conditions required to sponsor or renew work visas for these employees. This is a crucial factor for companies with an international workforce to consider before transitioning to dormancy.

Notification to Authorities

Certain circumstances may require dormant companies to inform relevant authorities, such as the Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC), of their dormant status. This notification is part of regulatory compliance and helps maintain transparency with regulatory bodies.

Bank Account Management

It is advisable for these companies to inform their banking institutions about their dormant status to prevent potential complications or unexpected fees. Banks may have specific protocols or policies for handling accounts associated with dormant companies.

How to obtain dormancy status for a company

To transition a company to a state of "business suspension" in China, it is mandatory to submit a formal filing with the local Administration for Market Regulation (AMR). The legal framework governing this process is notably accommodating, imposing minimal restrictions on the eligibility of applicants seeking dormant status. Essentially, the company must not be listed on the blacklist for abnormal operations or serious illegal and dishonest behavior. Additionally, the decision to suspend business activities should not pose a threat to national security or public interests, or infringe upon the rights and interests of trading partners and other stakeholders.

Before applying for business suspension

Applicable market entities

The Regulation applies to a wide range of legal entities, including;

  • Companies;
  • Sole proprietorships;
  • Partnerships;
  • Cooperatives; and,
  • Branches of foreign companies.

Record with the registration authority

To initiate dormancy, companies must first approach their local registration authority, such as the Shanghai Market Supervisory Authority in Xuhui district, for Shanghai-based companies. This authority will record and publicize essential details like the suspension period and the address for service of legal documents through the National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System. The required filing materials include an application for suspension and a commitment letter.

Handling labor relations

Companies need to address labor-related matters in compliance with the Law of the People's Republic of China on Employment Contracts. This includes continuing contributions to the housing provident fund for employees. Companies should remember that applying for business suspension does not provide a lawful basis for unilaterally terminating employment contracts.

During dormant status

During this phase, dormant companies are obligated to publish annual reports between January 1 and June 30 each year. This report must detail the business scope, registered address, primary accounting data, and social insurance information. It is important to note that failure to file these reports could lead to penalties and the company being marked for "abnormal operation." The suspension period should not exceed three years, although a full 3-year suspension can be applied for in one go.

After the suspension period

Resumption of operations

Companies automatically resume operations either on the specified application date or after the 3-year period. An application must be filed 30 days before the suspension expires to extend the dormancy. If a company chooses to close, it must initiate the deregistration process promptly.

Termination of business suspension

If a company decides independently to resume business or has already commenced business activities, it must announce its termination of dormancy through the National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System within 30 days. Non-compliance could lead to a fine.

Updating business details

On resuming operations, companies must update their registration and filing details promptly, especially if there are changes or if they use an alternate address for legal documents.

Pros and cons of dormancy


Opting for dormant status allows companies to retain their legal standing and special licenses, reduce administrative costs, and protect their tangible and intangible assets.


Dormant companies face limitations in employing or maintaining foreign staff on visas and still bear their debt obligations and legal responsibilities.

Benefits of choosing dormancy

During the business suspension period, the company shall be exempted from retaining physical premises, and the company can suspend their business operation legally, without getting their business license revoked. Besides, the dormant status may also bring the following benefits to the company:

  • Reserve the company name;
  • Reserve the special license or pre-approval, which is hard to apply for again in a special industry;
  • Protect the company’s branding or other intangible assets;
  • Hold a particular type of physical asset, such as property; and
  • Save the time and cost of winding down the company and opening a new entity in the future.

To be noted, however, the Regulation and its Implementing Rules provide clear guidance on how the dormant company should deal with its tax obligations, such as whether the company is still required to complete monthly/quarterly/annually tax filing or not. However, the corresponding tax responsibility during the suspension period still needs to be clarified by the competent tax authority.

Moreover, the Regulation and its Implementing Rules do not state that business suspension can be used as a lawful reason for termination. The company can use the business suspension situation as a strategic condition in the termination negotiation, rather than as a ground to terminate its employees unilaterally.


Navigating the complexities of maintaining a dormant company in China requires a careful balance between adhering to legal obligations and strategically planning for future business possibilities. This essential guide has outlined the key steps and considerations involved in this process, emphasizing the importance of compliance, accurate reporting, and strategic foresight. Businesses considering dormancy as an option must stay informed of the evolving Chinese corporate laws and regulations to ensure they remain compliant while preserving their corporate identity and assets. The path to dormancy, while challenging, offers a valuable opportunity for businesses to withstand turbulent times and emerge stronger when market conditions improve.

Seek expert advice

It is crucial for businesses contemplating dormancy in China to consult with legal and financial experts who are well-versed in Chinese corporate law. This ensures that all aspects of the dormancy process are handled correctly, from the initial application to managing labor relations, fulfilling tax obligations, and eventually resuming operations or extending dormancy. Contact our expert guidance to help navigate the intricacies of this process, ensuring compliance and maximizing the strategic benefits of dormancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a dormant company in China?

A dormant company in China is a legally registered business that temporarily ceases its operations and business activities but maintains its legal status and corporate structure.

How long can a company remain dormant in China?

A company can remain dormant in China for a maximum of three years. Beyond this period, the company must either resume operations or consider closure.

Are there any specific reporting requirements for dormant companies in China?

Yes, dormant companies in China must submit annual reports and financial statements between January 1 and June 30 each year, detailing their business scope, registered address, and other relevant information.

Can a dormant company in China still employ foreign workers?

Dormant companies may face restrictions in sponsoring or renewing work visas for foreign employees as they need to conduct business actively.

How does a company apply for dormant status in China?

To apply for dormant status, a company must file a formal application with the local Administration for Market Regulation (AMR), ensuring they are not on any blacklist for illegal activities and that their dormancy doesn’t threaten national security or public interests.


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