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HongKongTaxCompetitivenessSeries:

TheShippingIndustry
TAX
2 HongKongTaxCompetitivenessSeries:TheShippingIndustry
Hong Kong tax
competitiveness series
1 HongKongTaxationPost
Handover-Aretrospective
ofthedecade
2 CorporateTaxRates
3 TheShippingIndustry
Introduction
Thispublicationisthethirdissueinourseriesexaminingthecompetitivenessof
HongKongstaxsystem.Thispaperfocusesonthetaxregimefortheshipping
industryinHongKong,aswellasonitscompetitivenessasaninternational
shippingcentre.
HongKongisamajorhubforshipowningandoperatingcompanies.In2003,
shippingcompaniesinHongKongownedmorethan6percentoftheworld's
merchantfleetsbasedontonnage,rankingHongKongseventhintheworld.
1
HongKongremainsoneoftheworldsbusiestcontainerports,atitlewhichithas
largelyheldsincethebeginningofthe1990s.
However,HongKongscompetitivenessasaninternationalshippingcentreis
constantlybeingchallengedbyothernotableshippinghubssuchasSingapore.
In2005,SingaporeovertookHongKongastheworldsbusiestcontainerport.In
Aprilthisyear,HongKongwasovertakenbyShanghaianditcouldpotentiallybe
overtakenbyShenzhenwithinthenextyear.
CurrenttaxsysteminHongKong
HongKonghastraditionallybeenviewedasanattractivejurisdictionforship
owningorshipoperatingcompanieswithinternationaloperations.Thisispartly
duetoHongKongs"territorial"systemoftaxation,itsrelativelylowcorporatetax
rateof17.5percentandanexemptionforlocallyregisteredships.
2
HongKongoperatesaspecialtaxregimeforshipowningcompaniesunder
Section23BoftheInlandRevenueOrdinance(IRO).Theseruleseffectively
operateasaseparateminitaxregimeforcalculatingtheprofitsofshipping
companieswhicharechargeabletotaxinHongKongusingaprescribedformula
(seeFigure1).
1
ReportoftheHongKongPortandMaritimeBoard,StudytoStrengthenHongKongsroleasanInternationalMaritimeCentre,January2003.
2
AsofJanuary2006,justover40%oftheshipsownedbyHongKongbasedcompanieswereregisteredinHongKong(accordingtothe
publicationoftheEconomicDevelopmentandLabourBureau,SummaryStatisticsonShippingIndustryofHongKong,March2007).
2007KPMG,aHongKongpartnershipandamemberfirmoftheKPMGnetworkofindependentmemberfirmsaffiliatedwithKPMGInternational,aSwisscooperative.Allrightsreserved.
3 HongKongTaxCompetitivenessSeries:TheShippingIndustry
HongKongscurrenttaxsystemeffectivelypromotestheinternationalshipping
industrybyexemptingprofitsfromtaxincertaincircumstances.Forexample,
HongKongprovidestaxexemptiononcarriageincomefrominternational
operationswheretheshipisregisteredinHongKong(i.e.,flyingaHongKongflag)
orwheretheincomeisderivedbyapersoneligibletoclaimreciprocalexemption
(i.e.,derivedbyashipownerwhoisresidentinaterritoryoutsideofHongKong
thatprovidesanexemption).Currently,NewZealandandtheRepublicofKoreaare
theonlycountrieswhichhavebeenconfirmedashavingthisreciprocalstatus.
Figure 1
Computationofassessableprofits
underSection23B
AshippingcompanywillfallwithintheminitaxregimeofSection23Bif:
itisincorporatedinHongKongorthebusinessisnormallycontrolled
ormanagedinHongKong
thebusinessisnotmanaged,controlledorincorporatedinHongKong,
butitsshipscallatanylocationwithinthewatersofHongKong.
Computation of assessable profits
Theassessableprofitsforcompanies,whethertheyareresidentornon-
resident,thatfallwithinSection23B,aredeterminedusingthefollowing
formula:
Section23Bstipulatestheextenttowhichtheincomederivedfrom
charteringofships,carriageofpassengersandgoods,towageoperations
anddredgingoperationsshouldbeincludedaspartoftheRelevantsums.
Forexample,incomederivedfromthecarriageofpassengersorgoods
shippedinHongKong(butexcludinggoodsintransitandre-embarking
passengers)willbeincludedaspartoftheRelevantsums.
HongKongshippingincome
Assessable
Totalshipping
x
(Relevantsums)
=
profits
profits
Totalshippingincome
2007KPMG,aHongKongpartnershipandamemberfirmoftheKPMGnetworkofindependentmemberfirmsaffiliatedwithKPMGInternational,aSwisscooperative.Allrightsreserved.
4 HongKongTaxCompetitivenessSeries:TheShippingIndustry
ToexplaintheapplicationofHongKongsspecifictaxrulesforshippingcompanies,
Figure2containsaflowchartillustratinghowtwocommontypesofshipping
income,namelycarriageofpassengers/goodsandcharterhireincome,aretaxed
inHongKongunderSection23BoftheIRO.
Althoughtheexemptionprovisionsaregenerous,theyarequitecomplexto
apply.Therearealsootherareaswhichcanleadtodisputesovertheirapplication.
Forexample,thedeductibilityofinterestexpensesinHongKongisspecifically
governedbycertainprovisions(whichdonotformpartofSection23B).Because
oftheuniquenatureofSection23B,ithasbeensuggestedthatthesespecific
Figure 2
IllustrationofoperationofSection23Bforcarriageand
charterhireincome
Carriage income
Charter hire income
Carriageincome
upliftedinHK?
No
Yes
Shipregistered
inHK?
No
Yes
Shipproceedingto
outsideHKwaters?
No
Yes
Income NOT subject to tax under Section 23B
Income subject to tax under Section 23B
Shipcharteredoutasawhole?
Shipcommencingvoyagefrom
withinHKwaters?
ShipnavigatingwithinHKwaters? Yes
No
Yes
Shipnavigating
betweenHKand
PearlRiverDelta?
No Yes
See flowchart
for carriage
income
(above)
Income NOT subject to tax
under Section 23B
Income subject to tax under
Section 23B
No Yes
*
No
*OnlyhalfoftheincomewillbesubjecttotaxunderSection23B.
2007KPMG,aHongKongpartnershipandamemberfirmoftheKPMGnetworkofindependentmemberfirmsaffiliatedwithKPMGInternational,aSwisscooperative.Allrightsreserved.
HongKongTaxCompetitivenessSeries:TheShippingIndustry 5
deductionrulesshouldnotapplytotheshippingbusiness,butsuchanargument
hasbeenrejectedbytheIRD.SomeobserversbelievethattheIRDpositioncould
presentamajortaxdisadvantageforshippingcompaniesbecauseitrestrictsthe
commercialwaysinwhichtheycouldobtainfinancinginordertoavoidthelossof
interestdeductions.
WhatcanbedonetoimproveHong
Kongscompetitiveness?
TheCentralChineseGovernment's11
th
Five-YearPlangaveunequivocalsupport
tothedevelopmentofHongKongslogisticsindustryandthemaintainingofits
positionasaninternationalmaritimecentre.Inresponse,thegovernmentinHong
KongsetupaFocusGrouponMaritime,LogisticsandInfrastructuretoconsider
anddevelopstrategicproposalsandpolicieswhichcouldbeadoptedtomeet
theseobjectives.InJanuarythisyear,theFocusGroupissuedareport,arguing
thatHongKongshouldmakeappropriateadjustmentstoitsexistingpoliciesand
measures,soastoprovideaninfrastructureconducivetothedevelopmentofthe
logisticsindustryandimproveitsbusinessenvironmentinordertoenhancethe
competitivenessofthewholeindustry.
3
Inrespectoftaxation,theFocusGroup
madetwobroadrecommendations:
(i)introduceaTonnageTaxsystem;and
(ii)increasethenumberoftaxtreatiesthatHongKonghasconcludedwithother
countries.
Tonnage tax
TheFocusGroupproposedtoexplorethefeasibilityofatonnagetaxregimeasan
alternativetoHongKongscurrenttaxregimefortheshippingbusiness.
Tonnagetaxisaspecialtaxregimethatmanycountrieshaveintroducedto
provideamorestraightforwardandpreferentialcalculationofthetaxableprofitsof
shippingcompanies.Broadly,underatonnagetaxregime,shippingcompanieswill
determinetheirincomeaccordingtothenettonnageperqualifyingshipmultiplied
byafixedamount.Thereafter,thenormalcorporatetaxratewillbeappliedonthis
incometoarriveattheshippingcompanystaxliability.Thismethodissimplerin
thatitdoesnotrequiretheexactassessableincomeanddeductibleexpensesto
beascertained.
3
ReportoftheFocusGrouponMaritime,LogisticsandInfrastructure,January2007(http://www.info.gov.hk/info/econ_summit/eng/pdf/mli.pdf)
2007KPMG,aHongKongpartnershipandamemberfirmoftheKPMGnetworkofindependentmemberfirmsaffiliatedwithKPMGInternational,aSwisscooperative.Allrightsreserved.
6 HongKongTax
CompetitivenessSeries:
TheShippingIndustry
Inshort,tonnagetaxisnotsomuchaseparatetypeoftax,butisessentiallyan
alternativewayofcomputingtaxliabilitiesforshippingcompanies.Further,itis
usuallyoptionalandshippingcompaniescanelectwhetherornottobesubject
tothetonnagetaxregime.Iftheshippingcompaniesareinlosses,itwillnotbe
necessarytomakesuchachoice.Tonnagetaxhasalreadybeenadoptedinmany
countriesincludingDenmark,Germany,India,Ireland,Italy,Netherlands,Norway,
theUKandtheUS.
TheattractivenessofatonnagetaxregimeforHongKongwoulddependon
howthetaxliabilitywillbecomputedunderthisapproach.Themethodologyof
calculatingatonnagetaxislikelytobemoresimpleandthereforereducethe
administrativeburdenonthetaxpayers.Inaddition,ifthetaxliabilitiesofthe
shippingcompaniesunderthenewsystemarelowerthanthosecomputedunder
thecurrentsystem(forexample,becausethegovernmenthassetalowfixed
amountpertonnage),thiswouldbeanattractivetaxincentiveforconducting
ashippingbusinessinHongKong.However,asthissystemisessentiallyan
alternativeassessableprofitscomputationmethodology,thegovernmentcould
providethesameresultbymakingsimpleadjustmentstoSection23B(for
example,byredefiningwhatwillconstituteRelevantsumsand/orexemptinga
portionoftheRelevantsumsfromthecomputationoftheassessableprofits).
Further,theintroductionofatonnagetaxsystemwouldnotresolveaproblem
whichisoftenfacedbyHongKongshippingcompanieswithinternational
operations,namelybeingliabletotaxinoverseascountries.Therefore,itwould
appearthattheintroductionofatonnagetaxsysteminHongKongbyitselfisnot
likelytosignificantlyimprovethecompetitivenessofHongKongasaninternational
shippingcentre.
2007KPMG,aHongKongpartnershipandamemberfirmoftheKPMGnetworkofindependentmemberfirmsaffiliatedwithKPMGInternational,aSwisscooperative.Allrightsreserved.
7 HongKongTax
CompetitivenessSeries:
TheShippingIndustry
Double tax agreements (DTAs)
ThesecondrecommendationconcernstheconclusionofmoreDTAswithother
overseascountries.
Duetothenatureoftheshippingbusiness,shippingcompaniescouldfacedouble
taxationontheirinternationalshippingactivities.Doubletaxationariseswhere
theincomeofacompanyisbeingtaxedinmorethanonejurisdiction.ForaHong
Kongshippingcompanywhichconductsinternationalshippingactivities,itcould
incurataxliabilityinaforeignjurisdictionifitsvesselcallsataportornavigates
throughthewatersofthatjurisdiction.Iftheincomederivedfromsuchactivitiesis
alsotaxableinHongKong,intheabsenceofanyDTAorreciprocaltaxexemption
beingavailable,theHongKongshippingcompanywillsufferfromdoubletaxation.
Commonexamplesofjurisdictionswheredoubletaxationcouldpotentiallyarisefor
HongKongshippingcompaniesareIndiaandPakistan.
DTAscouldalsoassistHongKongshippingcompaniestocompeteonmore
leveltermsintheinternationalshippingarena.Forexample,HongKongshipping
companiesmayoperateincountrieswhichimposetaxontheirfreightincome
onadeemedprofitbasis.ThismeansthattheseHongKongshippingcompanies
couldberequiredtopaytaxintherelevantjurisdictionsregardlessofwhether
theyderiveprofitsorsustainlossesfromtheiroperations.ThiswouldreduceHong
Kongshippingcompaniescompetitivenessrelativetolocalshippingcompanies
thataretaxedbasedontheiractualoperatingresultsand/orshippingcompanies
fromcountrieswhichhaveDTAsexempting,eitherwhollyorpartially,taximposed
onadeemedprofitbasis.DTAscouldalsodecreasetheadministrativeburdenon
HongKongshippingcompanieswhichwouldotherwisehavetocomplywiththe
relevanttaxfilingandreportingrequirementsinthesecountries.Someofthemajor
jurisdictionswhereHongKongshippingcompaniesareexperiencingthisdifficulty
includeRussia,Indonesia,Poland,Taiwan,Australia,thePhilippines,Vietnamand
Bangladesh.
HongKonghasenteredintoDTAswhichdealwiththeavoidanceofdoubletaxation
onincomederivedbyacompanyoperatingshipsininternationaltrafficwiththe
followingcountries:
2007KPMG,aHongKongpartnershipandamemberfirmoftheKPMGnetworkofindependentmemberfirmsaffiliatedwithKPMGInternational,aSwisscooperative.Allrightsreserved.
8 HongKongTaxCompetitivenessSeries:TheShippingIndustry
Belgium
Mainland of China
Thailand
Singapore
Sri Lanka
Denmark
Germany
Korea
*
Netherlands
New Zealand
*
Norway
United Kingdom
United States of America
Comprehensive
double tax treaties
Airline and shipping
tax treaties
Shipping tax treaties
*NewZealandandKoreahavereciprocaltaxexemptionsgrantedunderSection23BoftheIRO.
HongKonghasconcludedarelativelysmallnumberofDTAs,especiallywhen
comparedwithourregionalcompetitorssuchasSingapore(seecomments
below).WebelievethereisaneedforHongKongtoconcludemoreDTAsbecause
sucharrangementscouldreducetheoveralltaxburdenofshipoperatorsinHong
Kongandenablethemtocompeteonleveltermsintheinternationalshipping
arena.
OneofthemaindifferencesbetweenthecomprehensiveDTAsandother
typesofDTAsreferredtointhetableaboveliesinthescopeofthebusiness
activitiestheycover.ThelatterareoftencalledlimitedscopeDTAsbecausethey
onlyapplytopersonscarryingonshippingand/orairservicesactivities.The
governmenthasrepeatedlystateditsintentiontoconcludemorecomprehensive
DTAsandhasbeenactivelynegotiatingwithtradingpartners.However,many
ofthepotentialfuturetreatypartnersaregenerallybelievedtobeinsisting
onmorecomprehensiveexchangeofinformationprovisionsthanisthecase
underthoseDTAswhichhavealreadybeenconcluded.Thisislikelytospark
debateamongdifferentstakeholders,causingdelaystotheconclusionof
additionalcomprehensiveDTAs.Therefore,whilecontinuingitsnegotiationsof
comprehensiveDTAs,thegovernmentcouldalsoconsiderenteringintomore
limitedscopeDTAscoveringtheshippingbusinesswhichgenerallydonotrequire
thislevelofexchangeofinformationandtakelesstimetonegotiateandconclude.
TheSingaporesystem
Intheregion,amajorcompetitorofHongKongsmaritimeindustryisSingapore.
Inordertoattractshippingbusinesses,Singaporecurrentlyprovidesforarangeof
taxincentives.
Tax exemption
Singaporehasattractivecorporatetaxregimesforshippingcompanieswhich
includetheSingaporeRegistryScheme(SRS),ApprovedInternationalShipping
EnterpriseScheme(AIS),ApprovedShippingLogisticsEnterpriseScheme(ASL)
andMaritimeFinanceIncentiveScheme(MFI).Thetableonthenextpage
summarisesthemainfeaturesoftheseschemes.
2007KPMG,aHongKongpartnershipandamemberfirmoftheKPMGnetworkofindependentmemberfirmsaffiliatedwithKPMGInternational,aSwisscooperative.Allrightsreserved.
HongKongTaxCompetitivenessSeries:TheShippingIndustry 9
Figure 3: The main features of various schemes under Singapore's corporate
tax regimes
Name of
scheme
Major incentives Does Hong Kong
have similar
provisions?
SRS Qualifyingincomederivedbytax
residentsornon-taxresidentsfromthe
operatingorcharteringofaSingapore
registeredship,oroperatingofaforeign
registeredship,ininternationalwatersis
taxexempt.
YesbutSRSismore
extensivebycovering
foreignflaggedships.
AIS Qualifyingincomederivedbytax
residentsfromtheoperatingor
charteringofSingaporeandforeign
flaggedshipsusedforoffshoreoilor
gasactivities,oroperatingorchartering
offoreignflaggedships,ininternational
watersistaxexemptforaperiodof
10years,whichmaybeextendedfora
further20-yearperiod.
Yes,butAISismore
extensivebycovering
foreignflaggedships.
ASL Concessionarytaxrateofnotlessthan
10%onqualifyingincomederivedfrom
provisionoffreightandlogisticsservices
foraperiodof5years(tobeextendedto
10yearsbasedon2007BudgetProposal
whichwillbepromulgatedaslawsoon).
No
MFI Qualifyingincomederivedbyship
investmentvehicle(suchasshipping
leasingcompany,shippingfundor
shippingtrust)isexemptfromtax.
Concessionarytaxrateof10%on
qualifyingincomederivedinconnection
withandincidentaltomanagementofa
portfolioofvesselsinanapprovedship
investmententerpriseforaperiodof10
years.
No
SimilartoHongKong,noseparateapplicationisrequiredtoqualifyfortax
exemptionunderSRS.Incontrast,toqualifyforAIS,thetaxpayerisrequiredto
meetcertainspecifiedconditions.InadditiontobeingaSingaporetaxresident,it
mustownasignificantfleetofvessels(minimumoffourvessels)andhaveannual
expensesinSingaporeofatleastSGD4,000,000.Themainfeatureofthisregime
isthatitisnotpredicatedonhavingthevesselsregisteredinSingaporebutrather
requiressignificantspendingbeingincurredinSingapore.BothASLandMFIalso
requireseparateapplicationstobemade.ThequalifyingcriteriaforbothASLand
MFIwouldbesimilartothatforAIS.
2007KPMG,aHongKongpartnershipandamemberfirmoftheKPMGnetworkofindependentmemberfirmsaffiliatedwithKPMGInternational,aSwisscooperative.Allrightsreserved.
10 HongKongTax
CompetitivenessSeries:
TheShippingIndustry
BasedonFigure3,itisclearthatSingaporecurrentlyoffersmoretaxincentives
thanHongKongfortheshippingindustry.Havingsaidthat,astheSingapore
governmentexpectstheshippingcompaniesenjoyingthetaxincentivesto
generateeconomicspin-offstoSingapore,suchincentivesmaynotbegranted
unlesstheshippingcompaniesarepreparedtocommittosignificantinvestment
inthecountry.
Treaty network
AsHongKonghasconcludedrelativelyfewDTAsthatoperatetoavoiddouble
taxationforshippingcompanieswithinternationalshippingactivities,Singapore
hasaclearadvantageoverHongKongwithsignificantlymoreDTAs.
4
Thismeans
thatshippingcompanieswhichareresidentsofSingaporearemuchlesslikelyto
betaxedinaforeignjurisdiction.
Outlook
WhileHongKongscurrenttaxregimeprovidesincentivesforshippingcompanies
(especiallytheexemptionforHongKongflaggedships),itseemsthatSingapores
currenttaxregimeis,insomerespects,moreattractivethanthatofHongKong.In
additiontoprovidinganexemptionforallinternationalshippingactivities,arguably
themostcompellingadvantageofSingaporeisthatithasconcludedsignificantly
moreDTAsthanHongKong.
Acriticalareaofconcernonthecompetitivenessofthecurrenttaxsystemin
HongKongistherelativelylownumberofDTAsthatHongKonghasbeenableto
conclude.
ThismeansthatforshippingcompaniesbasedinHongKong,thelackofDTAs
resultsinahighertaxandadministrativeburdenwhentheyoperateinoverseas
countries.ThisinturnaffectsHongKongshippingcompaniesabilitytocompetein
theinternationalshippingarena.InordertoimprovethecompetitivenessofHong
Kongshippingcompanies,thegovernmentmaywishtoplacemorepriorityon
negotiatingDTAswithjurisdictionssuchasAustralia,Bangladesh,India,Indonesia,
Pakistan,thePhilippines,Poland,Taiwan,VietnamandRussia.
Giventhedifficultythatthegovernmenthasencounteredinconcludingmore
comprehensiveDTAswithourtradingpartners,aviablealternativewouldbefor
thegovernmenttoconsiderenteringintomorelimitedscopeDTAsforshippingin
ordertoimproveHongKongscompetitivenessasaninternationalshippingcentre.
AfurtherareawhichwouldberelevanttoimprovingHongKong'scompetitiveness,
butnotasimportant,isthebroadeningofthescopeofexemptionscurrently
availabletoHongKongbasedshippingoperations.Atonnagetaxregimecould
providesometaxincentivestotheshippingindustry.However,itmaytakemore
thanthattobecompetitivewiththeconcessionswhicharecurrentlybeingoffered
bySingapore.
4
Singaporehasalreadyconcludedover50comprehensivedoubletaxtreatiesandanumberoflimitedscopetaxtreatieswithothercountries.
2007KPMG,aHongKongpartnershipandamemberfirmoftheKPMGnetworkofindependentmemberfirmsaffiliatedwithKPMGInternational,aSwisscooperative.Allrightsreserved.
HongKongTaxCompetitivenessSeries:TheShippingIndustry 11
Contactus
Lloyd Deverall
+85228267295
lloyd.deverall@kpmg.com.hk
Chris Abbiss
+85228267226
chris.abbiss@kpmg.com.hk
Vaughn Barber
+85228267130
vaughn.barber@kpmg.com.hk
Darren Bowdern
+85228267166
darren.bowdern@kpmg.com.hk
Barbara Forrest
+85229788941
barbara.forrest@kpmg.com.hk
Chris Garboden
+85228268001
christopher.garboden@kpmg.com.hk
John Gu
+85229788983
john.gu@kpmg.com.hk
Charles Kinsley
+85228268070
charles.kinsley@kpmg.com.hk
Peter Kung
+85228268080
peter.kung@kpmg.com.hk
Ayesha Macpherson
+85228267165
ayesha.macpherson@kpmg.com.hk
Curtis Ng
+85221438709
curtis.ng@kpmg.com.hk
Jennifer Wong
+85229788288
jennifer.wong@kpmg.com.hk
Michael Wong
+85221438512
michael.wong@kpmg.com.hk
Karmen Yeung
+85221438753
karmen.yeung@kpmg.com.hk
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Publicationdate:September2007