Five common misconceptions about starting your first company in China that can save you tens of thousands of dollars in your first year.
I have been doing business in China for over 10 years and personally ran several Representative Offices and consulting firms in Beijing and Shanghai. In Trade Exact Consulting, we see a lot of customers making same mistakes when coming into China and would like to share some tips on how to avoid them.
Despite the recent economic slowdown China remains a top destination for financial firms aiming to expand their global presence. Over the past 5 years it’s become common practice among foreign entrants to choose Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise (WFOE) instead of a traditional Representative Office (RO) as an incorporation format in China. In this article we will review the main misconceptions about establishing your business presence in China and will share some little known insights on how to save tens of thousands of dollars along the way.
Misconception # 1. Representative Office is the best way of incorporation in China.
Traditionally most companies contact us to inquire about the office setup in China, they initially gravitate towards Representative Office. If 10 years ago, it was a commonplace practice and was the fastest and easiest way to get in, over the years it was replaced with a Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise, aka WFOE alternative. And there are at least 12 reasons why you too should stay away from a Rep Office and establish a WFOE instead.
So in which cased does it actually make sense to establish a Representative Office given all its limitations as described above?
Nowadays, Rep Office remains a rare choice of those multi-national companies that are simply looking to establish a foothold in China without hiring any more than 1-2 people staff and without conducting any type of business activities.
What type of WFOE do most financial companies choose?
Until recently, the vast majority of the WFOEs were registered as Investment Consulting Companies (投资有限公司). However, in January 2016, the infamous P2P company named E-Zubao has vanished with over $7.6 Billion of customer funds and became the largest financial fraud case in China in modern history. It also happed to operate under WFOE Investment Consulting License out of Shanghai. As a result, the Chinese government has placed a hold on all WFOE Investment Consulting registrations until further notice. That’s why going forward we recommend all our clients to choose Management Consulting format (商务咨询有限公司).
Misconception # 2. I need to have a physical office before I submit for WFOE registration.
Unfortunately, most newcomers to the market fall into this trap and end up spending tens of thousands of dollars on an expensive office somewhere in downtown area of Shanghai. The matter becomes even more complicated, because oftentimes local business offices refuse to rent out an office without a local license, which forces business owners to come to even more expensive service-offices, which not always allow to use their address for registration services and if they do – be ready to pay a hefty price for it. So it all becomes almost a vicious circle – you need to have an office in order to apply for a license, but you need to have a license to be able to lease a moderately priced permanent office.
In reality these expenses and headache can be avoided if you choose the right partner to help you along the registration process. Several city districts in major cities allow to obtain a virtual office address for the registration purposes. It costs a fraction of a full office rent and gives you a flexibility to choose just the right size of the office to get your local business on the way while waiting for the license application to be approved.
Misconception # 3. I need to receive full paperwork for WFOE before I can start hiring staff.
Although of cause, you do need a valid Chinese business license in order to be able to start hiring your local team, there are ways how you can expedite this process without waiting for your paperwork. The key here is the fact that it can be any license – e.g. of a local out-staffing agency that has the right to hire local staff and sing agreements with your offshore entity at the same time.
Trade Exact solutions include this option for newly forming companies in China.
Misconception # 4. I need to have hundreds of thousands of dollars as charter capital.
This is another example of past legacies that firmly embedded themselves into the minds of business practitioners in China. Not long ago, Chinese government has amended the requirements for charter capital utilization, which lifted the deadlines for mandatory capital infusions. So although, it is advised that you list at least $140,000 of charter capital (which may vary depending on your company origin, business plan and corporate structure), there is no obligatory timeframe during which you need to bring this money in. Good news is – you can use charter capital for OPEX. Therefore, you can simply inject the optimal amount of funds required to have your operations running smoothly.
Misconception # 5. I need to have in-house HR and accountant specialist to service the WFOE.
Lastly, another managerial mistake that we often see among the newly registered companies is hiring of full-time HR and accountants, while the company itself has no more than 20 staff. According to regulations, any local company in China must submit monthly reporting to the local tax authorities, process payroll and pay various social benefits on behalf of the local staff.
The truth is, there is no need to hire an in-house specialist for that. There are plenty of part-time accountants and staffing agencies, who can do this work at much better rates. If you choose to register your company with Trade Exact Consulting VIP package, we will include a full year service FREE of charge and insure your reporting and staffing needs are fully covered.
Pavel Khizhnyak, Founder & CEO