China lawyers for forming a China WFOEThe below is what our China company formation lawyers have been telling our clients about China’s new rminimum capital requirements rules when forming a WFOE. Note that China the country has its laws/rules on this and many of China’s cities have their own rules on this as well. And in addition to the rules, you also must consider local “customs” in addition to what is on paper. With all of  these provisos, here is a fairly recent email we have been using with our clients for whom we are forming a Shanghai WFOE.

We are required to set forth the registered capital for the WFOE. The rules on registered capital have changed substantially in the past two years. Here is the basic current situation:

1. Registered capital is the amount of capital (not earnings) required to get a WFOE started. This amount is typically based on the amount of money needed by the WFOE before the WFOE starts earning sufficient income to cover the WFOE’s financial obligations. This amount is unique to every WFOE. For a WFOE that will build a petrochemical plant, the number may be over a billion dollars. For a two person consulting WFOE, the number is often quite small. For a WFOE that will _____________ and also ____________ in Shanghai, the number is somewhere in between.

2. China now has no formal requirement for the amount of registered capital. In general, the JIngan local government recommends that registered capital be at least equal to the first two years expenses of the WFOE. However, there is no fixed rule.

3. There is also no longer a requirement on when the capital must be contributed and there is no fixed rule on the amount of each contribution of capital. The rule is now a business standard: there must be enough capital to cover the operations of the WFOE. In particular, there must be enough capital to cover employee salaries, rent, utilities and government charges and taxes. It is a violation of law to start a business/WFOE in China if these basic expenses are not covered with a capital contribution. The government generally requires that the total registered capital be contributed within 20 years, which effectively means there is no time pressure on the contribution.

4. But it is a mistake to set the capital number too low. The source of both capital and income for this WFOE will be payments from the shareholder (your U.S. entity). Under Chinese law, payments from the shareholder that exceed the registered capital amount are treated as income to the WFOE and are taxed at China’s normal income tax rates. Capital contributions, on the other hand are not taxed.

5. The following are the two common approaches for determining the appropriate registered capital amount:

a. Use the local government recommendation of an amount equal to the first two years expenses of the WFOE (the “rule of thumb” approach).

b. Work with your accountant to determine an appropriate amount (recommended). If your accountant is not familiar with China (and most are not) and also able to handle international and cross-border accounting issues (again, most are not), let us know as we work with a number of such accountants and we would be happy to recommend one to you.

For us to assist you in determining an appropriate registered capital amount, we need to see the following:

a. Projected expenses for the first two years of WFOE operations.

b. Projected sources of income to the WFOE in the first two years of WFOE operations:

i) As payments from the shareholder.

ii) As payments from the affiliates of the shareholder (if any).

iii) As income payments received from unaffiliated third parties (if any).

c. Five year projected pro forma for the WFOE.

We do not need this financial data if you will make the decision working with your accountant or by adopting the rule of thumb method.

6. We need to provide the registered capital amount at the very beginning of the WFOE application process. You therefore should make the determination of the registered capital amount a top priority matter.

Please contact me if you have any questions on this.

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Photo of Dan Harris Dan Harris

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network. 

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network.  His work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

He was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), is rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (also its highest rating), and is a recognized SuperLawyer.

Dan is a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and constantly travels between the United States and Asia. He most commonly speaks on China law issues and is the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog. Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed Dan regarding various aspects of his international law practice.

Dan is licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at his firm, Dan focuses on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.