Document Type



Comparative and Foreign Law | Tax Law


Before 1979, the People’s Republic of China did not have a logical system of taxing foreign business. That summer, a few selected American tax professors met with Chinese tax officials to explain the complexities of source rules, foreign tax credits, and tax treaties. That gave Chinese officials a detailed knowledge of intricate tax issues, and they have used this knowledge to develop China’s new tax system. Since 1979, China’s tax structure has conformed to generally accepted international structures with the adoption of three important taxes affecting foreign business activity. At first, China’s statutes and regulations did not clearly explain the tax consequences of common business transactions as a result of differences in statutory interpretation by Western-trained lawyers. Recently, Chinese guidance has become more lucid, which makes tax planning more feasible. Going forward, foreign businesses should avoid zeroing out their Chinese income tax (which should be creditable against their home country income tax) in order to build goodwill by contributing to the Chinese government. The goodwill gained from paying taxes to China will provide potential future business opportunities in the country.

This article presents a general overview of the Chinese tax structure for foreign businesses. Part II discusses the individual income tax, the industrial and commercial tax, the joint venture income tax, and the foreign enterprise income tax. This section also briefly examines property taxes and taxes on vehicles and shipping income. Part III analyzes the effect of these taxes on business in China.

This section reviews the practices of Chinese tax authorities regarding: (1) representative offices and business agents, (2) consignment sales and service centers, (3) compensation trade, (4) cooperative ventures, (5) contracted projects, and (6) equity joint ventures.