The Republic of Korea has signed tax treaties (also known as double tax agreements or DTAs) with a large number of nations across the world, to sidestep double taxation, avoid tax fraud and boost international trade. After signing of the first tax treaty in 1970, Korea went on to ink tax treaties with 93 countries till present.
Further, for the resolution of issues related to treaty shopping, Korea has made moves to re-negotiate with various countries that have running tax treaties with Korea. Its tax treaties with Malaysia (in 2011), Austria (in 2011), Switzerland (in 2012), Poland (in 2012), India (in 2014), Vietnam (in 2014), Turkey (in 2015), and Czech Republic (in 2016), are examples of re-negotiations.
Furthermore, the content and format of the tax treaty have undergone numerous changes comprising the latest signing of the multilateral convention for implementation of tax treaty-related steps for the avoidance of BEPS.
This article summarizes the features of the tax treaty in Korea and the present situation of the tax treaties that Korea has signed with the different countries.
New rules have been framed, that do not permit a tax treaty to be applicable, in case of a doubt of treaty shopping. The Korean government is into treaties with other nations for information exchange, which includes tax and finance information.
Local enterprises are taxed on their global earnings. Non-resident enterprises with a permanent setup in Korea have to pay taxes only on the income that they have derived in Korea. Non-resident companies that have no permanent setup in Korea usually have to pay withholding tax on each independent commodity of the Korean-derived income.
For residing businesses, capital gains are seen as ordinary business income and they have to pay corporate tax at normal rates. In the case of non-resident companies, taxes levied on Korean-derived capital gains are 11% of sales or 22% of gains (the lower of the two). Usually, there are no special taxes on profits from mergers.
Capital gains tax on the transfer of stocks is 22%. If shares are transferred by most shareholders, capital gain of KRW 300 million or less is taxed at 22% and capital gain more than KRW 300 million has 27.5% attached to it (for SMEs, the 27.5% marginal tax rate takes effect from transfers actioned on or after January 1, 2019).
In case of transfer or disposal in less than a year after purchase by important shareholders (leaving aside small and mid-sized company stock), 33% capital gains tax is applicable. For small and mid-size company stock (except holdings of major shareholders), the capital gains tax is 11%. These rates comprise a local income tax as against 10% of the personal income tax unpaid.
The Korean government is also reviewing the enforcement of tax on capital gains from cryptocurrency dealings.
A Dividends-Received Deduction (DRD) applies to dividends moved between resident firms. Eligible transactions that fulfil the Tax Incentive Limitation Law can avail a variety of tax incentives, including investment in high-tech firms or those situated in free trade zones.
The investing company gets a 3-year or a 5-year tax waiver a year after its taxable income’s generation. The business is then eligible for a 50% tax exemption for two years after the beginning duration of tax relief.
Exceptions apart, interest paid in the usual business activities can be deducted provided that the associated loan is used in commercial activities. A doubtful accounts reserve is permitted in the form of a tax deduction at the greater of 1% on the tax book value of the receivables at end-of-the-year, or the effective bad debt ratio (not applicable to financial institutions).
Specific charities are deductible (as far as under 50% of the entire taxable income). Entertainment costs exceeding KRW 10,000 on an event basis via corporate credit card vouchers, cash receipts, or tax invoices can be taxed.
Launch outlay, like incorporation expenditure, founders’ salary and registration charges and taxes, are payable if the expenditures registered for each article of incorporation and are actually paid.
Net operating losses can be deferred for 10 years till 60% of a financial year’s taxable income (applicable to all businesses except SMEs). Big companies are not permitted to carry back losses; Nevertheless, SMEs can carry back their losses to the prior fiscal year.
A capital registration tax of 0.48% (or 1.44% for the Seoul Metropolitan Area) is to be paid. A property tax of 0.15% to 0.5% (0.24% to 0.6% with the education surcharge) is imposed on property and buildings for housing and commercial use. A company having ownership of land worth more than KRW 600 million, is liable to pay a real estate tax, besides property tax.
All agreements regarding establishing, transfer and modification of rights attract a stamp duty par value. An acquisition tax of 4.6% (including surcharge) usually adds to the purchase of property, automobile and heavy machinery (buying a house may enjoy a lower tax rate from 1.1% to 3.5%).
A registration fee between 0.02% and 5% applies on registration of establishing, modification, or lapse of property rights or other appellations and incorporation with the relevant agencies.
Tax treaties are global commitments controlled by international law; like treaties, conferences, contracts and memoranda signed with other nations in terms of taxes on incomes, capital gains and real estate.
The Korean Constitution gives tax treaties the same power as domestic legislation in Korea. If there is a dispute between the tax treaty and the domestic law, the tax treaty is prioritized over the domestic law.
Also, since tax treaties signify that the country’s taxation authority accepts international transactions under a bilateral agreement, the Korean government will not levy taxes only based on a tax treaty without the requirements of the Korean tax law.
On and since April 2019, Korea has treaties with the countries listed in the following table:
Apart from income tax treaties, for staying clear of double taxation, Korea has finalized TIEAs with a lot of countries, inclusive of select tax shelters and those with whom it has temporary agreements.
TIEA covers Andorra, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands, among others. TIEAs has essential information to run and implement domestic tax legislations, inclusive of particulars of taxpayer registration, enterprise ownership particulars, companies’ books of accounts and financial records of a certain business deal and individual or corporate financial transaction information.
Further, Korea is among the 128 countries to participate in the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters as of April 2019.
Now, Korea has existing social security treaties with Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Quebec, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uzbekistan as of April 2019.
Social security agreements are aimed at helping those who have contributed premiums to the national pension plans of two separate jurisdictions. Through them, the countries can avail the combined total periods of coverage in both countries (i.e., totalisation). However, the agreement has to be evaluated for elaborate regulations that might differ depending on the corresponding contract.
As the article says, it is possible for non-residents to apply for a lower tax rate or a tax rebate, based on the tax treaties.
However, since the tax treaties and provisions under the Korean tax law are complicated and require expertise, it is best to discuss their intricacies with tax and incorporation specialists before applying for the discounted tax rate or tax relief provisions under the respective tax treaty.
We can help you through all the steps of understanding the tax treaty that works for you, depending on your country and its tax equation with Korea. Contact us to help you open a company in Korea.
Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, belongs to the league of Asia Pacific’s highly sustainable workplace markets, along with being a cultural hub of the region. Korean cuisine, cinema and pop music have an immense influence all over Asia, transforming the city into a tourist resort of global appeal, while Seoul’s rank as a business hub, depends on the might of its financial services sector and the power of Korean chaebols (corporations) makes it a well-liked investment terminus. Close to 10 million people have their homes in Seoul, but the bigger built-up area houses 25 million, which is close to 50 per cent of the population of South Korea. The city’s key sectors are finance, manufacturing and retail. The internet speed provided within the country is among the worlds fastest and public WiFis can be easily reached. The city proudly carries three primary office districts: the CBDGwanghwamun, the Yeouido Business District (YBD) and the Gangnam Business District (GBD). These CBDs are the country’s heart and soul and longest-serving business districts and also the major shopping areas of Seoul. They take account for a diverse range of businesses. Though research statistics show a CBD vacancy rate of 16.7%, however, it has exhibited a significant rise in rents since the past few months. Gwanghwamun – Rise through the Ranks as Seoul’s Premium Business District Gwanghwamun, in the heart of Seoul, rules the topmost position in the listing of the country’s business districts, on the parameters of annual sales and sales volume per individual. Business districts can be ranked on the basis of the statistical data of geography, population, sales, type of business and consumer’s trends of consumption, as well as information on a map. According to a report, places around Gwanghwamun Station registered the highest sales of 5.8 trillion won ($4.6 billion) in a single year, around approximately eight times hike as against the 2013 review. The area’s separate sales were reported at 3.9 million won. After blending with the sale figures of adjoining areas like City Hall Station and Jonggak Station, the overall sales figure in the area would exceed 12.7 trillion won. The swift upsurge of sales near the Gwanghwamun region can be ascribed to the clustered population who went out in public through the whole-month duration torchlight procession and other end-of-the-year events conducted at Gwanghwamun Square. On the other hand, Apgujeong Station in the swanky Gangnam district was placed at 19th position, a sensational drop from number three, five years ago. Areas near Gangnam Station that registered its best volume of sales in 2013, were positioned at 13th. Apart from key business districts in Seoul; Nam-gu in Ulsan, Jung-gu in Busan, places adjoining Seohyun Station in Seongnam and Beomgye Station in Anyang, Gyeonggi Province showed up in the top 20 list. Yeouido This YBD is present on a tiny island of the Han River, has been in the limelight for its financial residents – the Korea Stock Exchange lives there along with media firms. Lately, it has turned into a hub for foreign-owned businesses, majority of them have shifted to Seoul IFC development; having a combination trio of office high-rises, a hotel and a shopping arcade. Built by AIG, presently it belongs to Brookfield. The office market in the YBD is still getting used to Seoul IFC’s working premises and Q1 vacancy was 24.4%. Yeouido sprawls across 8.4 square kilometers of island sculpted by the Han River in western Seoul. The island gets its fame as the big economic district of Seoul, a registered address for several investment enterprises and banks. Additionally, the island holds the National Assembly where the regulations and political decisions of paramount importance to Korea are conceptualized and framed, the governing agencies of the Korean financial sector just like Financial Supervisory Service, Korea Financial Investment Association and the exemplary buildings like IFC SEOUL and 63. Yeouido has grown up and matured as a financial district from the last 70's when the KRX (Korea Stock Exchange) shifted base to Yeouido from CBD. Because the district identity looks similar to a financial and banking nuclear center of the city that is geographically placed on an island with a park, YBD is usually known as the Wall Street of Korea. Gangnam Gangnam is stationed in Seoul, south of the Han River, which splits through the city. It is among the several bridges of the city that bridges Gangnam with the adjoining areas to the north of the Han and also city centers. GBD (Gangnam Business District) used to be a farming area running in the reverse gear until 40 years ago. Nevertheless, this area has made its footprint as the educational, commercial and focal point in Korea and is armed to the teeth with administrative buildings on Gangnam-daero and Teheran-ro, centered on the Gangnam Station area. Every kid who loves to dance is familiar with ‘Gangnam Style’, - YouTube has more than 3 billion official views of this video. However, a considerably smaller number of people are aware that Gangnam belongs to Seoul in the capacity of a major office district. Gangnam houses several hi-tech and media agencies and another name for it is the Beverly Hills of Seoul. It is a highly robust office market, owing to limited resources and available positions of only 5.1%. GBD is at number two, on the scales of biggest business districts in Seoul, with reference to the entire leasing area of grade A & B office buildings. Conclusion Seoul has numerous universal districts. The evolution in the number of foreign nationals is most likely to hit the roof with schemes for foreign investment sectors throughout the town. When global firms make an entry into the Korean market, one of the initial choices to decide where in Seoul to set up their office. Now we have an overview of the three major business districts that are high-density areas, dotted with office buildings. Seoul’s Metropolis area comprises 400 logistics centers of area 10,000 sqm or more, with 25% of overall retail online sales. With these statistics, exceeding expectations for the sector is an understatement. Contact us for clarity and in-depth knowledge of the best place for your new company to operate.read more
Who can apply for D-7 visa?D-7 visa is issued to “dispatched foreign professional/supervisor/employee of a firm that is engaged in the business activities in Korea.”Eligibility and requirements Foreign professionals at a Korean branch office sent from the foreign company Foreign professionals at the domestic headquarters of a Korean company that has advanced into the overseas market. - Worked at a foreign company/organization and sent to the foreign company’s affiliate/subsidiary company, branch, or other offices in Korea as an “indispensable professional specialist.“ - The applicant is waived for the one-year work experience, 1) If planning to work in key industries or in national projects or, 2) the employer company has inducted $500,000 or more of business operational fund into its Korean office. - Worked at an overseas branch office of a listed Korean corporation or public organization for at least one year and was dispatched to the main office in Korea. - However, if the Korean headquarter has invested less than $500,000 into its overseas branch/local office, one is not eligible to apply for the D-7 visa. How long is it valid?When granted a D-7 visa, the maximum length of stay is 2 years, but it can be extended upon application. Dispatch orders should be issued by the company headquarters, even if the employee is dispatched from a branch. The dispatch order should state the dispatch period.Are you applying for your visa in Korea? Contact our Korea visa expert Team in Pearson & Partners.read more
The four social insurance schemes in Korea, based on the Framework Act on Social Security, are part of socio-economic system created by introducing principles and methods of insurance for the country to carry out social policy. The goal of this socioeconomic system is to prepare for possible social risks (disease, disability, unemployment, death, etc.) to ensure the people's economic life in a stable manner. Social insurance system includes National Pension, National Health Insurance, Employment Insurance and Workers’ Compensation Insurance. Businesses hiring more than one employee in Korea are subject to enrollment in the four social insurances, and employers and workers are obliged to contribute their prescribed portions to the insurance authorities in accordance with the relevant laws (Except for the workers whose working hour is less than 60 hours/month). All workers under legal labor contract are eligible for social insurance coverage regardless of their types of contract (e.g., Intern, non-regular or full-time workers). In this article, we would like to introduce the details of the social insurances which are critical when hiring employees and doing business in Korea. National Pension Authority: National Pension Service The National Pension Service is an insurance scheme in case the national citizen ages in the future or income activities are suspended due to sudden accidents or diseases and is managed by the government when people pay part of their income as insurance premiums. It protects life of the elderly so that one can maintain one’s basic life by returning the insurance money to himself/herself or his bereaved family. The less you earn, the more money you'll receive relative to the amount you paid. All employers should enroll their employees (including a representative director of a company) in the National Pension plan. Those who are defined under the relevant Acts such as employees aged 60 or more, casual workers and temporary employees are exempted from the mandatory enrollment. Employers should register with the National Pension plan for foreign employees who reside in Korea except for a foreign expat from one of countries where there is mutual social security agreement with Korea. Given that the prescribed requirements are met, foreign employees may apply to get a refund for the contributions paid to the National Pension authority when he or she leaves Korea. The amount paid for National Pension is 9% of the employee's income. If you are working at a Korea company, you and your employer will each pay 4.5% of the income, which is half of the premium. Other individuals and freelancers will pay total premium which is equivalent to 9% of their income. From July 2019, the income ceiling for pension contributions per month is set to increase to 4,860,000 won, and total pension contributions per month are capped at 437,400 won. National Health Insurance Authority: National Health Insurance Service National Health Insurance is social security insurance to prevent high medical costs from becoming a household burden and to promote public health by providing insurance services for disease or injury. Like National Pension Service, the government collect insurance premiums paid by the citizens every month and bear part of the medical expenses. Health insurance, which every citizen must subscribe to, is characterized by paying insurance premiums in proportion to their income and benefits being equal. Like National Pension Service, all employers should enroll their employees (including a representative director of a company) in the National Health Insurance plan. Those who are defined under the relevant Acts such as casual workers and temporary employees are exempted from the mandatory enrollment. However, if foreign employees receive medical insurance benefits under global medical insurance cover sponsored by their employers or National Health Insurance plans provided by their resident countries, they may file an application to get an exemption from mandatory enrollment. Insurance premiums consist of "health insurance" and "long-term care insurance". Health insurance contributions are computed as 6.46 % of monthly employment income. Additional contributions for long-term care of old-aged patients, amounting to 8.51% of monthly Health insurance premium, are also charged both to employers and employees. Therefore, an employer and an employee equally bear the cost of insurance contributions. Premiums for local subscribers, those who are not registered under a company in Korea, are calculated based on individual income and property. Employment Insurance Authority: Korea Workers’ Compensation & Welfare Service Employment Insurance is social security insurance that supports job security and reemployment by paying the necessary salary for living when one's income is lost due to job hunting and unemployment. Employment Insurance has become increasingly necessary as the crisis over employment and labor increases, resulting from the foreign exchange/financial crisis, the increase of the unemployed, and the continued expansion of youth unemployment. All employers must enroll all employees (except for a representative director of a company) in the Employment Insurance. However, employees commencing one’s first employment at the age of 65 or older, or casual workers are exempted from the enrollment. Further, foreign employees except for those who having F-2 or F-5 visa are generally not required to be registered with the Employment Insurance (Enrollment of Employment Insurance is optional for employees with F-4 visa). Employees are responsible for paying the insurance contributions at 0.80%(Unemployment benefits) of monthly employment income, whereas employers are required to pay contributions at 1.05%(Unemployment benefits 0.80% + Employment stability ∙ Vocational competency development 0.25%) to 1.65%(Rate of Employment stability ∙ Vocational competency development differs depending on the number of employees) of monthly employment income. For your reference, there is no income ceiling for the Employment Insurance premium. Unemployment benefits can only be received in the event of ‘non-voluntary retirement’ due to employ matters. Workers’ Compensation Insurance Authority: Korea Workers’ Compensation & Welfare Service Workers’ Compensation Insurance is a social security insurance that compensates for various treatment costs and death insurance in the event of occupational accidents. Government collects insurance premium from the employer and compensates the employees who suffer from industrial accidents with the funds. All employers, having at least one permanent employee, must enroll all their employees including foreign employees regardless of the age or visa status in the Workers’ Compensation Insurance. Employers are solely responsible for paying the insurance contributions. The contribution rates are determined by the industry of the employer. For instance, the contribution rates for companies in manufacturing sector are 0.7 to 4.2% and the rate for businesses in wholesale or retail industry is 0.9%, whereas the premium rate for enterprises in financial services and insurance is 0.7%. For your reference, manufacturing companies tend to subject to the higher rates of WCI and there is no income celling for this insurance. Year-end settlement Above-mentioned national social insurances except National Pension will go through year-end settlement process in the following year. Monthly insurance premiums will be charged on the reported chargeable income multiplied by the prescribed rate and in March of the following year, the different amount between the insurance premium calculated based on the total chargeable income incurred in the previous year and insurance premium paid will be further notified or refunded. Conclusion Social insurance scheme is one of requirements for a company to run business in Korea. As almost all employers must register with social insurances for their employees and pay employer’s portion of contributions to the relevant authorities, social insurance contributions should be taken into consider along with salaries and bonuses when hiring employees in Korea. If you have any questions about Korea company incorporation and investment in Korea, please contact us via Contact Us page. We will provide you with a variety of solutions for efficient business operations as well as practical advice on legal requirements.read more