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Hong Kong Government changes rules to allow same-sex couples to elect joint tax assessment

29 July 2019

Following the Court of Final Appeal (“CFA”) decision in Leung Chun Kwong v Secretary for the Civil Service and Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Hong Kong’s Inland Revenue Department (“IRD”) has confirmed that it has now changed its internal rule book to allow same sex married couples to apply for joint tax assessment.

Same sex couples who are married are now entitled to have their tax assessed on their joint income, which may result in tax savings. The change applies equally to tax assessments submitted through the electronic filing system or in paper form (the applicant in the Leung Chun Kwong case was unable to complete a joint tax assessment online as the system did not allow the title of “Mr” to be used for both individuals filing joint assessment). The change applies only to same sex couples who are married; it does not apply to same sex civil partnerships who are still required to complete separate tax assessments.

Takeaways

The change has been hailed as another (albeit small) victory in the fight for equality for same sex couples in Hong Kong.

There is no action required for employers in this regard, given that employees bear their own liability for tax in Hong Kong. However, employers may wish to notify their employees of the change as part of their equal opportunities agenda. Employers may also wish to include this information in any induction for new joiners, especially for those seconded or transferred from overseas, who may not be familiar with the HK tax system.

Please click here to read the summary of the decision.

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