Let's Teach English

Tax Season: How Much Tax Will I be Paying Working in China?

When teaching English abroad, you will typically be paid in each country’s local currency and may be responsible for local taxes, which can vary greatly by nation. In this article, we’re focusing on the individual income tax in China.

Tax Calculation

  1. Tax in China is calculated per month, as a result, tax is calculated based on monthly salary.
  2. A flat RMB 4,800 pre-tax deduction for foreign nationals per month, which mean you’re not paying tax if making under RMB 4,800 per month.
  3. Your employer will withhold taxes on a monthly basis.
  4. Rent and social security are deductible

Tax Bracket (China’s State Administration of Taxation (SAT) for 2017)

An Example Tax Calculation

If you earned 9,800RMB a month.

  1. Deduct the 4,800 tax free allowance first. 9,800 – 4,800 = 5,000
  2. 4,000 is over the first tax bracket, 1,500. So split the earning 4,000 with multiple brackets.
    1. 1st bracket (rmb 1,500). rmb 1,500 x 3% = rmb 45
    2. 2nd bracket (5,000 – 1500 = rmb 3,500). 3,500 x 10% = rmb 350
  3. Total tax per month = 45 + 350 = rmb 395

If you earned 9,800RMB a month but paid $2000 in housing rent every month, then we will factor in the deductible.

  1. Deduct the 9,800 tax free allowance first. 9,800 – 4,800 = 5,000
  2. 5,000 – 2,000 = rmb 3,000 remaining
  3. 3,000 is over the first tax bracket, 1,500. So split the earning 3,000 with multiple brackets.
    1. 1st bracket (rmb 1,500). rmb 1,500 x 3% = rmb 45
    2. 2nd bracket (3000 – 1500 = rmb 1500). Rmb 1500 x 10% = rmb 150
  4. Total tax per month = 45 + 150 = rmb 195

Other Forms of Taxable Income in China

Taxable income includes all compensation received by an employee, including amounts received directly or indirectly from the work performed for the employer. Here’re some common items,

  • base salary
  • bonuses
  • expatriate premiums
  • cost-of-living allowances
  • mobility premiums
  • equity-based compensation
  • employer contribution to overseas social security.
  • Dividends – dividends of investment income are typically taxed at a flat rate of 20%. Dividends paid out by companies listed on the Chinese stock exchanges are taxed at rates ranging from 5 – 20% depending on holding period.

Social Security in China

This area is bit unclear due to lack of an official guideline by Chinese government. Only recently has China required that expatriates to participate in China’s social insurance system.

The US does not have a social security agreement with China, as a result, US tax in social security for expats may be doubled.

China has a social security in the following five areas:

  • Pension
  • Medical Care
  • Work Related Injury
  • Unemployment
  • Maternity Insurance

Chinese social security cost are set at a provincial level and so will depend on the location of your source of income. The rate is around 10% of pre-tax income. The total cost of social security is actually cost significantly higher, but mostly covered by your employer and you pay the remaining 10%.

In general, when an employer in China employs a employee, the employer and the employee would co-pay the premiums of, endowment insurance (pension), medical insurance, unemployment insurance, maternity insurance and work-related injury insurance. However, in reality, there are no unemployment benefits for foreign employees, as a expat not employed in China then the personnel will not be permitted to continue living in China.

The Length of Stay in China Will Have an Impact on Tax

The length of the stay in China will result different outcomes on your tax obligation.

Note that the definition of a full year is that you didn’t leave China for more than 30 full consecutive days or for more than 90 cumulative days. Some countries extend to 183 from 90 days if a tax treaty is in place.

Time spent in ChinaIncome earned in ChinaIncome earned outside of China
Income borne by Chinese entityIncome borne by foreign entityIncome borne by Chinese entityIncome borne by foreign entity
Less than 90 daysTaxableExemptExemptExempt
Over 90 days to 1 yearTaxableTaxableExemptExempt
1 year to 5 yearsTaxableTaxableTaxableExempt
Over 5 yearsTaxableTaxableTaxableTaxable

You’ll be held responsible for the same tax liabilities as Chinese residents are once have lived in China over five years. The condition of 5 full consecutive years means the tax rule applies from the 6th year onward spent in China. You’ll be paying tax based on the worldwide income.

Tax Filing Deadline

The employer is responsible for filing individual income tax withholding returns on a monthly basis and settle the tax payments by the 15th day of the month following the date of receipt of income. The annual tax year ends on December 31. Individual income tax returns are due by March 31 of the following year. No extension is allowed, so you’ll be paying a penalty for late filing.