TMF Group, a leading provider of compliance and administrative services, has launched the ninth edition of its Global Business Complexity Index (GBCI)
The comprehensive report analyses 77 jurisdictions, locations which account for 92% of the world’s total GDP and 95% of net global FDI flows. It compares 292 annually tracked indicators, offering data on key aspects of doing business, including rules, regulations, tax rates, incorporation timelines, payroll and benefits, penalties and other compliance factors.
According to the 2022’s research, Hong Kong is one of the easiest jurisdictions to set up a business globally. Indonesia and China are near to the top of the rankings due to a high level of complexity, but both have improved their previous year’s positions, with Indonesia dropping out of the top 10.
Hong Kong, despite China taking more control legally and economically over the past few years, remains a simple jurisdiction for foreign companies. The direct impact on foreign investment and activity may be limited for now, as business adopts a ‘wait and see’ approach to what lies ahead.
Specifically, the Hong Kong government has set its sights on developing a leading funds industry, by setting up a new fund structure to replicate the Cayman fund model and provide tax exemption for asset managers, meaning they will only need to provide one set of compliance reports to the authorities. This should help attract more asset managers to domicile their Cayman funds in Hong Kong.
This is the first time that APAC countries are not listed in the ten most complex jurisdictions to set up a business. It means that countries such as China and Indonesia, which have been at the top of the rankings in terms of complexity, are simplifying ways of doing business to attract foreign investment.
China is ranked as the 14th (vs 6th in 2020 and 12th in 2021) most difficult country to operate in, as legislation and practices tend to deviate from international standards. However, it is a jurisdiction where technology plays a role in reducing complexity and it is making some efforts to attract foreign direct investment. The jurisdiction is likely to become more appealing for foreign companies and is likely to introduce greater laws and regulations relating to economic substance requirements. The country is expected to remain stable politically, economically, socially, technologically, environmentally and legislatively.
TMF Group Head of APAC Shagun Kumar said: “The ninth edition of our Global Business Complexity Index shows how varied the APAC region is. Jurisdictions such as Hong Kong and Australia have been maintaining their positions among the easiest places to invest in, while China and Indonesia are still hampered by complex and changing procedures which differ from international standards. That being said, we have been observing a trend to ease their processes and make local requirements less stringent for international businesses, in a move to increase their international competitiveness”.
In addition to analysing 77 locations, the report identifies key themes shaping the global business landscape and regulatory environment.
Emerging from Covid-19
The study reveals that some of the measures put in place such as tax exemptions, increasing employee rights and the acceleration of digital reporting are in the process of being reversed to pre-pandemic status.
Property tax payments on business premises reduced in frequency during the peak of the crisis. However, in 2022, 14% of jurisdictions require some or all companies to pay the tax at least every three months, compared to 9% of jurisdictions in 2021.
On the HR (human resources) and payroll side, the trend for remote working has increased, to the point where it’s legal or standard in most industries in 31% of jurisdictions, compared to 10% of 2020.
Compliance and the flow of FDI
The report highlights a simultaneous growth in both complexity and the flow of FDI. Experts in a larger percentage of jurisdictions (34% in 2022 vs 28% in 2021) are predicting an increase in FDI over the next five years, reflecting post-pandemic optimism at investment opportunities.
Technology continues to play a role in both increasing and curtailing complexity. Digital literacy is an important factor, with 16% of jurisdictions automatically notifying all the relevant authorities following incorporation.
ESG on the rise
ESG is becoming more of a focus for business globally. However, despite the increase in interest, legal enforcement of ESG practices is only in place for around 50% of the jurisdictions. This is especially the case outside the EU, demonstrating a lack of international alignment. The impact of ESG is therefore difficult to measure.
ESG is on the rise globally, with jurisdictions such as France leading the way for many years. However, many governments are at an early stage of their engagement by starting to look at adopting environmental initiatives and guidelines.
Top and bottom ten (1= most complex, 77= least complex)
1 Brazil 68 United Kingdom
2 France 69 Norway
3 Peru 70 New Zealand
4 Mexico 71 United States
5 Colombia 72 Jersey
6 Greece 73 British Virgin Islands
7 Turkey 74 Hong Kong
8 Italy 75 Denmark
9 Bolivia 76 Curaçao
10 Poland 77 Cayman Islands
SOURCE: TMF Group