Registering Your Business in South Korea
Congratulations! You finally decided to start your very own business in Korea! Will you start an English Gyosoopso? Maybe you are interested in starting a restaurant? Or maybe, just maybe, you have an original idea and will serve people in an untapped market. Whatever the business idea is, you will have to register the business with the tax office to legally operate your business in Korea. And for the most part, it does not cost any money to register your business with the tax office. However, it can cost some money to get certified in certain aspects depending on the type of business you want to start. But once you get these certificates/licenses, like the license to be able to teach children in a specific education district, it will most likely not cost anything extra to register your business with the government.
*The above photo is of my English gyosoopso license, which allowed me to legally run an English Gyosoopso business in the Gangnam district. I had to show this to the tax office to get my business registration number.
Prepare the Necessary Documents
So now that you have your business idea, you need to figure out what kinds of documents you need in order to get your business registration number. The best thing to do is to call the tax office and ask them what exactly is needed to register your business. If your Korean speaking skills are lacking, then go pay the tax office a visit and use some body language and English words here and there to get your message across. I registered all of my businesses by myself at the tax office, even when my Korean speaking ability was sub-par. I basically did my best to explain what type of business I wanted to open and they would explain to me what I needed to do. When I didn’t know which form I was to fill out or did not know which blanks I was supposed to fill in, I just told the worker there that I couldn’t speak Korean that well and received a lot of assistance. Actually, the government worker filled out more than half of the application form for one of the businesses I registered. So yeah, don’t use your lack of Korean as an excuse. And if your Korean is really bad, then you can ask someone to help you with the process. Get your friend to go with you to the tax office and help you fill in the appropriate forms or even just to find out what documents you need. You can also find information at www.nts.go.kr (Korea’s National Tax Service website), but I personally get overwhelmed with the amount of information on the website and find it more convenient to ask a government worker over the phone or in person.
When I registered my English Gyosoopso business, I needed to get screened by the education office and receive a teaching license before I was able to register the business with the local tax office. So you may have to get some certificates before you can register your business with the Korean government. You can checkout HagwonStart.com if you want to learn more about starting a small Hagwon business in Korea.
Find Your Local Tax Office and Register
Once you figure out what documents and/or certifications you need to register your business, you will need to go to your local tax office. You can go to www.nts.go.kr and find the address of your local tax office. Once you get to your local tax office, it is super simple to register your business and receive a business number. Grab a ticket number, get the appropriate form (or better yet, print and fill out the necessary form off the website before arriving), and present the application form with your ID.
*The above photo shows where the tax office near Gangnam station is. If you walk out exit 1, you’ll see it on your right within a couple hundred meters. In Korean, you can search for “서초세무서” or “역삼세무서” or even “삼성세무서”. 세무서 means Tax Office.
You will most likely be opening up a 개인 사업 (Sole Proprietorship), so you will most likely only need the certifications (if applicable), your government ID (and 도장 – stamp if you have one, but a hand signature is accepted as well), and original contract lease of the business space (if there is a required business space, but sometimes you can just use your home address depending on the type of business).
Your Business Registration
Congratulations, you are now the owner of a business in South Korea! This is what a business registration looks like:
*The photo above is of my registration number for my trade business that I was going to grow on the side and then focus on once I got Flower Gift Korea automated with employees running everything. And this was before I found out that I had to leave Korea and move to Canada due to visa issues out of my control (and no I didn’t do anything illegal). I was doing a lot of research for the trade business and was going to a lot of trade shows. I made a website for the business and was building it, and I still kept the website just for fun. You can visit SmartTradeKorea.com to see what it looks like (It is not much, but I was working on it!). And yeah, I’ll save the sob story for another time. But I got this business registration number within 10 minutes of arriving at the tax office located near Gangnam station, and I didn’t need to show any licenses or certificates to get it!
Once you get your business registration, you can legally start accepting money for your products and services. Legally, you are not allowed to make any sales till you get your business registered with the tax office, but I know a lot of people who have made sales long before they got their business registration number. But I do not encourage this.
It is best to get your business registration number as soon as possible so that you can report your expenses as business expenses. As far as I know, you can report business expenses spent 20 days before you applied for your business number. So if you apply for your business number on June 21st, then expense purchases made on June 1st and after can be reported as business expenses. But any expenses made on May 30th and before will not qualify as a business expense.