Dezan Shira in Myanmar

Dezan Shira & Associates is a pan-Asia, multi-disciplinary professional services firm, providing legal, tax and operational advisory to international corporate investors. Operational throughout China, ASEAN and India, our mission is to guide foreign companies through Asia’s complex regulatory environment and assist them with all aspects of establishing, maintaining and growing their business operations in the region. With more than two decades of on-the-ground experience and a large team of lawyers, tax experts and auditors, in addition to researchers and business analysts, we are your partner for growth in Asia.

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Regional Intelligence: Myanmar

Myanmar’s 2014 ASEAN chairmanship and the country’s transition to a civilian government in 2011 have thrust the once-reclusive economy into the international spotlight. Enacting a series of comprehensive economic reforms aimed at attracting increased foreign investment, President Thein Sein has spearheaded Myanmar’s attempt to reintegrate itself into the global economy. Alongside the easing of western sanctions in 2012, Myanmar’s economic reforms have included a floating of the Burmese kyat in late 2012, granting the country’s central bank operational independence, and passing a new anti-corruption law in late 2013.

Although these reforms have yet to attract substantial foreign investment, several promising developments, such as improved business confidence, buoyant tourism, growing commodity exports, and the commencement of an ambitious structural reform program, accelerated the country’s GDP growth to 7.5 percent in 2013 and increased capital goods imports by nearly 60 percent. However, natural gas exports and Myanmar’s agricultural sector (which currently employs more than half of the country’s workforce) continue to dominate the economy.

Myanmar’s abundant natural resources, young labor force, and close proximity to several key regional economies provide the country with the key ingredients necessary to transform itself into an economic heavyweight over the next two decades. While Myanmar remains one of the poorest countries in Asia – more than one fourth of the country’s 60 million people currently live in poverty – meeting critical benchmarks such as agriculture and land reform, economic restructuring, and financial sector liberalization have the potential to sow the seeds for long-term economic growth and development. On average, depending on the type of business, it takes 72 days to set up a business in Myanmar.

The Japanese government and three Japanese multi-national corporations, including Sumitomo, have committed US$537 million to develop Myanmar’s Thilawa Special Economic Development Zone, which is located downstream from the old Rangoon Port. It will house factories for the high-tech, textile, labor intensive, and light manufacturing industries. It is expected to open at the end of 2015.

Myanmar’s transition to a civilian government has allowed for a significant economic overhaul aimed at attracting foreign businesses and investment. With steady growth and a stream of foreign cash, Myanmar’s integration into the global economy is expected to be fast and fluid.

Types of Visas

To enter Myanmar, a foreigner can obtain a visa from within Myanmar, or from a Myanmar Embassy or Consulate in a foreign country. Foreigners may apply for any of the following types of visas:

  • Transit Visa – Myanmar offers a Visa on Arrival (VOA) service: a transit visa lasts for 24 hours and is given to individuals who do not have the time for a formal application before entering Myanmar.
  • Entry Visa – Lasts for a duration of 28 days and is intended for individuals visiting for pleasure or tourism. Can also be used to attend events, workshops, and meetings.
  • Business Visa – Lasts for a duration of 70 days and is granted to applicants coming from business organizations, or to foreign investors seeking to establish a business. Multiple entry types are available.

dezan shira & associates’ doing business in asean 60 Tourist and business visas can be extended for a maximum of two weeks upon completing an extension application. To be successful, a letter of endorsement from the Myanmar Ministry of Hotel and Tourism is required.

As of September 2014, the Myanmar government also introduced an online visa application system to expedite the visa process. Citizens of 43 countries will be able to use the e-Visa website to apply for a transit visa and will be sent an e-Visa barcode which can be shown at the departing airport.

Investment vehicles available to foreign investors

The following investment vehicles are available to investors in Myanmar:

  • 100% Foreign-owned Company
    • A limited liability company that is 100 percent owned by the foreign investor. However, there are certain controlled industries where private investment is still not allowed.
  • Joint Venture
    • Set up between one or more foreign investors and local investors. Foreign investors can set up their business either as a limited liability company or as a partnership. There are certain special sectors that require investors to set up a partnership with a Myanmar citizen or company.
  • Branch Office
    • A branch office is allowed to perform as a manufacturing or a service company.
  • Representative Office
    • An RO can only collaborate with the head office and collect useful data for the company, but is not permitted to act in direct commercial or revenue generating activities.

Additional requirements

Businesses requiring substantial investment, such as manufacturing, construction or mining, need to register under the Myanmar Foreign Investment Law (MFIL); foreign trade companies and service providers are able to register under the Myanmar Companies Act (MCA). In general, 100% foreign owned companies and joint ventures with the Myanmar government can be registered under the MFIL. Businesses registering under the Myanmar Companies Act (MCA) do not have to apply for the Myanmar Investment Commission’s (MIC’s) Permit. The minimum share capital requirement varies from case to case depending on the business activities of the investments. In general, the minimum share capital for foreign investors needs to be more than 35 percent.

The law states that for companies registering under the Myanmar Foreign Investment Law (MFIL), the minimum specified capital requirement is US$500,000. However, in reality the minimum share capital is determined on a case-by-case basis by the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) - businesses are often required to invest between US$1,000,000 to US$2,000,000.

For companies registering under the Myanmar Companies Act (MCA), the minimum rate tends to be much lower, with the minimum share capital being US$150,000 for a manufacturing company or US$50,000 for a service company. If a company wishes to engage in import/export activities, it must first obtain an importer/ exporter card (EI card). Currently, only companies with operations in the manufacturing and industrial sectors are able to obtain an EI Card. Additionally, an import/export License is required for each importing/exporting activities for each good that is to be imported/ exported. The EI License must be issued in advance of shipping the good.

Corporate Income Tax

  • Rate: 25 percent if the company is established under the Myanmar Foreign Investment Law (MFIL), 35 percent or graduating rates from five to 40 percent if not registered under MFIL.
  • Residency: An enterprise is considered resident if it is incorporated in Myanmar.
  • Compliance: Tax year follows the fiscal year between April 1 and March 31, and annual tax returns must be filed with the Internal Revenue Department by June 30 of the following income year.

Indirect Tax

  • Rate: No standard rate of commercial tax, a turnover tax levied on goods and services. Commercial tax rate for specified services applied at five percent of gross sales.

Individual Income Tax

  • Rate: Progressive tax system with tax rate of up to 20 percent on employment income for residents.
  • Tax rate of up to 35 percent rate for non-residents and up to 30 percent on other income if the individual is a resident citizen or resident foreigner.

TAX TREATIES

You can find extensive collection Myanmar’s tax treaties from our Knowledge Sharing Platform.

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