Raymond Yeung Tax Consultant former Assessor of Inland Revenue Department 前稅局評稅主任楊輝洪

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Profits Tax - What is a profession? 

The term "profession" is not defined in the Inland Revenue Ordinance. Because of the wide meaning of "trade" and "business", the meaning of "profession" is generally of little importance in so far profits tax is concerned. In fact, this question seldom gives rise to dispute because most professionals are keen to be recognized as such. In general, people carrying on a profession are members of a professional society such as accountants, doctors and lawyers. As far as profits tax is concerned, the distinction between a profession and a trade or a business is unimportant because they all are liable to tax on same basis.

The question of profession was answered by the judge Scrutton LJ in the case CIR versus Maxse 12 TC 4, 61-62. Below is what the judge said:

"The next question is what is a profession? I am reluctantly finally to propound a comprehensive definition. A set of facts not present to the mind of the judicial propounder, and not raised on the case before him, may immediately arise to confound his proposition. But it seems to me as at present advised that a profession in the present use of language involves the idea of an occupation requiring either purely intellectual skill, or of manual skill controlled, as in painting and sculpture, or surgery, by the intellectual skill of the operation, as distinguished from an occupation which is substantially the production or sale or arrangements for the production or sale of commodities. The line of demarcation may vary from time to time. The word “profession” used to be confined to the three learned professions, the Church, Medicine and Law. It has now, I think, a wider meaning. It appears to me clear that a journalist whose contributions have any literary form, as distinguished from a reporter, exercises a profession; and that the editor of a periodical comes in the same category. It seems to me equally clear that the proprietor of a newspaper or periodical, controlling the printing, publishing and advertising, but not responsible for the selection of the literary or artistic contents, does not exercise a “profession” but a trade or business other than a profession."  


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