What is a Subsidiary ?


A subsidiary is a company that is either partially or wholly owned by another company, termed as the parent company. Full ownership by the parent company results in a wholly-owned subsidiary.

Subsidiaries are distinct legal entities managed by larger organizations, used by companies of all sizes to expand market reach and operations.

How Does a Subsidiary Company Work?

  • Ownership and Control: Parent companies hold significant shares and influence over operational and strategic decisions of the subsidiary.
  • Legal Independence: Subsidiaries are legally separate from their parent companies and are subject to the laws of their respective countries.
  • Financial Operations: Financially, subsidiaries maintain separate records, though they are often audited in conjunction with the parent company.
  • Operational Autonomy: While subsidiaries have a degree of independence, strategic decisions and policies may be influenced by the parent company.
  • Global Expansion Role: Subsidiaries can help parent companies establish a local presence in new markets, adapting to specific cultures and regulations.

Branch vs. Subsidiary

  • Legal Status: Branches are not separate legal entities, unlike subsidiaries.
  • Financial Control: Branches are more tightly controlled by the parent company.
  • Taxation and Compliance: Subsidiaries file taxes separately and adhere to local laws, whereas branches are integrated into the parent company’s tax filings.
  • Risk and Liability: Liabilities in branches extend to the parent company, whereas in subsidiaries, they are usually limited to the subsidiary itself.

Advantages of a Subsidiary

  • Tax Benefits: Various tax advantages depending on the geographical location.
  • Risk Reduction: Legal separation limits the risk exposure to the parent company.
  • Operational Efficiency: Facilitates more effective management and better efficiency due to smaller operational units.

Challenges of a Subsidiary

  • Increased Legal Complexities: Navigating different laws and regulations can be challenging.
  • Financial Liability: Parent companies bear financial responsibility, impacting stability and reputation.
  • Operational Complexity: Managing numerous subsidiaries can be time-consuming and complex.

Steps to Establish a Subsidiary

  • Choosing the Right Location: Assess market accessibility, local economic conditions, and cultural compatibility.
  • Complying with Local Laws: Understand and adhere to local regulations.
  • Securing Funding and Capitalization: Assess and plan financial requirements and sources.
  • Setting Up Business Operations: Ensure smooth and efficient business processes.
  • Continuous Management and Monitoring: Regular oversight to ensure legal compliance and operational efficiency.

EOR vs. Subsidiary: Making the Right Choice

Evaluate control, autonomy, risk tolerance, and legal/regulatory aspects of the target market.

Consider using an Employer of Record (EOR) for easier market entry and reduced administrative burden.

Final Thoughts 

Understanding subsidiaries is crucial for businesses looking to expand into new markets. While offering several benefits like tax advantages and risk reduction, setting up and managing a subsidiary involves legal and financial complexities. Companies must carefully weigh their options, consider local regulations, and ensure efficient operations and management for successful subsidiary integration.