The Best Guide to Wholly-Owned Subsidiaries and 7 Key Facts

The Best Guide to Wholly-Owned Subsidiaries and 7 Key Facts

The Best Guide to Wholly-Owned Subsidiaries and 7 Key Facts

April 26, 2024


Picture of INS Global



Picture of INS Global



Share On :

window.onload = function() { var current_URL = window.location.href; document.getElementById("fb-social-share").onclick = function() {`${current_URL}`); }; document.getElementById("tw-social-share").onclick = function() {`${current_URL}`); }; document.getElementById("in-social-share").onclick = function() {`${current_URL}`); }; };

Key Takeaways

  1. A wholly-owned subsidiary is a distinct legal entity that is fully owned and controlled by another company, known as the parent company or parent entity
  2. Tax implications vary depending on the jurisdiction where the subsidiary operates and the parent company’s tax residency
  3. Risks associated with wholly-owned subsidiaries include financial liabilities, compliance hassles, operational challenges, and cultural differences in international markets


Expanding operations into foreign territories can be both a promising opportunity and a daunting challenge, but is it always the most efficient or cost-effective option? In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the details of wholly-owned subsidiaries, looking at 7 key differences compared to traditional subsidiaries and shedding light on why opting for an Employer of Record (EOR) might be a strong potential alternative.


What is a Wholly-Owned Subsidiary?


A wholly-owned subsidiary is a distinct legal entity that is fully owned and controlled by another company, known as the parent company or parent entity.

In this type of structure, the parent company holds 100% ownership of the subsidiary, giving it full control over the subsidiary’s operations, strategic decisions, and management.

The key characteristics of a wholly-owned subsidiary include:


  • Ownership – The parent company owns all of the shares or equity of the subsidiary, giving it complete control over the subsidiary’s assets, liabilities, and operations. Complete ownership allows the parent company to align the subsidiary’s objectives with its overarching business strategy, building synergies and helping resource allocation for enhanced success.
  • Separate Legal Entity – Despite being wholly owned by the parent company, a wholly-owned subsidiary is a separate legal entity under the law (though this may depend on the law of the nations involved in cases of international companies). It has its own unique legal identity, rights, and obligations, distinct from those of the parent company. This separation ensures that the subsidiary can enter into contracts, incur liabilities, and conduct business activities outside of the parent entity.
  • Control and Decision-Making – One of the primary advantages of establishing a wholly-owned subsidiary is the ability of the parent company to exert full control over its decision-making. From setting strategic goals to following business strategies, the parent company can direct the subsidiary’s activities to align with its overall objectives.
  • Liability Protection – By operating as a distinct legal entity, a wholly-owned subsidiary provides a degree of liability protection to the parent company. Any legal or financial issues faced by the subsidiary typically do not extend to the parent entity.
  • Brand Consistency – With a wholly-owned subsidiary, the parent company can enforce uniform standards and brand guidelines, ensuring brand identity and customer experience across all its territories.
  • Financial Reporting – From an accounting perspective, the parent company consolidates the financial statements of the wholly-owned subsidiary into its own financial reports. This provides stakeholders with a total overhead view of the parent company’s global operations.


How Accounting for Wholly-Owned Subsidiaries Works


Unlike joint ventures or partnerships, where ownership and control are shared, a wholly-owned subsidiary is a separate legal entity entirely owned and controlled by its parent company.

From an accounting perspective, this means that the parent company consolidates the subsidiary’s financial statements with its own.

Consolidated financial statements provide stakeholders with a comprehensive view of the financial performance and position of the entire corporate group rather than viewing each part alone.


Accounting Methods


Under the equity method, the parent company records its investment in the subsidiary on its balance sheet and recognizes its share of the subsidiary’s net income or loss on its income statement. This method is typically used when the parent company has significant influence but does not exert full control over the subsidiary.

In contrast, full consolidation involves combining the parent company’s financial statements and its subsidiary as if they were a single entity. All assets, liabilities, revenues, and costs are combined to produce consolidated statements of the entire group.



A Subsidiary vs. Wholly Owned Subsidiaries: 7 Big Differences


Ownership and Control


While both subsidiaries and wholly-owned subsidiaries operate as distinct of the parent company, the primary distinction lies in ownership. In a traditional subsidiary, the parent company holds a majority stake but may share ownership and control with other investors. In contrast, a wholly-owned subsidiary is 100% owned by the parent company, providing control over strategic decisions and operations.


Liability and Risk Management


Building wholly-owned subsidiaries offers greater protection against liability risks. Since the parent company maintains full ownership, any legal or financial obligations incurred by the subsidiary typically do not extend to the parent entity. While this legal separation may also exist in a traditional subsidiary structure, the sharing of control between all invested parties can lead to disputes.


Decision-Making Autonomy


One of the key advantages of wholly-owned subsidiaries is the ability to exert complete control over decision-making processes. From hiring key personnel to implementing business strategies, the parent company enjoys autonomy in shaping the direction of its overseas operations, whereas a traditional subsidiary may be seen as more independent.


Flexibility in Operations


Unlike joint ventures or partnerships, which often require consensus among multiple stakeholders, wholly-owned subsidiaries offer greater flexibility in operational management. This agility allows the parent company to adapt swiftly to changing market dynamics, explore new opportunities, and optimize operational efficiency without the constraints of shared ownership.


Brand Consistency and Image


Maintaining brand consistency and image across global markets is paramount for many global corporations. By opening wholly-owned subsidiaries, the parent company can enforce uniform standards and brand guidelines, which may not be possible with a traditional subsidiary.


Intellectual Property Protection


Protecting intellectual property (IP) assets is crucial for companies operating in competitive industries. With wholly-owned subsidiaries, the parent company retains full control over its technologies, patents, and trademarks, minimizing the risk of IP infringement or unauthorized use by third parties.


Tax Efficiency and Transfer Pricing


From a tax perspective, establishing wholly-owned subsidiaries can offer greater flexibility in managing transfer pricing and optimizing tax efficiency when compared to a traditional subsidiary. By controlling the flow of goods, services, and intellectual property between entities, companies can strategically allocate profits and minimize tax liabilities in accordance with local regulations and international tax treaties.


What Is the Difference Between a Joint Venture and a Wholly-Owned Subsidiary?


As another type of company often used by businesses seeking overseas expansion and often forming a sort of foreign subsidiary, joint ventures are convenient ways to make use of local networks and knowledge.

While both joint ventures and wholly-owned subsidiaries involve establishing separate legal entities for international expansion, the key difference lies in ownership and control. In a joint venture, two or more parties collaborate to form a new entity, sharing ownership and control as per the terms of the joint venture agreement. Depending on the laws of the local market or actions of the joint venture partner, this type of agreement can be seen as dangerous for companies entering unfamiliar territory.

Conversely, a wholly-owned subsidiary is fully owned and controlled by a single parent company, offering complete decision-making authority.


How Can a Wholly-Owned Subsidiary Be Established in a Foreign Market?


Establishing a wholly-owned subsidiary in a foreign market requires careful planning and total compliance with local rules. The process typically involves the following steps:


Market Research and Analysis


Conduct comprehensive market research to assess the potential risks of subsidiaries in a particular foreign market. Analyze market trends, regulations, and the competitive landscape to inform your strategic decisions.


Market Entry and Expansion Strategy


Develop a comprehensive market entry and expansion strategy to penetrate the target market effectively and capture market share. Identify key customers, pricing strategies, and marketing tactics that work best in the target market to give your subsidiary the best starting chance.


Legal and Regulatory Compliance


Become familiar with the legal and regulatory requirements governing foreign investment and company opening rules in the target market. Consult with legal experts if needed to understand complex laws, obtain the right permits, licenses, and approvals, and ensure compliance with local labor laws, tax systems, and corporate standards.


Entity Formation and Registration


Choose the right legal structure for your wholly-owned subsidiaries, such as a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation. This is likely to be based on the specific requirements of the target market. Prepare and file the documents for company registration, including company articles and shareholder agreements.


Capital and Funding


Determine initial capital requirements for your wholly-owned subsidiaries and secure internal funding sources to support its operations and growth objectives. Explore options such as equity investments, bank loans, or internal capital allocation from the parent company, and take into account any relevant currency exchange rates, capital transfer limits, and financial risks.


Recruitment and Talent Acquisition


Build a talented team of local staff or transfer current employees with the skills and expertise required to drive the success of your wholly-owned subsidiaries.

This may mean creating a recruitment strategy that attracts top talent and providing ongoing training and development opportunities to nurture employee retention.


Operational Setup and Infrastructure


Set up the necessary infrastructure, facilities, and operational processes to support the day-to-day activities of your wholly-owned subsidiary. Establish robust procedures to ensure seamless integration with the parent company.


Wholly-Owned Subsidiaries


Find the Best Way to Expand Your Operations in a Foreign Market with INS Global


In conclusion, while establishing wholly-owned subsidiaries offers numerous advantages in terms of ownership control, decision-making autonomy, and brand consistency, it’s essential for companies to weigh the associated costs, risks, and complexities against the potential benefits.

As an alternative approach, partnering with an Employer of Record (EOR) such as INS Global can provide a more streamlined and cost-effective solution for international expansion.

INS Global is a leading provider of expansion support solutions, aiding companies at every step along the road to international growth. Since 2006, we’ve helped companies achieve their global growth targets quickly, easily, and without the usual delays or hassles in 160+ countries worldwide. From recruitment to payroll and more, our services provide the peace of mind needed so you can focus on what brings your company success.

To learn more about our range of comprehensive global expansion streamlining solutions, contact our team of expert advisors for a free consultation.




Q: Can a Subsidiary Not Be Wholly-Owned?


A: A subsidiary can be partially owned by multiple investors or entities, allowing for shared ownership and control over its operations. This structure is commonly referred to as a traditional subsidiary or a joint venture, where ownership stakes are divided.


Q: What are the tax implications of having wholly-owned subsidiaries?


A: Tax implications vary depending on the jurisdiction where the subsidiary operates and the parent company’s tax residency. Generally, wholly-owned subsidiaries may benefit from tax advantages, such as deductions and incentives, but they may also be subject to extra local tax laws or regulations.


Q: Can a wholly-owned subsidiary have its own board of directors?


A: Yes, wholly-owned subsidiaries can have their own board of directors, which may include representatives from the parent company as well as other directors. The parent company typically appoints the board members and sets corporate policies for the subsidiary.


Q: What are the risks associated with wholly-owned subsidiaries?


A: Risks associated with wholly-owned subsidiaries include financial liabilities, compliance hassles, operational challenges, and cultural differences in international markets. Companies must assess and work through these risks with effective risk management strategies.



Contact Us Today

Related Posts

DOWNLOAD THE INS Expansion Insights