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Ultimate guide: How to register a company in Singapore

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Want to register your company in Singapore? This guide contains key facts on opening a company and doing business in Singapore – the requirements, procedures, and timelines.

How to start a business in Singapore?

To start a business in Singapore, you need to choose your business structure, register your company with ACRA and then set up your bank account. 

What is ACRA?

The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) is a statutory board under the Ministry of Finance of the Singapore Government. ACRA is the national regulator of business entities, public accountants and corporate service providers in Singapore.”

How long does it take to register a company in Singapore?

The whole process takes a few days to ensure that all the documents submitted have gotten approved.

How much it cost to register a company in Singapore?

At Sleek we can help register your company for FREE if you take our company secretary services package worth S $800/year.



How can a foreigner register a company in Singapore?

If you are a foreigner, you might not be aware of the regulations in Singapore. To understand each and every process can also take up a lot of time so to avoid the hassle, you are advised to hire a corporate secretary firm like Sleek who can help with their entire incorporation process and also provide services such as nominee director and registered address. 

Registering a company in Singapore: high-level overview

  • Company name: We recommend having a shortlist of three in case your first choice isn’t available.
  • 1 or more directors: Directors must be individuals, aged 18 and above, who have not been disqualified to hold a directorship in Singapore or elsewhere.
  • 1 or more resident directors: You need at least one locally resident director. This is someone who is a Singapore citizen, Permanent Resident, or someone who is on a visa such as an Employment Pass, Dependant's Pass or EntrePass.
  • Between 1 - 50 shareholders: A director can be a shareholder, and a shareholder can either be an individual or a legal entity like a trust or another company.
  • Paid-up capital: The minimum paid-up/share capital for a company to register in Singapore is S$1. Any time after the company has been incorporated, the share capital can be increased.
  • A registered address in Singapore: The address that is provided for the company must be located in Singapore. In addition, it must be a physical address (residential or commercial). A P.O. Box will not be accepted.
  • Company secretary: within 6 months of incorporation, every company must appoint a company secretary. A company secretary has to be a citizen, permanent resident or an employment pass holder.
  • Auditor: within 3 months of incorporation, every company must appoint an auditor, unless the company has been exempted from audit (which is the case for most start-up companies).

Other helpful things to keep in mind when registering a company:

 

  • No local/foreign shareholding requirements: You may have 100% local shareholding or 100% foreign. You can transfer existing shares or issue new ones at any time after the company has completed the incorporation process.
  • Taxes: As a company registered in Singapore, you will receive some very appealing tax incentives and exemptions. This is one of the primary reasons that entrepreneurs from around the world prefer to form their company in Singapore.

Types of companies in Singapore

Private Limited Companies (Pte Ltd)

In comparison to other types of companies in Singapore, a private limited company is the most scalable, the most advanced, and the most flexible. It is the most common type of business compared to limited liability partnership or sole proprietorship.

 

A private limited company is characterised by (a) having less than 50 shareholders, and (b) not having its shares accessible to the public.  Shareholders of a private limited company can be other companies, individuals, or a mixture of both.

Sole proprietorships

This type of business is straightforward but carries more risk for its owner since the owner will be personally liable for his/her company.

 

Legally, a sole proprietorship is not a standalone entity, which means that the owner – whether an individual or a legal entity – and the business are considered as one. Only Singapore citizens, Singapore permanent residents or EntrePass holders are allowed to register a sole­ proprietorship.

 

The personal assets of the owner are not protected from the liabilities and business risks of the company. The owner has unlimited liability. This means when your business is not able to pay back a particular debt, the creditors can go after your assets as well as those of the company.

 

Unfortunately, most are not aware of this disadvantage, and it is recommended that aspiring entrepreneurs avoid this type of entity.

 

Limited liability partnerships (LLPs)

This kind of entity combines features of companies and partnerships. Of the 3 types of partnerships, an LLP­ is the most advanced and most recent of business structures where the individual partner’s own liability is generally limited. An LLP is owned by at least two partners, individuals or body corporate, and is a legal entity separate from its partners.

 

An LLP is typically established to carry a profession, such as attorneys, architects etc, where two or more would like to join together and form a practice in their shared field. The profits are taxed at partners’ personal income tax rates if the partner is an individual and at corporate tax rate if the partner is a body corporate.

 

 A registered LLP can operate more like a partnership while at the same time enjoying the benefits that come with ownership of a Pte Ltd. However, owner of the LLP need to go into detailed agreements on how the profits will be divided.

Required documents at incorporation

To incorporate your company in Singapore, you need to file with ACRA Singapore (the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority), who manages company registration in Singapore. You will need to provide:

  • Name of company
  • Brief description of activities
  • Details of shareholders
  • Details of directors and KYC information
  • Registered (Singapore) address
  • Share capital details
  • The company’s constitution

Additional considerations for foreigners

Foreigners who are interested in registering their company in Singapore also need to consider the following:

  • You will need to hire help in Singapore to set up. To register your Singapore business, you will need to hire a professional to file on your behalf. The regulations in Singapore do not allow a foreign individual/entity to self-register their company.
  • You do not need to travel or obtain a visa to incorporate your company. If you plan to incorporate your company in Singapore, but don’t plan to move, you do not need to obtain any special travel visa. You may operate your company from overseas, and you may visit Singapore on a short-term visitor visa when you need to deal with company issues.
  • You do not need to travel or obtain a visa to incorporate your company. If you plan to incorporate your company in Singapore, but don’t plan to move, you do not need to obtain any special travel visa. You may operate your company from overseas, and you may visit Singapore on a short-term visitor visa when you need to deal with company issues.
  • You may need to hire a nominee director. If you are not planning to have anyone in your company move to Singapore, you will still need to fulfil the requirement to have a local director. You can easily find a professional service firm in Singapore that offers incorporation services including local resident directorship, such as Sleek.
  • You may need to travel in order to set up a corporate bank account. Depending on the bank that you decide to use, many banks require physical presence of directors and/or shareholders to approve the opening of a bank account in Singapore. We have a network of bankers and can help facilitate this - usually a straightforward process.

Timeline for registering your company

Once you have all your documents together, a company can be incorporated within one business day, as long as ACRA does not cause any delays. Read on to find out how you can set up a company in Singapore via ACRA. 

 

 

There are 2 steps involved in the company formation procedure for incorporating in Singapore: reserving a name, and registering the company.

1. Reserving the company name

To register your business in Singapore, you must make sure that your proposed name is approved by ACRA. Usually, you will find out whether your proposed name has been approved or rejected within a day. However, if your proposed name contains specific words such as media, bank, law, finance, or education, the corresponding external governmental authority may be required to review and approval the name.

 To increase your chances of the proposed name being approved right away, you want to make sure that the name is not:

  • similar/identical to existing company in Singapore
  • vulgar/obscene
  • already reserved

Approved company names will be held and secured for 60 days from the date of your application. Also, if you need to extend the name reservation for another 60 days, you may do so by filing an extension just before the initial hold expires.

2. Registering the company

Once you have received approval for your name, the process of filing the incorporation paperwork and obtaining approval from the ACRA can be done in just a day – as long as the documents are all ready and have been signed by all directors of the new company.

What happens post-incorporation?

  • You receive a Certificate of Incorporation. ACRA will send an email notification confirming the incorporation of your company. This is your official Singapore Company Incorporation Certificate and will include your business registration number. If you want a hard copy of the certificate, you can make an online request to ACRA for S$50.
  • You receive a Business Profile (”Bizfile”). ACRA will also provide the business profile of your new company for free. The business profile is the identity card of the company.
  • You are able to open a corporate bank account. After you have successfully registered your Singapore business, you will be able to open a corporate bank account with any of the banks in Singapore. This includes Citibank, UOB, HSBC, OCBC, Standard Chartered, DBS.
  • Business Licenses Application. Depending on the activities that your business will be doing, you might also need to apply for business licenses. You will complete this process after incorporation, but before starting your business.
  • Registration for Goods and Service Tax (GST). If you expect your business’ annual turnover to exceed S$1 million, then you must register for Goods & Services Tax, or GST (also referred to as value added tax, VAT, in many countries). If you do not expect your business’ annual turnovers to reach S$1 million, you are not required to register for GST.

(Want to learn more about GST in Singapore? Read our Simple Guide to GST in Singapore in Singapore or download our GST Cheat Sheet.

Ongoing requirements/formalities for filing

Once you have officially incorporated your Singapore business, the Companies Act requires specific annual filing requirements to be made. To learn more about this, check out our guide on the annual filing requirements for companies established in Singapore.

 

 If you’re not Singaporean and you want to have a hassle-free experience, you might want to consider hiring a professional corporate secretary …. like us.

 

Why incorporate in Singapore?

Tax Benefits - the Delaware of Asia

For many companies, tax is the main reason why many companies choose to incorporate a company in Singapore. Singapore has business-friendly tax rates and a wealth of tax incentives to encourage the growth of businesses and entrepreneurship, which makes incorporating a company in Singapore a good idea.  Here’s a quick rundown of some of the favourable tax policies:

  • Tax-exempted profits: For the first S$100,000 of profits earned in Singapore for the first 3 years from a company’s incorporation are exempted from taxes.
  • Tax Minimisation: International profits earned outside of Singapore's borders are not subjected to local tax, provided certain conditions are met.
  • Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTA): Singapore currently has treaties with over 50 countries, including some of the most influential economic nations in the world such as the US, China, Japan, UK, Canada, France, and Germany.
  • Extra tax reduction: On top of tax exemptions, an incorporated company can further lower its taxable income through setting up benefits programs for its employees. Specific programs can be classified as business expenses such as leasing of vehicles, pension, and retirement funds.

Singapore has an excellent international reputation as a stable jurisdiction with a robust financial infrastructure and a well-regulated economy. From government grants, accelerators, incubators, VC, and banks, there are several ways to get access to capital at any stage of development.

 

This has spurred on the growth of the start-up scene in Singapore, with capital pouring into the city-state: in 2016 there was US$3.5 billion in private equity and VC investment alone.

 

In comparison to other countries like China, opening a corporate bank account is also a simple process.  Some corporate service providers offer matchmaking services with their network of bankers, making the process even smoother.  Singapore banks also offer excellent Letters of Credit (LC) support to Singapore companies engaging in international trading.

 

Entrepreneur-friendly government policies

In addition to the ocean of venture capital pouring into Singapore, the Singapore government has also adopted several very pro-innovation and entrepreneur-friendly policies in a bid to attract foreign startups.  These policies include several forms of grants, tax incentives, and assistance schemes. Additionally, if your business falls within specific economic sectors, the government also subsidises labor costs for your new business.

 

The gateway to Asia

Singapore is an international hub with a prime location in South East Asia. Sometimes referred to as ‘entry level Asia’ or ‘Asia lite’ by expats (and currently rated as  the #1 city in Asia for quality of life), it’s a country where east meets west.

 

As a logistics hub, Singapore is one of the best locations for regional business – the award-winning Changi International Airport is known for its efficiency and frequency of flights.  Business is best when it’s done face-to-face – and with a base in Singapore there are several key emerging markets like Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines a few hours’ plane ride away.

 

Singapore companies also enjoy a positive and transparent image in the region–a reputable foundation for the promotion of the company to customers, suppliers and investors, as well as opening doors to business alliance opportunities.

Finding and managing local talent

If you have a head office in an English-speaking country, setting up a subsidiary or other corporate entity in Singapore is a smart choice – Singaporeans have a reputation for being hardworking, rule-abiding, and highly productive.  The talent pool is highly educated, literate, and English-speaking, minimising communication difficulties between offices.

 

Singapore’s liberal immigration laws also allow businesses to easily hire employees from any country, which can lower the company’s operating costs. Nearly a third of the country’s workforce are foreigners and Singapore makes it easy for any foreign professionals to obtain work visas or permanent residence (PR) status.

World-class telecommunication infrastructure

In today’s world, the availability of lightning fast internet communication infrastructure is crucial to the success of any new business. The telecommunication infrastructure of Singapore covers the entire country, with near zero blackouts or downtime.

 

 

Based on official figures, there are over 43,000 public Wi-Fi access points and 15 millions of mobile subscribers. Businesses can connect to the internet from almost anywhere without suffering a loss of network connection or delays.

Strong anti-corruption stance

Singapore has a strict policy against corruption on any level. To deter corruption, their government employees are some of the highest paid in the world. This policy is effective as Singapore is currently ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in the world.

 

 Instead of dealing with “connections” or bribes, which makes palm-greasing necessary to get things completed, Singapore is the exact opposite.  In this sense, you can know your business will succeed or fail based on its own merits, and not because of corrupt officials.

Easy incorporation process

The requirements for starting a company in Singapore are low. It’s one of the easiest places to start a company in the world – it’s currently ranked #2 in the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings.  

Next steps

Incorporating in Singapore is a strong choice when deciding where to base yourself.  Stable economy, strong work forces, and business-friendly tax policies let you get up and running sooner- so you can spend less time tangled in admin and more time growing your business.

 

 

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