Singapore has been consistently acknowledged as a global business hub – one that features developed infrastructure, political stability, open business policies, a skilled workforce, the use of English as the main working language and respect for intellectual property rights.

Global businesses will find it advantageous to site their headquarters in Singapore. Strong trade and investment makes Singapore the most competitive Asian country and the world’s easiest place to do business.

Many multinational companies have chosen to set up their bases in Singapore, next to 154,000 small and medium enterprises. Business owners all over the world regard Singapore as an ideal location to grow their businesses, with many of them using the country as a springboard to tap into other emerging markets in Asia.

Singapore has established itself as a reputable financial and regional trading centre. It is the world’s busiest port and a top location for investments in the Asia Pacific region. Factors such as strategic location, a competitive workforce, pro-business environment and forward looking economic policies have enabled Singapore to be the world’s gateway to Asia.

Whether you are a non resident individual, small and medium company or a multinational, opting for Singapore company incorporation will give you a launch pad to region’s other developing economies. This aside, you can benefit from Singapore’s wide network of trade agreements, ease of doing business, an attractive tax system, and sound intellectual property protection.

Doing Business in Singapore

Singapore is a unique convergence of the East and West. The social fabric consists of a mix of Asian, European and American influence making it attractive and friendly to the international business community. Since it is a former British colony, its legal and financial structures bear close resemblance to the US and the UK. Major international banks, multinational organizations and financial institutions all over the world have established their branches in Singapore, often making the country the location of their branch office in Asia. Singapore is called the “Lion City” because of its strong currency and infrastructure which in turn makes it the best place to set up an overseas corporation.

Singapore constantly ranks highly on international rankings, where some of the most recent accolades include:

  • World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2012 – 2013: World’s 2nd most competitive country.
  • World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013: 2nd best infrastructure, 2nd best labor market efficiency
  • Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2011: Least corrupt country in Asia and the 5th least corrupt in the world
  • World Economic Forum’s Global Enabling Trade Index 2010: 1st in openness to trade
  • Political & Economic Risk Consultancy, Asian Risk Prospects 2010: 2nd most politically stable country inAsia

Find out more about doing business in Singapore

IDEAL GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION

Singapore’s strategic location makes it the best for company incorporation. By means of Singapore you can reach out to the other countries in Asia effectively. Air travel is also frequent with daily inbound and outbound flights thus making business operations easier and more convenient. Singapore preserves good international connection with other countries when it comes to trade and industry. Currently, Singapore has signed 20 free trade agreements (FTA) with 27 economic partners like US, Japan, China and Korea, and ongoing FTA negotiations with other countries are being facilitated.

EASE of company INCORPORATION PROCESS

Compared to many countries that are considered as business hubs, it is easier and quicker to start a Singapore company as the process takes only one day to complete given all the proper requirements are completed and the application is duly submitted. Owning a company in Singapore can set up by anyone including foreigners. An easy and fast procedure availability of an online system has been made by the incorporation where you can submit your application forms via the internet on-line.

ATTRACTIVE TAXATION SCHEME

Singapore is a friendly environment when it comes to business taxes. It offers very low corporate taxes compared to other more developed countries. The first three years taxable income of non-resident corporations are exempted from taxes where it is considered a “zero tax” jurisdiction. Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreements (DTA) are also entered into by the Singapore government with other international jurisdictions in order to ensure the country’ financial success and prosperity.

By situating their international HQs here, companies benefit from Singapore’s network of over 50 comprehensive Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements. They also gain from Singapore’s many free trade agreements and the Investment Guarantee Agreements.

REGISTRATION OF SINGAPORE COMPANIES

A registration of a Singapore Company comes into existence upon registration under the Companies Act (Cap 50). It can have a minimum of 1 member. The members can be individuals or a corporations. Members of a company are most commonly referred to as ‘shareholders’. The Private Limited company is governed by the Singapore Companies Act, and has to also comply with the laws, rules and regulations under ACRA and the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, among others.

Formation of Singapore Companies

Most types of Singaporean company are formed under the Companies Act (Cap 50 of the 1994 Revised Edition of the Singapore Statutes), and the most common type of company to be incorporated in Singapore is the Private Limited Company. initial and ongoing fees for Singapore company registration are competitive with other low-tax and offshore jurisdictions.

Also known as a Pte Ltd company, The company is a separate legal entity in its own right, and so shareholders are not liable for its debts. The maximum number of shareholders allowed is 50. Although 100% foreign ownership is allowed, at least one director must be a Singapore citizen, resident or employment pass holder.

Incorporating a Local Company

To set up a company and start doing business in Singapore, a company must first be incorporated. A Pte Ltd company must register with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). A company is usually incorporated within 15 minutes once all documents are in order and the registration fee is paid. However, it may take between 14 days to 2 months if the application needs to be referred to other authorities for approval or review. For example, if the intention of the company is to carry out activities involving the setting up of a private school, the application will be referred to the Ministry of Education.

Accounts must be audited annually and filed with ACRA. An annual tax return must be filed with both ACRA and IRAS within one month of the company’s annual general meeting.

Start a Singapore Branch office

A foreign company may establish a Branch or Subsidiary in Singapore. The foreign company’s head office is ultimately responsible for a Branch. Moreover, a Branch does not benefit from tax incentives and exemptions enjoyed by local businesses. The Branch must bear the same name as the head office, and must have a registered office address in Singapore. Two ordinarily resident agents in Singapore must be appointed by the Branch to accept notices and services of process. Earnings and capital can be repatriated to the parent company, and income attributable to or derived from activities outside of Singapore are not subject to Singapore corporate income tax. A Branch must be registered with ACRA.

Start a Singapore Subsidiary Company

Alternatively, a foreign company can establish a Subsidiary as a locally incorporated private limited company, with the parent company as its majority or only shareholder. The Subsidiary is a separate legal entity from its parent, and its liabilities do not extend to the parent. The Subsidiary can benefit from the same tax incentives and exemptions as local companies.

Start a Singapore Representative Office

A Representative Office cannot trade in Singapore. Instead, it undertakes marketing and oversight activities in Singapore on behalf of the foreign parent company. Depending on the activity the Representative Office represents, it must register with either International Enterprise Singapore or the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

For more information on set of initial and ongoing regulatory compliance requirements for starting and operating a Singapore Company, please visit our Singapore Business – Learning Centre