A Guide to Setting up a Company in Singapore

Singapore has established itself as a global business hub due to its strategic geographical location, world-class infrastructure, and ease of doing business. Investors and entrepreneurs worldwide are attracted to the country’s pro-business policies and potential for growth. In this article, we cover the essentials of setting up a company in Singapore, including requirements, procedures, timelines, and services.

Understanding the Different Types of Business Entities in Singapore

Selecting the appropriate business entity is crucial to your company setup in Singapore. Each business structure has its advantages and legal implications. Some common types of entities include:

  • Sole Proprietorship: Owned by one individual, typically suitable for small businesses with low risk.
  • Partnership: Co-owned by two or more individuals or companies, can be either general or limited liability partnerships.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): Most popular option among foreign investors, legally separate from its owners and directors, can be private or public.
  • Branch Office: An extension of an existing foreign company, considered non-resident for tax purposes and not a separate legal entity.
  • Representative Office: A temporary setup for foreign companies exploring the Singapore market, cannot engage in profit-generating activities.

The choice of business structure depends on factors like size, nature, and scale of operations. It is crucial to carefully evaluate each option before settling on a suitable form.

Required Documentation and Application Procedure

In order to register a company in Singapore, you need to provide the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) with specific documentation. Singapore business setup typically requires the following documents:

  • A unique company name that has been approved by ACRA.
  • Details of company directors – at least one must be a local Singapore resident, meaning either a citizen, permanent resident, or holder of an appropriate work visa.
  • A registered office address in Singapore.
  • Information about shareholders – can be individuals or corporate entities, foreigners or residents, the maximum number for a private limited company is 50.
  • Appointment of a qualified company secretary within six months of incorporation.
  • A minimum paid-up capital of SGD 1.
  • Memorandum & Articles of Association specifying key rules and regulations governing your company.

Once you have all these documents ready, electronic submission is done through ACRA’s online portal, BizFile+. The processing time typically takes less than 24 hours, provided there are no issues with the submitted information.

Post-Incorporation Requirements

Setting up a company in Singapore involves several steps after successfully obtaining your initial registration with ACRA:

  1. Obtaining Business Licenses and Permits: Depending on your company’s activities, additional licenses and permits may be required before commencing operations. These could include food licenses, import/export permits, or professional service-specific certifications.
  2. Registering for Goods and Services Tax (GST): If your company’s annual taxable revenue exceeds SGD 1 million, you are required to register for GST with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS).
  3. Setting Up a Corporate Bank Account: A crucial aspect is the selection of an appropriate banking institution. Most banks in Singapore offer online services, multi-currency accounts, and business credit facilities.
  4. Complying with Employment Regulations: Ensure adherence to Singapore’s regulations on hiring staff, including mandatory contributions to Central Provident Fund (CPF) for employees, provision of adequate insurance coverage, and maintenance of appropriate human resource records.

Choosing Professional Service Providers

To ensure a smooth and swift incorporation process, it is recommended that you engage professional service providers specializing in Singapore company setup. Such firms can advise on the best suited business structure and assist with document preparation, company name approval, regulatory compliance, and post-incorporation activities like annual filing.

What to Look for in a Company Setup Service Provider

Several factors should be considered when choosing the right professional assistance:

  • Experience: Check their track record, testimonials, and success rate with setting up similar businesses.
  • Locally Based Operation: Engaging a local firm gives added advantages of convenient accessibility and knowledge about local laws, tax compliance, and relevant government agency requirements.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Obtain quotes from multiple firms before finalizing one. Compare not just the price but also scope of services offered and quality of support provided.
  • Additional Services: It may be beneficial to choose a provider offering additional services to support the growth of your company, such as accounting and tax advisory, secretarial assistance, trademark registration or business consultancy.

Although the overall process of starting a company in Singapore is straightforward, engaging the right professional partner can make it even more seamless, allowing you to focus on growing and managing your business operations successfully.

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