Singapore is lauded as one of the easiest places globally to start and operate a business. Its strategic location, developed infrastructure, low tax rates, availability of skilled talent, and business-friendly policies make it an appealing destination for entrepreneurs worldwide. However, navigating Singapore’s incorporation framework can get confusing for foreign companies.
This comprehensive blog post provides a step-by-step overview of how to start a corporate setup in Singapore. Whether you want to establish a private limited enterprise, incorporate a subsidiary, or set up a local branch, this guide will walk you through all key considerations. Follow our structured checklist and leverage the specialized assistance of corporate services to establish your Singapore company smoothly.
Step 1: Choose a Business Structure
When it comes to company formation in Singapore, there are a variety of possibilities for structuring your firm. Notably, every structure has advantages, restrictions, laws, and regulations controlling it. It would help to exercise extreme caution when choosing the right course of action for your organization. The most typical business categories in Singapore are shown below:
Private Limited Company: The company can have at most fifty shareholders, but it will be safe from liability because it acts as a separate legal entity. Most foreign entrepreneurs opt for a Private Limited Company because it is flexible and has relaxed compliance rules.
Branch Office: A branch office may make more sense if you seek to expand an existing foreign company into Singapore. It isn’t considered a separate legal entity but an extension of the parent company, which assumes all its liabilities and obligations. Some key advantages are simplified accounting, effortless transfer of staff from HQ, and avoiding complex shareholder agreements required in setting up subsidiaries.
Representative Office: For market research and local brand awareness building. It does not earn direct revenues locally. Simplest to establish with low setup costs, minimal formalities and no requirement to file annual returns. But limited in scope for business transactions.
Step 2: Register your Company
Once you have finalized the business structure, it’s time to make it legally compliant by registering with ACCRA-Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority in Singapore. This registration process can take from 1-3 days to complete.
Here are the critical steps for registration:
1. Check the business name availability and reserve it if it is available.
2. Appoint a qualified company secretary within six months of incorporation. This person handles company secretarial compliance.
3. Choose at least one Singaporean director who must be formally appointed.
4. Select a registered office address in Singapore – it can also serve as your official mailing address.
5. Submit the company incorporation forms along with details of directors/owners, paid-up capital, shareholder information, and more. Make sure to include the mandatory information accurately.
6. Pay the registration fee online. Additional fees may apply to foreign directors and shareholders.
Upon successfully verifying all documents and fees, ACRA will process your application. You will receive your Unique Entity Number, which means your company is registered and recognized as a legal business entity.
Step 3: Fulfill Post-Incorporation Requirements
Congratulations, your Singapore company is now fully registered! But the work continues. You must fulfill several post-incorporations compliance requirements on an ongoing basis:
– Apply for the required business licenses based on your activities. Common ones include customs registration, e-filling of income tax, GST registration, etc.
– Open a company bank account and deposit paid-up capital within three months of incorporation.
– Hold the first Annual General Meeting (AGM) within 18 months of incorporation. Continue holding AGMs annually.
– File your first Annual Return within one month after your company’s AGM date. Annual Returns must be continually filed every year.
– Issue share certificates with details of the type of shares, value per share, ownership percentages, etc.
– Maintain organized records of all company resolutions, shareholder meetings, director appointments, and more.
Stay compliant with all post-registration requirements. Seek help from corporate secretarial services if needed. This will ensure your company stays legal and retains access to corporate incentives offered in Singapore.
Why Start a Business in Singapore?
With Singapore securing the top 2nd position in the World Bank’s global Ease of Doing Business rankings, it’s evident the island city-state provides an exceptional launchpad for entrepreneurs worldwide looking to set up and operate a business. Here are some of the critical advantages of starting a business in Singapore:
Strategic Location and Connectivity
Singapore lies at the heart of Southeast Asia and serves as a gateway between the East and West. Its open trade policies and vast global connections allow businesses easy access to markets across the Asia Pacific region and beyond.
Skilled Multicultural Workforce
The foreign-educated workers in Singapore, at least in numbers, account for nearly 40% of the total workforce. Cultural diversity and technical excellence are precious talent reservoirs for international companies located within Singapore’s confines.
The city of Singapore boasts a world-class infrastructure with high-speed internet access on all major islands, efficient transportation services, and stable utility supply around the clock. Such infrastructure facilitates business operations.
Singapore has become the channel through which major enterprises that want to penetrate the ASEAN regional market come. Singapore is considered to have the most dynamic and favorable pro-business environment in the world.
Multinational corporations (MNCs) clearly recognize that setting up a base in Singapore provides them the ideal cornerstone for driving APAC revenues while also attaining global ambitions over the long term. Its unique positioning, future-ready infrastructure, and unwavering government support certainly make Singapore a magnet for any business with international aspirations.
By providing access to Asian boom markets, attractive financial incentives, ease of company incorporation, specialized professional services, and unmatched infrastructure – Singapore holistically empowers ventures to scale new heights seamlessly.
As the innovation epicenter of Asia Pacific, Singapore beckons founders worldwide. Does your venture have what it takes to script a thriving Asian expansion story from these shores?