Dezan Shira in Singapore

Dezan Shira & Associates maintains an office in Singapore and provides pre-entry advisory, corporate establishment, tax planning, accounting, compliance and audit services throughout the country. We employ numerous local legal, tax, accounting and audit staff to support this function.

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Regional Intelligence: Singapore

As the de facto financial services hub for South East Asia, the city-state of Singapore has established itself as the gateway to ASEAN and all major Asian markets for foreign companies. Offering foreign companies access to an English-speaking business environment, highly skilled workforce, and the single most business-friendly legal and tax system in the world, Singapore is the ideal starting point for companies seeking to reap the benefits of the ASEAN Free Trade Area and the 19 other regional and bilateral Free Trade Agreements that connect Singapore to the global market. Consistently ranking first in the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business Index” for nine consecutive years (2006-2014), Singapore is well known as one of the most politically and economically stable countries in the world. Singapore’s vaunted style of pragmatic, efficient and ethical governance has rightly earned it the nickname “Singapore Inc.” among foreign investors lauding the city-state’s tendency to run like a corporation itself. On average, it takes 2.5 days to set up a business in Singapore.

Strategically located in the heart of South East Asia, Singapore’s central role in ASEAN makes the city-state a popular hub for western companies looking to conduct business in the wider regional market. The ASEAN, ASEAN-China, and ASEAN-India FTAs provide companies operating from Singapore unprecedented access to the largest combined free trade zones in the world, with an estimated three billion consumers and combined GDP of US$12 trillion. With a GDP of US$295 billion and population of only 5.4 million people, Singapore is one of the world’s wealthiest countries, with the third highest GDP per capita (on a PPP basis). Despite the high exposure of the Singaporean economy to the global recession, the economy is expected to grow between two and four percent in 2014.

Singapore has the world’s second-largest port by shipping volume, but the city-state is too small to have space for special economic zones of its own. Instead, it has partnered with the government of Malaysia to create the Iskander SEZ in nearby Johore Bahru and with Indonesia to create the Batam Export Processing Zone. Both are highly successful among Singaporean companies, which now use these zones as bases for factory extensions of their manufacturing operations to sell across Asia and beyond.

Please find the full contact information of our Malaysian Asian Alliance Partner here.

Dezan Shira & Associates Singapore
NTUC Income Tampines Junction,
300 Tampines Avenue 5,
Singapore 529653

Tel: +65 6521 2933
Fax: +65 6521 3001
Regional Contact Person: David Lee - Manager, International Business Advisory

Regulating the country’s immigration flow has been, and still is, one of the major concerns of Singapore’s government. The basic rule underlying the release of visas and work passes is to attract highly skilled and talented workers.

For short trips to Singapore, citizens from most countries are able to obtain a visitor visa upon arrival. These can then be extended or turned into other types of passes. The easiest way for a foreigner to be eligible for a long-term employment pass is to earn a high salary (say above S$3,300). Even in these cases, visas and work permits are subject to prior approval from the Ministry of Manpower, which is bound by employment sector-specific quotas decided on by the government.

In addition, the government charges a monthly levy on each foreign worker. The amount of monthly levy per worker depends on the business sector, the worker’s skill level and the percentage of foreign workers in a company’s total workforce (with a higher amount correlated to a higher percentage of foreign workers in a company).

Eligible Individuals by Work Pass Type
Work Pass Type Eligible Individuals
Employment Pass Foreign professionals working in managerial, executive or specialized jobs earning a fixed monthly salary of at least S$3300 are eligible.
Personalized Employment Pass (PEP) Unlike the Employment Pass, which must be cancelled when the passholder leaves an employer, Personalized Employment Pass holders are not tied to employers. PEP passes, which are granted on the strength of an applicant’s merit, are valid for up to three years, and the holder is permitted to remain in Singapore for up to six months between jobs to evaluate new employment opportunities. To be eligible, overseas professionals must have a salary of S$18,000 per month, or S$12,000 per month if they are Employment Pass holders.
EntrePass To obtain an EntrePass, applicants must be foreign entrepreneurs seeking to start a business in Singapore and meet specific qualifications, including holding at least 30 percent of shares in a company with at least S$50,000 in paid-up capital.
S Pass Mid-level skilled foreigners earning a fixed monthly salary of at least S$2200 are eligible to obtain an S Pass.
Work Permits If a foreign unskilled worker does not meet the criteria for other work passes, they are able to apply for a work permit on a case-by-case basis.

Singapore allows for a full range of business types, including:

  • Wholly foreign owned
  • Partnerships
  • Branches
  • Representative offices

The requirements for establishing a local business presence in Singapore are minimal, and setting up a business takes only two and a half days on average. In general, the minimum required investment capital is S$1, however, certain types of businesses may require higher levels of capital. For companies eligible for self-incorporation without the assistance of a professional services firm, registration can be completed online via the BizFile Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) portal.

Additional requirements

Once the decision has been made to move ahead with self-incorporation, the following steps should be taken to register a private limited company:

  • Choose the right business structure
  • Name Registration
    • Typically approved in one hour, the name must not conflict with an existing name
  • Company Registration
    • After a company’s name has been approved, a formal incorporation request can be filed on ACRA’s BizFile with the following:
    • SingPass
    • Name application number or approved company name
    • Company type
    • Particulars of additional directors/shareholders/members
    • Registered place of business
    • Share capital details
    • PDF of Memorandum and Articles of Association
    • Receive the Official Certificate of Incorporation and Company Business Profile
    • Annual Compliance: General Meetings and Annual Returns
    • Annual compliance requirements are fairly minimal and include holding an annual general meeting and the filing of annual returns.

It should also be noted that certain types of businesses might require a special license; these include professional services such as doctors or lawyers, and for setting up a private school.

Corporate Income Tax

  • Rate: 17 percent.
  • Residence: Tax residency applies if primary control and management of the company is in Singapore.
  • Compliance: If a company accrues, receives, or derives income from Singapore then it must file an income tax return. The due date for filing is November 30 of the year of assessment and the tax is assessed on a preceding year basis.
  • Incentives: IP incentives exist relating to the acquisition and licensing of IPR under the PIC Scheme. Incentives are also available for businesses that set up their headquarters in the country.

Indirect Tax

  • Rate: GST of seven percent is levied.
  • Certain goods and services are zero-rated on chargeable income or exempt from GST.

Individual Income Tax

  • Rate: Residents are taxed at graduating rates between zero percent and 20 percent. For non-residents, employment income will be taxed at the higher of a 15 percent flat rate or the resident tax rate.


You can find extensive collection Singapore’s tax treaties from our Knowledge Sharing Platform.