How To Start A Business In Singapore

how to go about starting a business in singapore

What’s interesting about doing business In Singapore is that most of its GDP comes from small businesses. In fact, according to research, SMEs employ around 70% of this country’s workforce.

This has caused the Singaporean government to create agencies that encourage the development and growth of small businesses here. And that means there are awesome opportunities present for foreign investors who want to take part in this thriving community. This guide will help you get started.

Starting a business in Singapore requires determination and a sharp business vision. Whether you’re a small or established business person, you need to begin professionally and treat everyone you cross paths with like your next big client.

Top Reasons to Do Business in Singapore

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If you’ve been thinking of expanding your venture to Singapore or starting a new business in the country, there is an abundance of reasons why you should start or expand your enterprise in Singapore.

  • Ease of Doing Business

Singapore is a constant factor in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking. Registering a business is super-fast. The country has been ranked top for effective IP protection policies and unwavering support to new companies.

  • Attractive Tax Rates

Singapore boasts a perfectly-structured tax framework. It favours investors who want to set up in the country. It emphasises the double taxation agreement to stem unwanted taxation on business. The corporate tax is below 17%, with no capital gains.

  • Efficient Business Incorporation and Registration Process

Getting a new business or company registered in Singapore takes less than five working days. Some companies have incorporated in less than 2 days- other countries across the globe take 20.

  • Strategic Geographical Location

Singapore is the gateway to the broader ASEAN region. It offers businesses the chance to tap a market with over 3 billion consumers. It’s a maritime powerhouse with the Port of Singapore and the Changi International Airport as leading maritime and aviation hubs.

  • Excellent IT infrastructure

Singapore’s tech infrastructure is unrivalled in the region. The telecommunication infrastructure serves the entire city, and internet penetration is high. There are more than 215 ISP companies, over 40,000 public Wi-Fi access hubs, and the connectivity capacity to serve over 1,500,000 mobile subscribers. This makes it a business ideal business centre.

  • Well-Trained and Competent Workforce

The Singapore government is committed to grooming a highly educated and competent workforce. The Ministry of Manpower is bent on developing a local workforce that foreign companies strive to have in their workforce.

  • Steadfast Adherence to the Rule of Law

The governance system in Singapore is corruption-free. The regulatory environment is right for local and foreign entrepreneurs. The country enjoys a top rank on the global transparency index. Also, it has strict laws to safeguard intellectual property.

How to Start a Business: A Complete Playbook - Wave Blog

How To Start A Business In Singapore

Singapore’s vibrant investment environment qualifies it as the leading place for doing business. Businesspersons who don’t know how to start a business in the country have a tidy sum of benefits when starting up.

From comprehensive double taxation avoidance agreements, straightforward registration processes and minimum red tape, Singapore offers the perfect menu for entrepreneurs keen on taking their business idea to the next level.

What You Need To Know Before You Start Business In Singapore

To register a business in Singapore, you must either be a resident or citizen or, as discussed earlier, you need to apply for an EntrePass. This process requires that at least one person involved be a Singapore resident.

You may even find a local representative who can meet this requirement for you. However, your requirements will have a lot to do with the type of business structure that you’re interested in setting up.

If you’re interested in registering a partnership or sole proprietorship, then the process will be rather simple. However, if you’re registering a company, the requirements will be more strenuous. Regardless of what type of structure you choose, there are no minimum capital requirements, but you can expect to pay some fees.

1. Choose an Entity

When it comes to Singapore’s corporate entities, there are five distinct types: Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Limited Partnership, Limited Liability Partnership, and Company. And each of these entities provides its own benefits and structures.

For instance, sole proprietorships are geared towards individuals. It ensures that both personal and business tax affairs are treated as one entity. This is the quickest and easiest structure to set up.

Partnerships are geared towards two or more people. This structure demands that those involved take personal liability for all of their expenses.

This is a little bit different from limited partnerships, where only one partner is liable for the company. There are also cases in which taxes are completely separate from individuals, which is known as limited liability partnerships.

A company is one of the most common choices for investors.

As long as there’s at least one shareholder and one registered director, there is limited liability. However, foreign investors must secure an EntrePass so that they have permission to act.

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2.  Register

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You can start the process of registering a company by submitting forms online. The entire legal process can be completed and confirmed in as little as 15 minutes. Simply submit your registration form to ACRA, pay your fees, and then have your company seal made.

This seal will be used to authenticate all of your documents.

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From this point, if you plan to operate a limited company, then you have 6 months to appoint a secretary for the company. And you have 3 months to appoint an auditor for the company unless you’re exempt.

You can find as many details as you need on ACRA’s website as well as a few helpful guides. Many agencies will help to complete the registration.

3. Investigate Legal Responsibilities and Obligations

As soon as you hire your first employee, you’re responsible for signing up for employer liability insurance.  Also, once your turnover goes over one million, you are obligated to sign up for GST, or Goods and Services Tax.

Companies must pay corporate tax, sole proprietors must pay personal taxes and partnerships must pay personal or corporate tax based on their structure. ACRA also provides guides for filling out tax forms.

4. Determine Your Infrastructure

If you would like your operation to run efficiently, then it’s important that you create a supporting infrastructure.

This is anything you will need to actually make the sale and deliver your products or services.

Let’s take a look at a few departments that you may need to put in place.

  • Web Design and Development

When setting up your web design and development department, you must first register your domain name. This is the name that the online world will associate with your business. Make sure that you choose something that your customers can easily recall, spell and pronounce.

People should automatically think of your products and services when they see your web address. Make sure that you choose a hosting provider that offers quality customer service and lots of bandwidth and disk space. Also, ensure that your website is well-designed and offers a quality user experience.

  • Online Marketing and Advertising

Another important part of establishing an online presence is your online digital marketing strategy. This type of advertising is what will bring customers to your website. And if done well, it will bring them there at record speed.

While you should do some paid advertising, it’s important to remember that this is a short-term effect. That’s why you need to market organically as well.

The best way to get organic traffic to your website is by creating content that your customers will view as valuable. This will inspire trust and visitors will be more likely to return. The higher quality of your content, the more traffic Google will send to your website.

If you are unsure about how to craft the perfect content or execute the perfect ads for your website, you could always work with an SEO expert or SEM agency.

  • IT

Not only should your website be well-designed and offer great content, but it should also be extremely easy for all of your customers to use. Your customers should have no problem placing orders.

This means that you need to work with the right IT team who knows how to implement seamless systems onto your website. When choosing your team, make sure that they are great communicators.

How complicated your website is will depend on your specific needs and preferences. Perhaps you would like to host your own website. Your IT team will need to consider this.

  • Service or Product Fulfilment

When you have put a system in place, you can then hire the staff that will help you to fulfil the order. This means, not only will you need to hire a great staff, but also purchase a space that will hold all of your inventory.

If your business is particularly small, then you could always work out of a home office until it starts to grow.  

  • Bookkeeping/Finance

Another crucial part of starting your own Singapore business is having a bookkeeping system in place.

This will give you the ability to effectively manage your finances. Launching an e-commerce store can often cost thousands of dollars so it’s important that you are monitoring your budget.

This is especially the case if you plan to spend a lot on Google Ads to give your business a quick boost.  Your bookkeeping can either be done in-house or you can hire a professional firm to take care of it.

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Here Are Steps To Take Before Starting A Singapore Business

  • Formulate a Business Idea

The genesis of any successful business is a business idea.

You need a unique concept that’s levels above your competitors. Workaround an idea that can satisfy the needs of your target audience or community. A viable business plan seeks to solve a problem.

Make sure that it hasn’t been “pilfered” and executed by a considerable number of potential rivals

  • Visualize a Business and How to Start It

For your business ambitions to come to fruition in Singapore, you need to incorporate the business first.

This is possible through registration. Before you incorporate a business, consider the ideal structure that fits your venture.

For instance, many businesses in the country operate as private limited organizations. Instead of going for the risk-prone sole proprietorship, consider registering the business as a company, there are fewer risks involved.

  • Choose the Business Structure

Singapore business laws require entrepreneurs to fill out several legal forms when registering a business. In this process, you need to be vigilant. The business formation option you pick will have a significant impact on aspects such as securing funds, personal liability, expansion plans and overall credibility in the eyes of a creditor and customers.

Types of Business Structures in Singapore

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Choosing a business structure in Singapore is a daunting task. There are tax, scalability, compliance, and transfer of share issues to ponder over.

Before incorporating your business in Singapore, you need to choose a business structure that fits your needs. But what company structures exist in the country?

In Singapore, a Limited Liability Company is a legal establishment that withholds shareholder liability based on the capital invested in its shares. A private limited company or a public limited company by guarantee and their subsidiary companies are great examples of LLCs. You need to register an LLC through ACRA.

  • Private Limited Company (Pte Ltd)

The “PTE Ltd” prefix denotes a Private Limited Company. It’s the most preferred structure for Singaporean businesses. Private Limited Company shares are exclusive, and the owners can be 2-50.

In Singapore, one of the directors needs to need a resident.

This company has an autonomous legal identity from its owners. It can invest under its name, and be sued as an entity and not its shareholders. Ownership Transfer in Pte Ltd is easy. Any private limited company is a tax-resident entity liable to a corporate tax rate of 17%

  • Public Limited Company

A public limited company is an LLC that can list its stock. The shareholding capacity is more than 50 shareholders.

A public limited company can raise funds through a public share offering.

Strict regulations bound them, and they are required to submit a prospectus to the Monetary Authority of Singapore before they can raise capital from the general public. They submit to a corporate tax rate of 17% annually.

  • Public Company Limited by Guarantee

A Public company limited by guarantee are LLC that leans towards the non-profit cause. Most of them are professional caucuses, clubs, religious organizations and charitable entities among others.

  • Sole Proprietorship

In Singapore Company Law, a sole proprietorship is a business that entwines the owner to their business obligations and liabilities. The proprietor is directly liable for debts and losses.

A sole proprietorship isn’t a legal /incorporated business that can buy property in its own name. The law requires it to register such in the name of the proprietor. He/she pays taxes out of pocket.

Proprietorships submit to a tax rate of up to 22%

  • Partnership

Singapore Company Law permits individuals and corporate partners and registry business partnerships. Partners with complimenting capabilities unite to establish a business to make profits. The partnership can have 2-20 members.

They are liable to Personal income tax based on the income generated from their company.

The Pros & Cons Of A Partnership As A Business Structure - GERARD WILKES & Assoc

There Are 3 Types of Partnership

1.  General Partnership

A general partnership is almost similar to a sole proprietorship structure. Partners share the same risks and liabilities. They are liable for losses and debts, whether they are active or dormant.

2.  Limited Partnership

A limited partnership distinguishes members as General or Limited Partners.

It can have any number of partners. However, it needs one general and one limited partner. The liability of members is stipulated in the partnership agreement with the general partner’s liability being unlimited.

3.  Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)

This LLP is highly coveted by many business partners in Singapore.

It features a mix of a partnership and a company structure. Two or more partners with complementary skills can form the partnership, and the liability is based on their activeness or inactiveness.

It’s legally autonomous from its members. The owners are liable to a tax rate of between 0 and 22% of the returns from the business.

How to Get Funding for Your Business — Startup Financing Explained

Solicit, Secure Funds and Start Your New Business

Business people need to know how to get funds to support their new businesses.

Before talking to mainstream creditors, consider checking out your close contacts. If you have personal savings, you can add to the possible amounts that your friends or relatives can help you to raise.

Remember, the scope and nature of the business you’re starting will determine the amount you’ll need for a smooth take-off.

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In Singapore, the good news is that you can resort to attractive incentives that assist a new business in its quest to launch. Some popular schemes that help new businesses in Singapore include:

There are additional resources that help the business community to capitalize on business insights and funding. Some are:

  3. investment

Before you choose from these resources and schemes, consider the one that is best suited to your business ideas and requirements.

1. Register Your Business

To get your business operational, you need to register under a unique name. The company name is the first impression that gets to your clients. It’s vital to take time to craft a name that resonates with your business offerings and goals.

In Singapore, new businesses need to come up with a decent and available business name that isn’t already in use by another company. You need to register the details of your board of directors with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory ACRA.

After ACRA approves your registration, you can proceed to hire employees and apply for numerous licenses and permits. All this can take a shorter span if you consider the services of a company registration service provider in Singapore.

2. Procure Necessary Permits

Before you jump into operations, your business needs proper licenses. There are numerous documents, and you need to research them upfront. You can leverage government resources to find out business-relevant permits required for your venture to operate legally.

3. Get the Right Physical Address

Under Singaporean laws, new businesses need to provide actual physical addresses where they intend to set up shop. Your official documentation is sent to the specified address. The Urban Redevelopment Authority approves the premises you have rented, and they are charged with checking the viability of such premises for commercial use.

4. Set up Office

For future success and survival, you need to identify the ideal location and business site. Aspiring busses people in Singapore enjoy leeway to open up shop in various zones and areas. There are popular business parks that offer the perfect space for your business.

5. Recruit Personnel

In Singapore, highly skilled workers are abundant.

The government has encouraged the brooding and supply of globally competent professionals in different industries and fields. The Workforce Development Agency has a balanced repository where businesses can tap in for preferred talents.

A foreign corporation that wants to ship its personnel can do so, but they need to procure renewable work passes.

6. File Relevant Taxes

Taxwise, Singapore has strict double taxation laws that protect new businesses. The country is one of the member states that signed an Avoidance of Double Taxation treaty with over 70 other states. Singapore offers tax credits, and you need to engage a seasoned tax expert to help you file your returns on time.

How to Open a Company in Singapore – The Complete Guide

How To Open A Singapore Company Without Relocating

A foreigner can have every Singapore company incorporation procedure facilitated without having to travel to the country.

Professional company incorporation agencies come in handy. You can send the agency the relevant details/documents via email. Payments can be made via PayPal or bank transfers.

An agency handles the paperwork, sends back original documents for you to sign then you can send them back via courier. The only time you might need to be physically present is during the bank account opening formality though it depends on the bank you select.

As a foreigner, there are some factors to consider in this context:

  • The law requires you to engage a professional agency when registering your business
  • You don’t need to apply for special visas if you wish to manage the company from a different country. However, you can use a visitor visa if you need to attend to critical business matters in Singapore. When in the country, you’ll need to operate with a local director. Most professional agencies can appoint a nominee local resident director
  • If you plan to relocate and manage the company in Singapore, you’ll need to apply and qualify for an Employment Pass or Entrepreneur Pass. With the passes, you can act as the local resident director for your company

Company Registration Procedures in Singapore

  • Pay the incorporation fee to a professional filing agency
  • Select a name for your new company-The agency and facilitates the name check for its availability in Singapore

Provide critical details that include:

  1. Passport copy
  2. Residential address proof
  3. Company name and those of directors and shareholders

If there are no special compliance requisites, the agency can process them in 5 working days.

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The Cost of Registering and Maintaining a Company in Singapore

Before you calculate the costs, it’s essential to consider the Singapore company formation package that fits your goals: you can choose from the following:

1. Local Entrepreneur package

It’s ideal for entrepreneurs looking to set up a company in Singapore with a resident Singapore Director.

2. Foreign Entrepreneur without Relocation

This package suits foreigners who want to set up an offshore Singapore business without relocating to the country.

3. Foreign Entrepreneur with Employment Pass

The package is appropriate for foreign entrepreneurs who want to operate a Singapore company that has relocated to the country. It requires a Degree or relevant work experience.

Can A Foreigner Start a Business in Singapore?

Singapore is not giving away its Ease of Doing Business rank anytime soon. A foreigner can moot a business idea, fill out forms, and initiate incorporation and business registration within hours.

Importantly, a foreigner looking to establish a business in the country needs to hire a practised firm to register a company. Singaporean business laws forbid non-residents to register businesses on their own.

If you’re planning to move to the country to run a proposed business, you need to apply for an Employment Pass or Entrepreneur Pass. However, these permits don’t qualify the foreigner to become the local director.

The process of opening a business as a foreigner is made easy by Bizfile. It’s the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority’s online filing portal. It’s also used to facilitate the expansion of Singaporean businesses.

To access the portal, you need to sign up and acquire a Foreign Identification Number (FIN), and the National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) number can be used for similar purposes.

Types of Businesses a Foreigner Can Register in Singapore

  • Sole-Proprietorship

Foreigners can register sole proprietorships in Singapore. However, they are required to appoint a resident Singaporean manager. Singaporean residents, permanent residents and EntrePass holders qualify for this position.

  • Partnership

Like sole-proprietorships, foreigners can register partnerships in Singapore. It’s easier when one partner is a resident. If all partners aren’t domiciled in the country, they need an authorized manager who should be a resident of Singapore.

  • Incorporating a Company

While it’s easy for a foreigner to register a sole proprietorship or a partnership, setting up a company is more taxing. There are two categories here:

    • Foreigners intent on opening local Singaporean business
    • Foreign companies intent on setting up shop in Singapore
  • Setting Up A Local Company

As a foreigner looking to open a local company in the country, you’ll need to appoint 1 resident director. At the same time, you manage it outside Singapore the incorporation process is similar to that of a locally incorporated business. A registered filing agent can help in the process.

  • Registering a Foreign Company in Singapore

If you own an international company and aspire to set up in Singapore, there are three options you can go for. You can open a subsidiary, a branch office, or a representative office.

Examples of Business Structures for Foreign Incorporation

Foreign businesses looking to touch base or expand their horizons into Singapore have the following business structure options.

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1. Subsidiary Company

A subsidiary company represents a limited liability company.

It’s favoured by foreign businesses that want to set up their operations in Singapore.  A subsidiary company has an autonomous identity to its parent corporation.

The parent company is safe from liabilities incurred by the subsidiary. These subsidiaries take advantage of the tax incentives that resident Singaporean businesses enjoy.

2. Branch Office

Registering a branch office in Singapore is a viable alternative that foreigners enjoy. Although a branch office doesn’t qualify as a local company, it acts as an extension of the foreign corporation.

The offices’ management operates under the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the parent company when making significant decisions.

The branch office is not an autonomous entity, and it shares its liabilities with the parent company.

3. Representative Office

Before taking the business plunge, foreign survey & research the new markets. In Singapore, prospecting companies need to establish a representative office to facilitate such activities. These representative offices have no legal identity. They cannot engage in formal business practices such as moving goods, contracting or opening credit lines.

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10 Crucial Steps to Start Your Business in Singapore

By now, you already know the different types of businesses that you can establish in Singapore. We have also discussed the primary reasons why Singapore is the best country to do business in South East Asia. Like any other investment, there are crucial steps that you need to take to increase the chances of your business succeeding. 

According to a recent report, 20% of new businesses don’t make it to the second anniversary, 45% close shop in the first five years, 65% close after 10 years and only 25% make it to the 25 years mark. 

These statistics can discourage one from starting a business, but that is not the reason why we included them in this article. Our goal is to show you the importance of making sure that you plan well to achieve the set goals and objectives.

Here are 10 important steps to help you start your business in Singapore and succeed.

1. Carry Out Extensive Research

Extensive market research will help you to identify gaps in the market that you can take advantage of to start a business. The most successful businesses in the world succeed not because they are good in marketing or have a team of experts, but because they understand the needs of their customers and fulfil them amicably.

Gather as much information as possible about the niche you intend to invest in to identify the unique selling point of your brand.

The research will not only help you to know the needs but also the consumer behaviours.

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Demographic information such as interest, age, wealth, interests, and employment status will pinpoint the challenges and opportunities for gaining customers.

Some of the best methods of doing market research are;

  • Focus groups
  • In-depth interviews
  • Surveys
  • Questionnaires

You also need to do a competitive analysis to know how you will ensure that your brand stand out from the other companies. The primary aspects you should focus on when doing competition analysis are;

  • Market share
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Opportunities/gaps in the market
  • Limitations
  • Secondary competitors who could hamper your success

2. Develop a Business Plan

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Failing to plan is planning to fail. You need to write a comprehensive business plan to give you direction. Consider it as a foundation or roadmap for your Singapore business. It will help you grow by convincing investors that your idea is viable. Without a good business plan, no investor will commit his or her hard-earned money to your business.

Ideally, a good business plan should have clear details of how you will go through each stage. Here are some of the primary sections that your business plan should have.

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Market Analysis
  • Organisation and Management
  • Service or Product Line
  • Marketing and Sales
  • Funding Request
  • Financial Projections
  • Appendix

There are companies and independent business plan writers that you can hire to do it for you. But you need to be involved in every stage to ensure that all market research findings are included. 

3. Getting Funding

The business plan will help you to estimate the amount of capital required to transform your ideas into a tangible business. If you don’t have the money, you will need to either pitch your idea to investors or apply for a loan from the bank and other financial institutions. 

One of the highlights of funding your business alone is that you will have 100% control of it, but you will bear all the risks alone. On the other hand, bringing in investors means that a specific number of shares will be allocated to the investors. 

Such venture capital investment is better and different from traditional financing because;

  • It focuses on companies that have high growth potential
  • Investors get equity/shares for investing in the company
  • The risks involved are high but worth it considering the high return potential
  • Compared to traditional business financing, it has a longer investment horizon

There are also small business administration investment programs in Singapore that you can use to get funding. They include;

  1. Small Business Investment Company (SBIC)
  2. Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)
  3. Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR)

Crowdfunding is also a viable way of getting funds to start a business in Singapore. Unlike venture capitalists, crowd funders are not considered technical investors because they don’t get a portion of ownership or equity. Instead, they are rewarded with a gift for their contribution. 

The gift can be the product before its released into the market or the inclusion of their name in the credits. If the business fails, you are not obligated to repay the crowd funders. 

4. Selecting a Business Location

Where your business is located will determine the zoning laws and regulations that you are obliged to abide by as well as taxes. Carry out extensive research to know which locations are suitable for your business. The target market, personal preferences, costs, government agencies’ restrictions, benefits and business partners are three of the main factors that you should consider at this stage.

There are states that create tax havens as incentives to entrepreneurs to start businesses there. The federal government also offer incentives to small businesses operating in under-utilised areas. 

5. Decide the Ideal Business Structure

As earlier discussed, the business registration requirements, taxes, and personal liability are dependent on the legal structure that you choose. The three most common types of business structures in Singapore are:

  1. Partnership
  2. Sole Proprietorship
  3. Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  4. Corporation
  5. Cooperative

It’s important to understand the different types of businesses you can start in each category to make the right decision. Keep in mind the restrictions and requirements in the preferred location if you decide to change the business structure. Here is an article that discusses how to choose a business structure in Singapore.

6. The Business Name

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The business name should resonate with the brand and what it intends to offer to the customers. The business name should be unique so search to ensure that no one else is using it. Once you decide on the name, get it registered and protected to prevent other entrepreneurs from using it.  

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There are four ways of registering a business name namely;

  1. Entity Name
  2. Trademark
  3. Doing Business As Name (DBA)
  4. Domain Name

Click here for more details on how to register a business name in Singapore. Currently, the cost of applying for a business name is SGD 15. Once the name is approved, you have to get the business fully incorporated and registered within 120 days. If this period elapses, the name will not be reserved and other businesses can apply to use it.

7. Business Registration in Singapore

With the business name secured, you now need to register the company with the Singapore government to make it legal for you to do business in the country. As you research the different locations on your list, look at the registration processes. 

Registering the company will qualify you for various legal and tax benefits, as well as personal liability protection if the business fails. For example, if you register the business as a limited company, you will not be liable as a person if it fails and you are unable to repay the loans.

Here are six things that you need to register a company in Singapore.

  1. The company name was approved and registered with Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA)
  2. At least one director who is either a permanent resident in Singapore, Singapore Citizen, or someone who is an EntrePass Holder
  3. Shareholder: The number of shareholders should not exceed 50
  4. Local address
  5. A minimum of one company secretary
  6. Initial capital

8. State and Federal Tax IDs

Once the business is fully registered, you will get state and federal tax IDs to help you comply with the monthly and annual tax filing requirements. There are three different types of tax identification numbers namely.

  1. UEN – Business (ROB): This is a standard identification number that is given by Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority to businesses
  2. UEN -Local Company (ROC): This ID is provided by ACRA to local companies
  3. UEN – Others: This encompasses all IDs that are issued to other enterprises that are not categorised or considered as local companies or businesses by ACRA

The Identifications will come in handy when;

  1. Paying employees and contractors
  2. Seeking approval to operate as a corporation of partnership
  3. Filing tax returns for firearms, tobacco, excise, and employment
  4. Withholding taxes on wages, income, and money paid to a non-resident alien

You may be required to apply for a new EIN (Employer Identification Number) if there are some changes in the business such as;

  • Change of business name
  • Change of physical address
  • Change of ownership
  • Change in tax status
  • Management changes

9. Getting Permits and Licenses

Avoid legal tussles by making sure that you have all the required licenses and permits to do business in Singapore. The location, state, and industry will determine the type of permit or license that you should apply for before you start operating. 

For example, if you intend to start a hotel, you need to get Hotel-Keeper License and approval from the Hotels Licensing Board. Spa businesses need to have a Massage Establishment License and travel agency needs to have a license from Singapore Tourism Board.

There are three different types of licenses and permits in Singapore:

  1. Business Activity Permits & Licenses
  2. Compulsory Licenses
  3. Occupational Licenses for Professional Services

If you plan to start a retail store and stock tobacco products, you will need a Tobacco Retail License from Health Sciences Authority. A liquor license is issued by the Singapore Liquor Licensing Board. Extensive research about the market will help you to know the specific licenses that you have and the details of the application process. 

10. Getting a Business Bank Account in Singapore

Singapore takes pride in having 120 foreign banks, 55 wholesale banks, 28 foreign full banks, and 37 offshore banks. All of them are regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). The process of opening a corporate bank account is simple and the only documents that are required are;

  • Copy of the company’s business profile
  • A resolution document by the company board of directors
  • Company’s certificate of incorporation
  • Company’s Memorandum and Articles of Association
  • Copies of Singapore IDs or passports of the company directors
  • All the directors and beneficial owners of the company have proof of residential address 

All the documents must be certified by one of the directors or the appointed company secretary. Some of the banks require the directors to avail themselves to sign the bank account opening documents. The average amount of time that the banks take to verify the documents is 3-24 hours. 

Some of the factors that you should consider when deciding which bank to open an account with include;

  • Reputation and rating in the market
  • Niche expertise and specialisation
  • Bank’s business focus
  • Accessibility of the Channel and Account Services
  • Special services and services
  • Services Automation
  • Physical location and address
  • Fees, interest, and pricing
  • Minimum balance and initial deposit
  • Documents required to open the bank account

All these factors are important and will ensure that you get value for money from the banking services rendered.

Other business owners who have opened a bank account in the past can also point you in the right direction.

If possible, involve all the directors in the decision-making process to avert disputes later. The ideal bank should give your business tailor-made financial services to help it get a firm footing in the Singapore market.

Top 23 Profitable New Business Ideas in 2022

Examples of Viable Business Opportunities in Singapore

Singapore’s World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rank, government assistance, tax exemption incentives and transparent formalities aren’t the only factors that make the country alluring to entrepreneurs. Some of these ideas include:

  • Biotechnology

Singapore is ranked as a high contender in the biotech industry. The government fully supports companies that venture into the promising food or pharmaceutical industry.

  • Electronics business

The electronics industry in Singapore is growing at a double-digit. Electronics represent up to 48 % of output in the manufacturing sector. Companies that venture into the smartphone, gaming, and smart navigation systems are bound to succeed.

  • Freight and courier services

The Singapore government supports businesses in the transport sector. A company venturing out in the logistics and parcel delivery in the free trade areas, airports or terminals enjoys funding support and substantial profit margins.

  • Travel and Tourism

Tourism contributes significantly to the Singaporean economy. Investment tourism is huge, and companies looking to tap in can generate impressive returns.

  • Digital Marketing

Over 85% of Singapore’s population is internet savvy. If you want to dive into digital marketing, the country has a lucrative industry waiting for you.

  • Editorial business

In Singapore, the editorial business is easy to start with minimal capital. Whether it’s book writing, copywriting, webpage content creation or proofreading, there is a massive demand for these services locally and internationally.

What to Know before Setting up A Singapore Company

Private limited companies are popular in Singapore. You’ll need to know how to register one. You already know that all Singaporean companies need to be registered with ACRA. They have to follow the Companies Act regulations in Singapore.  The following will help you to understand the process better.

  • Minimum Company Registration Setup Requirements

    • 1 Shareholder either an individual or a corporate body
    • 1 Resident Director
    • 1 Company Secretary
    • Initial paid-up share capital-minimum S$1
    • Singaporean registered physical office address
    • Service Provider Incorporation Requirements
    • An ACRA approved Company Name- the authority rejects identical, obscene Company names
  • Shareholders

Individuals who subscribe to or purchase a company’s shares. At least one corporate or individual shareholder is required.

  • Resident Directors

Law stipulates that a Singapore Private Limited Company should have one director; a local resident. They should be over 18 years with a clean financial background.

  • Company Secretary

All Singapore companies are required to have a Company Secretary to oversee regulatory compliance. The Companies Act requires the secretary; a resident one, to be appointed within 6 months of incorporation.

  • Share Capital/Paid-up Capital

To register a Singaporean company, you’ll need a minimum paid-up capital of S$1.

  • Registered Address

Every company registered in Singapore should have a registered office with a proven physical address. It’s where official documents are sent. Residential addresses qualify in exceptional cases.

  • Governance Structure

A company needs to disclose its governance structure. It stipulates how the company and its shareholders interrelate based on the Memorandum of Association and the Articles of Association.

  • Opening a Corporate Bank Account in Singapore

After incorporation, you can open a corporate bank account. You have the liberty to choose from different local and international banks based in Singapore. Some require signatories to be physically present.

A Checklist For Starting a Home-based Business in Singapore

Starting a home-based business is a viable option for small business people looking for financial freedom to succeed, here are vital pointers.

1.  Set aside Space

A home-based business in Singapore is like any other. You need to set aside and organize your working space. You can use your garage, an extra room or a part of your living room.

2.  Organize Your Space

With a designated area as the home office, try and organize for maximum production. Ensure you have all the tools or stationery, filing space and an ergonomic chair(s)

3.  Get Communication/Equipment Services

You’ll need to provide adequate communication equipment/connectivity to keep the business running. Ensure you have the right hardware, software and relevant applications.

4.  Have a Suitable Business Plan

Even if you’re home-based, you need to know where you’re going, what you offer, your Market strategy and expectations, and how to meet your profit goals. The business plan is your blueprint, and you can pick from ready templates online.

5.  Start Your Home venture

If you have personal savings/ funds and a practical business plan, you need to concentrate on compliance needs if any. You can rely on the EnterpriseOne resource to learn more about permits and licenses required for a home venture in Singapore.

5 Online Businesses You Can Start With No Money

Steps To Starting an Online Business in Singapore

E-commerce is going huge not only in Singapore but globally. To succeed in this industry, it takes more than setting up a website and selling online. For an eCommerce venture to succeed in Singapore, you need to invest in planning, eCommerce strategies capital and time.

1.  Research, evaluate and plan

A Singaporean e-commerce business will succeed if it’s offering problem-solving products and services. You can target a niche or a general target audience but make sure you’re fulfilling a need. Before you focus on designing a website, intensive planning is required.

Don’t spend your money on the website before you carry out market research. Findings from the research you carry out will tell you whether the eCommerce venture will trump the cutthroat competition on the Singaporean eCommerce front.

After the research, you need to come up with a practical plan that addresses the following.

  • What will you sell online? Always assess the compelling features and benefits that your products or services offer to online customers.
  • Identify your potential market and how to reach appeal and retain them. Here, you need to formulate a killer marketing strategy. After all, you’re not alone on the eCommerce platform.
  • Assess the product/service value proposition and what you can offer with minimum resources.
  • Identify your capacity and features that can draw your first customers. It’s essential to avoid being overly ambitious. The best is to work with the worst-case scenario.

At this point, a cash flow analysis will suffice. It’s crucial to gauge the start-up costs and figure out how to weather through the start-up phase.

Evaluate how your products and services will perform against existing offers. You need to scope out the competition and their sales strategy. It can help you price your products better to attract customers. It’s a crowded platform, and you need to target the right consumers.

2.  Learn Ecommerce Business Tricks In Singapore

Though you’re operating virtually, you need to stay compliant. Check whether permits hike your operating costs. Verify whether you qualify for grants. Importantly, leverage online resources that polish your skills on the e-commerce platform.

3.  Incorporate Your Business

Incorporating your eCommerce venture in Singapore is required by law. You need to know the perfect structure to choose from. If you follow the private limited company format, there are benefits to reap.

4.  Create essential infrastructure

Your eCommerce venture needs supporting infrastructure. It depends on the products you want to sell online. You need to establish efficient support mechanisms to reach your customers effectively and conveniently. You need to be particular about the business processes and IT facilities that support the business including:

  • Get a domain-You need to register a domain name that represents your brand identity online. It should be easy to remember such that customers can easily associate and return to the name when they shop again.
  • Select a hosting service provider– The provider should be proficient in customer support, have adequate bandwidth, guarantee site uptime and charge reasonably.
  • Website design and development– To succeed, an eCommerce website needs to be visible. Consider web design and development with the intent to draw the right traffic and leads. You need to pick an eCommerce platform that caters to all aspects including product catalogues, shopping carts, check-out and payment processing.

5.  Make Your Site user-friendly

To increase user engagement, make your eCommerce website user-friendly. Nobody wants to buy from a complicated website. Create useful content and include compelling calls to action. Also, use creative graphics to keep a customer on your site for longer.

6.  Prioritise Bookkeeping

An eCommerce venture is like any other business in Singapore. You need to know what you’re getting for your capital investment. There are operational costs to cater to, and you need to see if you’re progressing or not. Check whether you’re able to book keep in-house or you need to hire an expert. You can automate the process for better results.


Singapore has shown tremendous growth over the last 5 years. And there are no signs of it slowing down any time soon. This global powerhouse is primed to become a major player in the world of economics.

So foreign and resident investors alike should seriously consider starting their own businesses in this country. The hardest part is simply getting started. The key is to equip yourself with the best resources and professionals.

Reach out to MediaOne for professional guidance when starting a business in Singapore. Call 69657008.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Social Media




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