To incorporate a business in Singapore, we may register with the "Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority" (ACRA) through its online portal BizFile+. You/we can do this ourselves or engage a registered filing agent, I have used Rikvin Pte Ltd before to register a company and provide company services, and a quick search also gave me "3E Accounting Pte Ltd" and "Corporate Services Singapore", there will be hundreds more.
If you opt to engage the services of a filing agent, they will request that you provide basic information online and schedule an appointment at their downtown office. During the appointment, you will need to present documents such as your passport, ID, proof of local residency, and bank account information. The filing agent will then assist you in completing the company registration process by obtaining your signatures and collecting the necessary fees. Without complications, the process should be completed and confirmation sent within a day. Dubious names, complicated licencing and missing or unverified documentation should be avoided.
The type of business structure you choose will affect the registration process, requirements, fees, and obligations. The most common types of business structures in Singapore are:
Limited liability partnership, and
Private limited company
Company name and type at ACRA
You will need at least two officers, and at least one should be a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident (PR).
The first stage of registering your business, is to apply for a business name and get it approved by ACRA. The name should be unique, and meaningful, and not infringe on any trademarks or existing businesses. You can check the availability of your desired name on BizFile+. The name approval usually takes 15 minutes unless it needs to be referred to other authorities for review.
You also need to prepare a copy of your business constitution (if applicable), particulars of the owners and officers, business address, share capital (if applicable), and any other information or documents required by ACRA or the relevant authorities. If you are a foreigner, you need to provide a copy of your passport, proof of residential address, and bank reference letter. You may also need to obtain licenses or permits for certain types of businesses or activities from the respective agencies.
The registration fee varies depending on the type of business structure and the duration of registration. For example, the fee for a sole proprietorship or partnership is $100 for one year or $160 for three years, while the fee for a private limited company is $300 for perpetual registration. You may also need to pay additional fees for other services such as alternate address or endorsement by filing agent.
After you register your business, you need to comply with various legal and tax obligations such as filing annual returns, holding annual general meetings, keeping proper accounting records, submitting income tax returns, paying corporate tax and GST (if applicable), and renewing your business registration (if applicable).
You may need to engage professional services such as lawyers, accountants, or auditors to help you with these tasks.
The deadlines for filing annual returns and income tax returns depend on your financial year-end and business structure. For example, if your financial year end is 31 December 2023 and you are a private limited company, you need to file your annual return by 30 June 2024 and your income tax return by 30 November 2024.
You should check with ACRA and IRAS for the specific deadlines and requirements for your business.
The frequency and format of annual general meetings also depend on your business structure and constitution. For example, if you are a private limited company, you need to hold an annual general meeting once every calendar year and not more than 15 months after the last preceding annual general meeting.
You should also prepare and submit the relevant reports such as financial statements, directors' reports, and auditors' reports (if applicable) at the meeting.
More advice from ACRA:
Foreigners registering a business in Singapore: Singapore is one of the easiest places to start a business, and has consistently been ranked highly in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business reports. It is relatively easy for foreign entrepreneurs to register a business in Singapore.
Foreigners operating a business in Singapore: If you are a foreign entrepreneur residing in Singapore and wish to start and operate a business here, you can apply for an Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass) from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Eligible foreign entrepreneurs can apply for the EntrePass before incorporating a company with ACRA, or within 6 months after incorporating a company with ACRA. For more information on what businesses are eligible and the application requirements, please visit MOM’s website.
About business licences:
Many business activities will benefit from licences and permits. With GoBusiness, you can find out which ones you need, before applying for and managing them.
Imports and exports:
If you wish to engage in import and/or export activities in Singapore, you will need to activate your entity’s Customs Account with Singapore Customs. After that, your entity may register as a Declaring Agent (DA) to apply for customs permits or certificates via TradeNet or appoint a Declaring Agent to do so on your entity’s behalf.
For more information on the activation of Customs Accounts and permit applications, see the Quick Guide for New Traders and Registration Services on the Singapore Customs website.