The Guide To Corporate Establishment In Singapore

By Dezan Shira & Associates

Posted: 26th January 2016 09:54

Renowned for its highly skilled workforce and competitive business environment, Singapore is a valuable entry point to ASEAN, and filled with investment opportunities for firms seeking to establish themselves within Southeast Asia.
 
One key advantage of establishment within the cities states’ boarders are its streamlined requirements for set up and continuation of operations. As of 2013, in conjunction with ASEAN’s growing competitiveness over China, the predictable and efficient nature of corporate establishment guidelines within Singapore has resulted in its retention of a 49 percent share of inward regional FDI stock. 
 
While also ranked within the top 5 nations globally by the world economic forum in its “global business competitiveness report”, successful investment strategy within Singapore continues to require careful due diligence. All firms considering investment within the city state should be sure to conduct a careful review of their opportunities and maintain clear a understanding of regulatory responsibilities. In the event that questions arise, relevant government officials or professional services should be contacted to ensure compliance. 
 
Options for Investment
 
The following article outlines the initial steps required to set up Representative Offices and Private Limited Companies (Pte Ltd) – two of the most effective investment vehicles for foreign companies seeking to establish a presence within Singapore. The decision on which type of investment to make is largely determined by the nature of activities that a given firm is hoping to accomplish.
 
For those seeking to conduct fact finding, market research, or negotiations within Singapore, Representative offices allow for a streamlined form of entry. Although largely prevented to from conducting operations pertaining to the generation of profit, limited compliance requirements for representative offices mitigate regulatory challenges and reduce the burden of market exploration. Furthermore, the ability to transition a representative office – which has a three year cap on licensing – into other vehicles of investment provides a clear pathway for those considering future expansion.
 
In contrast to Representative offices, Private Limited Companies offer those wishing to conduct operations within Singapore and effective option for investment. As a result, Private limited Companies are the chosen form of investment by many foreign companies. While maintaining similar capital requirements to representative offices, the nature of business activities is completely opened and the duration of operation is not restricted. Accompanying increased maneuverability within Singapore, with respect to profit generating activities, companies may engage in shipping, offer their services to clients, and enter into business contracts among other activities.

Option 1: Private Limited Companies
 
Step 1 – Name Approval
 
Companies investing in Singapore must first obtain approval for the name they wish to register under within the country. This name must not be already in use and may not infringe upon trademarks recognized by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS).
 
Fee: Name applications are available for 15 Singapore dollars.  
 
Step 2 – Staffing
 
Outlined in Singapore’s Companies Act, all Private limited companies are required to fill the following positions: 
 
Step 3 – Registration

 
Upon the successful name approval and selection of relevant staff, registration at the ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority) must be completed via Singapore’s online BizFile system. Currently, all foreign companies are required to hire a business registration firm to complete the submission process. While filing is to be handled externally, the following requirements for documentation and information should be noted to ensure registration is completed quickly: 
Step 4 – Licensing
 

Depending on the nature of the work that a company wishes to conduct within Singapore, additional documentation and licensing may be required. The following are three of the most common licensing requirements that investors may face upon entry into Singapore: 
  1. Business Activity License: the standard permit for companies that are operating within Singapore; required for most firms operating within the country. 
  2. Occupational License: required for professional services including but not limited to doctors, lawyers, accountants, and securities traders.   
  3. Compulsory License: required for specialized fields such as travel agencies, schools, and employment agencies. 
Note: A full listing of all business licenses can be found on Singapore’s Online Business Licensing Service (OBLS)
 
Step 5 – Compliance
 
 
Following successful incorporation within Singapore, all companies are subject to a variety of compliance requirements. Within the first year and a half of operation, the following deadlines and requirements should be observed to ensure compliance with current regulations: 
Option 2: Representative Offices
 
Step 1 – Name Approval
 

In the same manner as Private Limited Incorporation, those seeking to set up Representative Offices within Singapore must first obtain approval for the name they wish to register under within the country and must comply with trademarks recognized by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS).
Fee: 15 Singapore dollars
 
Step 2 – Staffing
 
All Representative Offices within Singapore are required to appoint a member of their staff to act as their representative within the country. It should be noted that this individual should must hold the title of representative and may not represent themselves to be anything other than a representative of the parent company. 
 
Step 3 – Registration 
 
To successfully register as an RO within Singapore, the following information and documentation must be prepared. It is important to note that in the same manner as Private Limited Companies, submission of documentation must be conducted by a independent service within Singapore. 
Note: In the event that no annual report or audited accounts are available, self-declaration is permitted. To successfully self-declare, companies should be prepared to provide needed information as well as supporting details such as company brochures, contracts, and contact information.  
 
Compliance
 
Unlike Private Limited Companies, Representative offices are not subject to compliance requirements as it is assumed that they are not engaged in any activities that would generate profit. 
 
Further Support from Dezan Shira & Associates
 
Corporate establishment can prove a complex and challenging procedure, especially in a country with such a varied legal and bureaucratic system, such as Indonesia. With decades of experience helping companies set up business operations in the region, the specialists at Dezan Shira & Associates are well placed to help companies overcome these challenges. For more information, please get in touch with our specialists at asean@dezshira.com.
 
Since its establishment in 1992, Dezan Shira & Associates has been guiding foreign clients through Asia’s complex regulatory environment and assisting them with all aspects of legal, accounting, tax, internal control, HR, payroll and audit matters. As a full-service consultancy with operational offices across China, Hong Kong, India and emerging ASEAN, we are your reliable partner for business expansion in this region and beyond.

For inquiries, please email us at info@dezshira.com. Further information about our firm can be found at: www.dezshira.com
 

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