Starting a company in Singapore – the essential checklist


Starting a company in Singapore – the essential checklist

Did you know that Singapore has consistently ranked as one of the top countries in the world for ease of doing business? In fact, according to the World Bank’s annual report, Singapore holds the position as the 2nd best country in the world for starting a company. With its strong economy, favorable tax system, and government support for entrepreneurship, it’s no wonder that so many ambitious individuals choose to establish their business in Singapore.

If you’re considering starting a company in Singapore, it’s important to be aware of the essential checklist to ensure a smooth and successful journey. From choosing the right business structure to understanding legal requirements and securing the necessary permits and licenses, there are several key steps that you need to follow. This article will guide you through the essential checklist, providing valuable insights and practical advice to help you navigate the process with confidence.

Key Takeaways:

  • 1. Singapore is ranked as the 2nd best country in the world for starting a company, according to the World Bank’s annual report.
  • 2. The essential checklist for starting a company in Singapore includes choosing the right business structure, registering your company, understanding legal requirements, opening a corporate bank account, and obtaining work passes.
  • 3. It is crucial to comply with Singapore’s taxation and accounting obligations, secure the necessary business permits and licenses, protect your intellectual property, and develop a comprehensive marketing strategy.
  • 4. Ongoing compliance and maintenance tasks, such as annual filings and corporate record updates, are vital for the continued success of your company in Singapore.

Choosing a business structure

When starting a company in Singapore, one of the key decisions entrepreneurs need to make is choosing the right business structure. The business structure you choose will have significant implications for your company’s operations, taxes, liability, and growth potential.

There are several business structures available in Singapore, each with its own pros and cons. Let’s explore the three most common structures:

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest form of business structure, where the owner is the only individual responsible for running the business. With this structure, there is no legal distinction between the owner and the business entity. While it offers simplicity and full control, the owner is personally liable for the company’s debts and liabilities.


A partnership is formed when two or more individuals come together to run a business with a shared ownership. It can be a general partnership, where all partners have equal rights and responsibilities, or a limited partnership, where there are both general partners and limited partners. Partnerships offer shared decision-making and pooling of resources but also come with shared liabilities.

Private Limited Company

A private limited company, also known as a Pte Ltd company, is a separate legal entity from its owners. The liability of the shareholders is limited to the amount of capital they have invested in the company. This structure provides limited liability protection and can attract external investments more easily. However, it involves more extensive legal and administrative requirements.

Choosing the right business structure depends on various factors, including your business goals, growth plans, tax considerations, and the level of personal liability you are willing to accept. It’s crucial to seek professional advice and consider the long-term implications before making a decision.

Here’s a table comparing the key features of each business structure:

Business Structure Liability Taxation Growth Potential
Sole Proprietorship Unlimited personal liability Income tax based on personal income Limited
Partnership Shared liability among partners Income tax based on partnership’s income Moderate
Private Limited Company Limited liability for shareholders Corporate tax with exemptions and incentives High

Understanding the different business structures and their implications can help you make an informed decision that aligns with your business objectives. Consider seeking the guidance of legal and financial professionals to ensure you choose the most suitable structure for your company.

Registering your company

Registering a company in Singapore is a crucial step in establishing your business. By fulfilling the necessary requirements, you ensure that your company is legally recognized and can operate smoothly. In this section, we will guide you through the process of company registration, providing you with essential information to get started.

Important documents required

When registering your company in Singapore, you will need to prepare and submit several documents. These include:

  • ACRA BizFile application form
  • Company name approval letter
  • Memorandum and Articles of Association (MAA)
  • Identification documents of directors and shareholders
  • Registered office address

Ensure that all documents are accurate, complete, and comply with the regulations set by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).

Fees involved

Registering a company in Singapore incurs certain fees. The fees vary depending on factors such as the type of company and the services required. Here are some fees you can expect:

Type of Fee Amount
Company Name Application SGD 15
ACRA Registration SGD 300 (for private limited companies)
Employment Pass Application SGD 105
Goods and Services Tax (GST) Registration No fee

It is important to budget for these fees and be aware of any additional costs that may arise during the registration process.

Steps to follow

The process of registering a company in Singapore typically involves several steps. Here is a simplified overview of the registration process:

  1. Choose a company name and confirm its availability with ACRA.
  2. Prepare the necessary documents, including the MAA and identification documents of company officers.
  3. Submit the documents through the ACRA BizFile portal.
  4. Pay the required fees.
  5. Wait for ACRA to review and approve your application.
  6. Upon approval, you will receive a Certificate of Incorporation.

It is recommended to seek professional assistance from a corporate service provider or engage a company registration agent to ensure a smooth and hassle-free registration process.

By following these steps and completing the required documentation, you will be on your way to officially registering your company in Singapore and embarking on your entrepreneurial journey.

Understanding legal requirements

Starting a new company in Singapore requires entrepreneurs to be knowledgeable about the legal framework and comply with various legal requirements. These requirements include obtaining the necessary licenses and permits, as well as adhering to the relevant laws and regulations.

Obtaining licenses and permits

Before commencing operations, it is essential to determine if your business activities require any specific licenses or permits. Certain industries, such as finance, healthcare, and food services, may have additional licensing requirements imposed by regulatory bodies. Understanding these requirements and ensuring compliance is crucial for a smooth and legally compliant business operation.

Legal compliance and regulations

Entrepreneurs must familiarize themselves with the laws and regulations that govern businesses in Singapore. Compliance with these regulations ensures that companies operate ethically and within the legal boundaries. Some key areas to consider include:

  1. Employment regulations: Understanding hiring practices, employment contracts, and employee rights is essential when building a workforce in Singapore.
  2. Taxation laws: Knowing the tax obligations and filing requirements for your company is crucial to avoid any legal issues and penalties.
  3. Data protection: Safeguarding customer and employee data is increasingly important, especially with the rise of digital transactions and data breaches.

Legal advice and consultancy

As navigating legal requirements can be complex, seeking legal advice or consultancy services can be beneficial for entrepreneurs. Engaging a professional legal advisor can provide invaluable guidance, ensure compliance, and mitigate any legal risks associated with starting and running a company in Singapore.

Opening a corporate bank account

When starting a company in Singapore, one of the crucial steps is opening a corporate bank account. A corporate bank account not only enables you to manage your company’s finances effectively but also demonstrates your professionalism and credibility to clients and business partners.

To open a corporate bank account, you will need to gather the required documents and choose from the various banking options available in Singapore. These options include local and international banks, each offering different features and services.

Gathering Required Documents

Before applying for a corporate bank account, it is important to have the necessary documents ready. The specific requirements may vary depending on the bank, but generally, you will need the following:

  • Company incorporation documents
  • Board resolution authorizing the account opening
  • Memorandum and Articles of Association
  • Valid identification documents for the company directors and shareholders
  • Proof of address for the company’s registered office

Additionally, some banks may request additional documents, such as business licenses or permits, depending on the nature of your company’s activities.

Choosing the Right Banking Option

When selecting a bank for your corporate account, consider factors such as the bank’s reputation, ease of use, fees, and available services. Singapore offers a diverse range of banking options, including both local and international banks. Some popular choices among businesses in Singapore include:

  1. DBS Bank
  2. OCBC Bank
  3. UOB Bank
  4. Citibank
  5. Standard Chartered Bank

Research each bank’s offerings, compare their features, and consider your company’s specific needs before making a decision. Some key considerations may include transaction fees, online banking capabilities, foreign currency exchange services, and the bank’s network of branches and ATMs.

By opening a corporate bank account in Singapore, you not only gain access to a reliable banking system but also establish your company’s financial foundation. Ensuring that you have the necessary documents and choosing the right banking option sets your business up for long-term success.

Bank Transaction Fees Online Banking Foreign Currency Exchange Branches/ATMs
DBS Bank Low Yes Yes Extensive network
OCBC Bank Low Yes Yes Extensive network
UOB Bank Low Yes Yes Extensive network
Citibank Varies Yes Yes Limited branches/ATMs
Standard Chartered Bank Varies Yes Yes Extensive network

Hiring employees and obtaining work passes

When establishing a company in Singapore, one of the crucial steps is hiring employees and ensuring compliance with work pass requirements and employment regulations. This section will guide you through the process, providing valuable insights and important considerations.

Hiring employees in Singapore

Before diving into the hiring process, it’s vital to understand the various work passes available in Singapore. These work passes are essential for foreign employees who wish to work in the country.

Work Pass Type Description
Employment Pass (EP) For foreign professionals, executives, and managers with a job offer in Singapore.
S Pass For mid-level skilled employees, technicians, and specialists.
Work Permit For semi-skilled and unskilled workers in specific industries.
EntrePass For foreign entrepreneurs who want to start and operate a new business in Singapore.

Choosing the right work pass depends on the employee’s qualifications, experience, and the specific job requirements. Be sure to review the eligibility criteria and application processes for each type of work pass before proceeding with the hiring process.

Work pass requirements and permits

When applying for work passes, it’s crucial to meet certain requirements and obtain the necessary permits. These requirements include:

  • Meeting the minimum salary criteria set by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
  • Ensuring that the job scope and responsibilities align with the approved job title.
  • Securing the necessary documentation, including educational certificates and employment contracts.
  • Complying with the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) for EP applications.

Applicants and employers must also be aware of the respective quotas and levies associated with different work pass categories. These quotas aim to regulate the employment of foreign workers and maintain a balanced workforce in Singapore.

Employment regulations

Singapore has well-established employment regulations that employers must adhere to. These regulations cover areas such as working hours, leave entitlements, and termination procedures. Employers are also required to contribute to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) for their employees, which provides retirement savings and healthcare benefits.

It’s crucial for employers to have a sound understanding of Singapore’s employment laws and regulations to ensure compliance and maintain a positive work environment for their employees.

By navigating the hiring process and obtaining the necessary work passes, you’ll be equipped to build a skilled and diverse workforce for your Singaporean company. Stay informed about the latest updates and regulations to ensure a smooth and compliant hiring process.

Taxation and accounting obligations

When starting a company in Singapore, it is crucial to understand the taxation system and the accounting obligations that come with it. Proper tax compliance and accurate financial record-keeping are essential for the smooth operation and growth of your business.

Taxation in Singapore

Singapore has one of the most attractive taxation systems globally, with low corporate tax rates and various tax incentives to encourage business growth. The country follows a territorial tax system, meaning that only income derived from Singapore is subject to taxation.

Companies in Singapore are taxed at a flat rate of 17% on their chargeable income. However, qualifying new startups may enjoy full tax exemption on the first SGD 100,000 of their chargeable income for the first three consecutive years. They can also receive a partial tax exemption of 75% on the next SGD 100,000 of chargeable income.

In addition to corporate tax, Singapore also imposes Goods and Services Tax (GST) on the supply of goods and services. Currently, the GST rate is 7%. Businesses that have an annual turnover of more than SGD 1 million are required to register for GST and file regular GST returns.

Accounting obligations

Proper accounting is essential for any business to monitor its financial health, make informed decisions, and comply with regulatory requirements. In Singapore, companies are required to maintain proper financial records and prepare financial statements in accordance with the Singapore Financial Reporting Standards (SFRS).

The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) is the governing body responsible for overseeing financial reporting requirements. Companies must keep accurate and up-to-date accounting records that reflect their financial transactions. These records should include details of income, expenses, assets, liabilities, and capital.

Annual financial statements must be prepared and submitted to ACRA, along with the company’s annual return filing. Small companies may qualify for simplified financial reporting requirements, while larger companies need to comply with more comprehensive reporting standards.

Engaging professional services

Given the complexity of taxation and accounting obligations, many companies choose to engage the services of professional tax and accounting firms. These firms have the expertise and knowledge to ensure proper compliance with tax regulations and maintain accurate financial records.

When selecting a tax and accounting firm, it is important to consider their experience, reputation, and expertise in handling businesses similar to yours. They can assist with various aspects, including tax planning, preparation of financial statements, tax returns filing, and advisory services.

Securing business permits and licenses

When starting a business in Singapore, it’s important to be aware of the various permits and licenses that may be required for specific business activities. Obtaining the necessary permits and licenses is crucial for ensuring compliance with local regulations and operating legally. Let’s take a closer look at some key permits and licenses often required:

1. Business Licenses

Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to apply for specific licenses or permits. For example, food establishments need to obtain a food shop license, while businesses offering professional services may require a professional services license. It’s important to research and understand the specific licenses needed for your industry to avoid any legal complications.

2. Trade Licenses

If your business involves importing, exporting, or distributing certain goods, you may need to obtain trade licenses from relevant government agencies such as Singapore Customs or the Health Sciences Authority. These licenses ensure that your business complies with regulations pertaining to the import and export of specific goods, ensuring smooth operations and avoiding penalties.

3. Employment Permits

If you plan to hire foreign employees, you will need to apply for work permits or employment passes for them. The Ministry of Manpower handles such applications. These permits are essential for recruiting foreign talent and ensuring compliance with immigration laws and labor regulations. Different types of work permits are available depending on factors such as the employee’s skillset and salary.

4. Environmental Permits

Businesses involved in activities that have potential environmental impacts, such as manufacturing or chemical processing, may need to obtain environmental permits. These permits are issued by agencies like the National Environment Agency and ensure compliance with environmental regulations and guidelines, protecting the environment and public health.

5. Health and Safety Certifications

In certain industries, businesses need to comply with specific health and safety standards. This may involve obtaining certifications or permits related to workplace safety, fire safety, or occupational health. Ensuring a safe and healthy work environment is not only a legal requirement but also promotes employee well-being and helps build customer trust.

It’s important to note that the permits and licenses required can vary depending on the nature of your business and the specific activities you engage in. Conduct thorough research or consult with a professional to determine the necessary permits and licenses for your business. Failing to obtain the required permits can lead to fines, penalties, or even the closure of your business.

Once you have identified the permits and licenses needed, you can begin the application process. This may involve filling out forms, providing supporting documents, and paying the necessary fees. It’s crucial to ensure that all application requirements are met to avoid delays in the approval process.

Securing the necessary permits and licenses demonstrates your commitment to operating legally and ethically. It also gives you peace of mind, knowing that you are complying with all relevant regulations and can focus on growing your business.

Understanding intellectual property protection

Intellectual property protection is a crucial aspect for businesses in Singapore. It involves safeguarding your company’s intangible assets, such as ideas, inventions, brand names, and creative works, from unauthorized use or duplication. By registering trademarks and patents, you can secure exclusive rights and gain a competitive advantage in the market. Let’s explore the importance of intellectual property protection and the steps you can take to ensure adequate safeguards.

The Value of Trademarks

A trademark is a unique symbol, design, or phrase that distinguishes your products or services from others in the market. Registering trademarks provides legal protection and helps build brand recognition. By preventing others from using similar marks, you maintain the integrity of your brand and reduce the risk of confusion among consumers. It’s essential to conduct thorough trademark searches and ensure that your proposed mark is available for registration.

Securing Patents for Innovations

Patents are crucial for protecting your inventions or technological advancements. They grant exclusive rights to produce, use, or sell the innovation for a specific period. Registering patents provides legal protection and encourages innovation by rewarding inventors. It’s crucial to conduct a comprehensive patent search to ensure that your invention is novel and doesn’t infringe on existing patents.

Copyright Protection for Creative Works

Copyright safeguards original works of authorship, such as literary, artistic, and musical creations, from unauthorized reproduction or distribution. Registering your creative works ensures that you have exclusive rights and can pursue legal action against infringement. It’s important to mark your works with the copyright symbol (©) and include a copyright notice to deter potential infringers.

The Benefits of Intellectual Property Protection

Effective intellectual property protection offers several benefits for businesses:

  • Competitive Advantage: By securing exclusive rights to your innovations and brand, you gain a competitive edge in the market.
  • Brand Reputation: Trademark protection helps build brand recognition and maintains brand integrity.
  • Market Expansion: Intellectual property protection facilitates market expansion by providing legal safeguards for your business in different jurisdictions.
  • Business Valuation: Intellectual property assets enhance the value of your business and attract potential investors or buyers.

Steps to Protect Your Intellectual Property

To ensure comprehensive intellectual property protection, consider taking the following steps:

  1. Conduct Intellectual Property Audits: Assess your company’s intellectual property assets and identify areas that require protection.
  2. Work with Intellectual Property Lawyers: Seek professional guidance to navigate the complex legalities and effectively protect your intellectual property.
  3. Register Trademarks, Patents, and Copyrights: File the necessary applications with the relevant authorities to secure legal protection for your intellectual property.
  4. Monitor and Enforce Your Rights: Stay vigilant for any signs of infringement and take timely action to protect your intellectual property rights.

Type of Intellectual Property Key Features
Trademarks – Unique symbols, designs, or phrases
– Distinguish your products/services
– Ensure brand recognition
Patents – Protect inventions or technological advancements
– Exclusive rights for production, use, or sale
– Encourage innovation
Copyrights – Safeguard original works of authorship
– Literary, artistic, and musical creations
– Exclusive rights to reproduce or distribute

Developing a marketing strategy

When starting a company in Singapore, it’s crucial to develop a strong marketing strategy to effectively promote your brand and attract customers. A well-executed marketing strategy can help you stand out from the competition and drive business growth. Here are key considerations to keep in mind when developing your marketing strategy:

1. Conduct Market Research

Before diving into marketing initiatives, it’s essential to conduct thorough market research. This involves gaining insights into your target audience, understanding their needs and preferences, and identifying market trends. By conducting market research, you can tailor your marketing efforts to resonate with your potential customers, increasing the chances of attracting and retaining them.

2. Define Your Brand

A strong and consistent brand image is crucial for capturing the attention of your target audience and building brand loyalty. Clearly define your brand identity, including your mission, values, and unique selling points. This will help guide your marketing messages and ensure consistency across all communication channels.

3. Establish an Online Presence

In today’s digital age, having a strong online presence is essential for business success. Create a user-friendly website that reflects your brand and showcases your products or services. Optimize your website for search engines (SEO) to improve your visibility online. Leverage social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to engage with your target audience and build a community around your brand.

4. Develop Content Marketing Strategies

Content marketing is a powerful tool for attracting and engaging potential customers. Create valuable and relevant content such as blog posts, videos, or infographics that provide insights, solve problems, or entertain your target audience. Distribute this content through various channels, including your website, social media, and email newsletters, to establish your expertise and nurture relationships with your audience.

5. Use a Mix of Traditional and Digital Marketing

While digital marketing offers immense opportunities, don’t neglect traditional marketing channels that can also be effective. Explore options such as print advertisements, direct mail, or event sponsorships that align with your target audience. Balance your marketing mix to reach the widest possible audience and maximize your reach.

6. Track and Analyze Results

Regularly monitor and analyze the results of your marketing efforts. Implement tracking tools like Google Analytics to measure the performance of your website and campaigns. This data will provide valuable insights into your marketing strategy’s effectiveness, allowing you to make informed decisions and optimize your marketing tactics for better results.

Developing a successful marketing strategy requires careful planning, consideration of your target audience, and continuous optimization. By taking the time to develop a well-thought-out marketing strategy, you can effectively promote your company and achieve long-term success in Singapore’s competitive business landscape.

Ongoing compliance and maintenance

Once you have successfully established your company in Singapore, it is important to ensure ongoing compliance with the local regulatory framework. Ongoing compliance involves meeting various legal requirements and fulfilling maintenance tasks to keep your company in good standing.

One of the key compliance obligations is the submission of annual filings to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). These filings include the annual return, financial statements, and any other relevant forms. Ensuring timely and accurate filing is crucial to avoid penalties and maintain transparency.

In addition to annual filings, companies in Singapore need to renew their licenses, permits, and approvals on a regular basis. This includes business licenses, work passes for employees, and any industry-specific permits. Keeping track of expiration dates and initiating timely renewals is essential for uninterrupted operations.

Maintaining updated corporate records is also essential for ongoing compliance. This includes updating changes to the company’s registered address, directors, shareholders, and other relevant information with ACRA. Failure to update corporate records may lead to inaccuracies and non-compliance.

Overall, ongoing compliance and maintenance tasks are crucial for the smooth functioning of your company in Singapore. By staying abreast of the legal requirements, conducting annual filings, renewing licenses, and updating corporate records, you can ensure that your business operates in accordance with the law and maintains a strong standing in the local market.


Q: What are the different business structures available in Singapore?

A: The different business structures available in Singapore are sole proprietorship, partnership, and private limited company. Each structure has its own advantages and considerations, so it is important to choose the most suitable structure for your company based on your business goals and requirements.

Q: How do I register my company in Singapore?

A: To register your company in Singapore, you need to first choose a business name and ensure its availability. Then, you will need to prepare the necessary documents, such as identification documents of the directors and shareholders, memorandum and articles of association, and a company constitution. After that, you can proceed to submit the application to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) and pay the required fees.

Q: What legal requirements do I need to fulfill when starting a company in Singapore?

A: When starting a company in Singapore, some of the legal requirements you need to fulfill include obtaining any necessary licenses and permits for your business activities, complying with relevant laws and regulations, and ensuring proper governance and record-keeping. It is also important to seek professional advice to ensure compliance with specific industry regulations, if applicable.

Q: How do I open a corporate bank account in Singapore?

A: To open a corporate bank account in Singapore, you will typically need to provide certain documents, such as the company’s Certificate of Incorporation, business profile, identification documents of directors and shareholders, and proof of address. It is advisable to contact different banks to compare their offerings and requirements before making a decision.

Q: What are the work pass requirements for hiring employees in Singapore?

A: The work pass requirements for hiring employees in Singapore depend on factors such as their nationality and the type of work they will be doing. Generally, foreign employees will need to obtain a valid work pass, such as an Employment Pass (EP) or a Work Permit (WP), before they can legally work in Singapore. Different work passes have different criteria and eligibility requirements.

Q: What are the taxation and accounting obligations for companies in Singapore?

A: Companies in Singapore are subject to taxation and accounting obligations. This includes filing annual tax returns with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) and maintaining proper financial records. Depending on the company’s size and turnover, it may also be required to undergo an annual audit. It is advisable to engage the services of professional accountants to ensure compliance with tax and accounting regulations.

Q: What permits and licenses may be required for specific business activities in Singapore?

A: Depending on the nature of your business activities, you may need to obtain specific permits and licenses in Singapore. This can include licenses for activities such as food and beverage operations, import/export, financial services, and healthcare. It is important to research and understand the specific requirements for your industry and seek guidance from the relevant authorities or professional consultants.

Q: How can I protect my intellectual property in Singapore?

A: Intellectual property protection is important for businesses in Singapore. To protect your intellectual property, you can register trademarks, patents, and copyrights with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS). It is recommended to seek legal advice from intellectual property professionals to ensure your intellectual property rights are properly safeguarded.

Q: What should I consider when developing a marketing strategy for my company in Singapore?

A: When developing a marketing strategy for your company in Singapore, it is important to consider factors such as your target market, competition, branding, and online presence. Conducting market research, identifying your unique selling propositions, and engaging in effective digital marketing strategies are crucial for success in the competitive Singapore market.

Q: What ongoing compliance requirements and maintenance tasks do I need to fulfill for my company in Singapore?

A: Companies in Singapore have ongoing compliance requirements and maintenance tasks such as filing annual returns and financial statements, holding annual general meetings, updating corporate registers, and renewing licenses and permits. It is advisable to engage the services of professional corporate secretarial firms to ensure compliance with these requirements and to stay updated with any regulatory changes.

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