All You Need To Know About Starting A Business is a series of articles that provides you with information about incorporating a business in Singapore. While the specifics are based on Singapore, many of the principles here apply to other countries as well. Do use the information as a reference and check with your country’s incorporating agency for details.

So, You’re Serious About Starting A Business

If you are ready to start a business legally, one of the first things you need to do is to incorporate it. What does incorporating a business mean? How do you incorporate a business in Singapore?  What are the different business structures available? Which company structure should you pick for your company?

This article will answer all of the above questions.

1. Are You Eligibility To Start A Business?

Before you start designing your company logo, hiring staff and looking for a suitable office, you should first check if you are eligible to register a business in Singapore. Here are the basic requirements:

Requirements for Local Individual

  • A Singapore citizen or Permanent Resident (PR) who is at least 18 years old
  • Not an undischarged bankruptcy
  • Undischarged bankruptcies and persons convicted of offences involving fraud or dishonesty in the past five years are also disqualified as a local Director.

Also, businesses that are Sole Proprietorship or Partnership cannot register another Sole Proprietorship or Partnership.

As you can see, the requirements are not that stringent. You can start a company in Singapore before you can legally vote or smoke a cigarette.

Requirements For Foreign Individual/Company

If you are neither a Singapore citizen nor PR, you can’t self-register a company in Singapore unless you hold an Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass). However, you can engage a professional corporate services firm to do so on your behalf.

Upon registering the business, you first need to obtain either an Employment Pass or EntrePass if you plan to be the local Director of the company. Alternatively, you can appoint a Nominee Director to fulfil this requirement if you don’t have any valid work pass or special visa.

2. Pick A Business Structure

Next, you need to decide on the type of business structure you wish to register for your business.

What Are Business Structures?

Business structures are the form of legal status under which your business falls. It is how the law categorises and recognises your business as an entity. Choosing the right business structure for your business is essential because it has implication on your legal responsibilities, personal liabilities as well as filing of returns and taxes (i.e., the amount of paperwork your business is required to do to comply with the statutory law). 

What Are The Types Of Business Structure?

The most common types of business structures are:

For a detailed analysis of each business structure, please click on the listed business structure above. We have also made a comparison of the two most popular business structures, namely Sole Proprietorship and Private Limited Company here.

In addition to the above structures, foreign individuals or companies can also incorporate the following entities:

Again, click on the above links for full details of each structure.

3. What Documents To Prepare?

Let’s say you’ve decided on the most suitable business structure. What’s next? We suggest that you gather all the necessary information before actually going through the registration process.

Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships are easier to register, but it’s still best to be prepared. Have the following ready:

  • Name of sole-proprietor/partners;
  • Company name;
  • Business activities; and
  • A local registered address.

To register the business online, you’ll need a working SingPass.

For Private Limited Company registration, you’ll also need the shareholder name(s), paid-up capital amount, the company’s constitution and Director name(s) in addition to the above mentioned.

Your business name must be unique to differentiate your company from the others. To check whether a company name has already been taken, you can do so for free on ACRA’s website.

4. How To Register A Business?

The best way to register a business in Singapore is to do so online. The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, or commonly known as ACRA, allows anyone to register a business on its website. Simply log in to BizFile+ (which is embedded in ACRA’s website) using your SingPass to submit the online transaction.

If you’re registrating for a Partnership, do note that all proposed partners need to endorse their consent online via BizFile+. The business is officially registered only after all the partners or authorised representatives have endorsed the application. 

For Private Limited Companies, an email notification from ACRA, which is also accessible from the dashboard in Bizfile+, will be sent to the appointed officers after registration. All the company’s directors, shareholders and company secretary must endorse their consent online via Bizfile+ within 60 days from the date of the email notification.

If all these sounds like it’s too much for you to handle, you can always engage a registered filing agent (e.g. a law firm, accounting firm or corporate services firm) to apply on your behalf. You’ll need to pay for the service rendered, so do your sums and see if it is worth it.

5. How Much Does It Cost To Register A Business In Singapore?

ACRA charges a range of fees, depending on the business structure. Here’s the detailed breakdown:

Sole Proprietorship

Name Application Fee: $15

Registration Fee: $100

Renewal Fee: $30

Partnership (LP)

Name Application Fee: $15

Registration Fee: $100 (1 year) or $160 (3 years)

Private Limited Company

Registration Fee: $300

Multiple payment modes are available, including credit/debit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay.

6. What Happens Next?

If everything is filed correctly, your application should be approved almost immediately (ACRA’s website says it is usually processed within 15 minutes after the name application fee is paid). However, if your application needs to be referred to another agency for approval or review (e.g. setting up a private school), it may take between 14 days and 60 days.

Upon successful registration, you will be issued a system-generated Unique Entity Number (UEN). Keep that number, because you need to use the UEN as an identification number when transacting with government agencies. In fact, many businesses choose to display the number on their letterheads or website to show the legitimacy of their company.

You are also strongly encouraged to apply for a CorpPass (a company version of SingPass) because you’ll need it whenever you file transactions in BizFile+, including Annual Returns. You can register for a CorpPass at www.corppass.gov.sg.

Once you’ve successfully registered with ACRA, you’re good to go! Your business can commence anytime, provided that you do not need any licences/approvals from other government agencies to carry out your business activities.

About the Writer:

Judy Tham is a writer and founder of One Elephant, a copywriting firm in Singapore. She co-authored Are You Brand Dead?, one of the few books on branding in Asia that focuses on SMEs.