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Singapore Tax System: the Real Complete Guide for 2023

Everything you need to know on Singapore Tax System here! One of the most efficient and modern taxation systems in Southeast Asia.

Table of Contents

Singapore Tax Guide 2023

Overview of Singapore Tax System

Singapore boasts one of the most efficient and modern taxation systems in Southeast Asia, allowing businesses to comfortably operate within its boundaries. According to the IRAS, tax revenue accounts for almost 74% of Singapore’s government operating revenue for the financial year 2021/22 with the Goods and Services Tax (GST) contributing with the largest portion.

The tax framework is designed to maximize returns while minimizing the substantial burden imposed on taxpaying individuals and companies. This helps to foster an environment of economic growth both within Singapore and the larger region. Anyone opting to do business in Singapore has access to a range of innovative tax relief programs suitable for virtually all types of companies. Furthermore, corporate tax rates are among the lowest worldwide, as well as being waived entirely for qualifying investment funds – making Singapore an attractive place to invest capital.

The main taxes in Singapore are:

  1. Corporate tax
  2. Goods and services Tax (GST)
  3. Personal income tax
  4. Withholding Tax

Overall, Singapore’s forward-thinking taxation policies are firmly grounded in the principles of efficiency, equity and transparency – helping it remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Singapore Taxation Authorities

Singapore’s taxation authorities are among the most reputable in the world. The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) provides a clear and transparent framework for citizens to understand their tax obligations, while also providing incentives, such as the Pioneer Generation Package, that benefit thousands of people. IRAS is at the forefront of innovation when it comes to filing taxes online and using automatic assessments, reducing processing times and making it easier for taxpayers to meet their filings on time. Furthermore, IRAS works closely with economic stakeholders such as financial institutions and corporations to ensure that revenue collection remains efficient and free from any errors or discrepancies. In short, Singapore taxation authorities excel at providing both individuals and business owners with a safe and secure platform for fulfilling their tax liabilities every year.

Benefits and Challenges for Businesses in Singapore

Singapore has long been known as a business hub for global entrepreneurs. There are many key benefits that make it attractive to business owners, such as:

  1. Low Tax Rates: Singapore has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world, which makes it an attractive destination for businesses looking to maximize their profits. Additionally, there are various tax exemptions and incentives available to companies operating in certain industries or engaging in specific types of activities.
  2. Stable Political and Economic Environment: Singapore is known for its stable political and economic environment, which provides a sense of security and predictability for businesses. This allows them to focus on growing their operations without worrying about political or economic instability.
  3. Access to Talent: Singapore has a highly educated and skilled workforce, which makes it easy for companies to find the talent they need to grow their operations. Additionally, the government has implemented various policies to attract and retain highly skilled foreign workers.
  4. Strategic Location: Singapore is a major transportation hub in Southeast Asia, making it an ideal location for companies looking to expand their operations in the region. Its location also allows companies to access a large market of consumers in the surrounding countries.

Despite the clear advantages of doing business in Singapore, there are naturally some challenges businesses face in day-to-day operations.

  1. High Costs: Singapore is known for its high cost of living, which can make it expensive for companies to operate and attract talent.
  2. Intense Competition: Singapore is a highly developed and competitive market, which can make it difficult for new businesses to establish themselves and compete with larger, established companies.
  3. Limited Natural Resources: Singapore is a small island nation with limited natural resources, which can make it difficult for certain types of companies to operate, particularly those that require large amounts of raw materials.

Nevertheless, Singapore remains an ideal place for businesses seeking quality infrastructure and a vibrant cosmopolitan culture, combined with great economic opportunities.

types of taxes in Singapore

Types of Taxes in Singapore

Corporate income tax in Singapore

Overview of corporate tax rate in Singapore

Singapore’s corporate tax rate is one of the lowest in the world, making it an attractive destination for businesses looking to maximize profits. The corporate income tax rate in Singapore has been fixed at 17% since 2010. This rate applies to both resident and non-resident companies and is levied on chargeable income, which is calculated by subtracting allowable expenses and losses from gross income.

However, there are also incentives and exemptions available for companies operating in certain industries or engaging in specific types of activities. For example, companies in the manufacturing sector are eligible for tax incentives such as Pioneer Status and Development and Expansion Incentive. Additionally, companies that engage in research and development activities can qualify for the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme, which provides tax benefits for such activities.

The government also provides partial tax exemptions for companies that are newly incorporated in Singapore, or for those that have undergone significant changes such as a change in ownership. 

Overall, Singapore’s corporate tax rate is designed to be competitive and attractive to foreign investment while also providing incentives and exemptions to support specific industries and activities. This helps to create a business-friendly environment and encourages companies to invest and grow in Singapore.

Eligibility for corporate tax exemptions and reliefs in Singapore

In Singapore, companies can qualify for corporate tax exemptions and reliefs based on certain criteria. Some of the most common exemptions and reliefs include:

  1. Start-up Tax Exemption: Companies that are newly incorporated in Singapore and meet certain criteria can qualify for a full tax exemption on the first S$100,000 of normal chargeable income for the first three consecutive years of assessment.
  2. Partial Tax Exemption: Companies can also qualify for a partial tax exemption on normal chargeable income of up to S$200,000. For the first S$10,000, a 75% exemption applies, and for the next S$190,000, a 50% exemption applies.
  3. Pioneer Status: Companies engaged in certain innovative or strategic activities can qualify for Pioneer Status, which provides a 100% tax exemption on chargeable income for up to five years.
  4. Development and Expansion Incentive: Companies in the manufacturing sector can qualify for the Development and Expansion Incentive, which provides a 100% tax exemption on chargeable income for up to five years.
  5. Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme: Companies that engage in research and development activities can qualify for the PIC scheme, which provides tax benefits for such activities.
  6. Double Tax Deduction for Internationalization (DTDi): Companies that incur expenses on overseas activities such as overseas market expansion, overseas investment development and intellectual property registration can claim for DTDi.

To qualify for these exemptions and reliefs, companies must meet certain criteria such as being registered in Singapore, having a certain level of shareholding, and being engaged in specific types of activities. Additionally, companies must also comply with all applicable laws and regulations, and provide all required documentation to the IRAS in order to claim any exemptions or reliefs.

Filing and payment procedures for corporate tax in Singapore

In Singapore, companies are required to file and pay corporate taxes annually to the IRAS. The process for filing and paying corporate taxes in Singapore typically involves the following steps:

  1. Register for corporate tax: Companies that are newly incorporated in Singapore or have undergone significant changes, such as a change in ownership, must register for corporate tax with the IRAS.
  2. File a tax return: Companies are required to file a corporate tax return with the IRAS annually, typically within three months after the end of their financial year. The tax return must include details of the company’s income and expenses, as well as any tax exemptions or reliefs that the company is claiming.
  3. Calculate the tax liability: Based on the information provided in the tax return, the IRAS will calculate the company’s corporate tax liability. The company must pay the tax liability within one month after the date of the tax bill.
  4. Pay the corporate tax: Companies must pay the corporate tax liability to the IRAS within one month after the date of the tax bill.
  5. Keep records: Companies are required to keep accurate records of their financial transactions for a period of five years for audit purposes.

It’s worth noting that Singapore has implemented e-filing and e-payment system, which makes the process of filing and paying corporate taxes more efficient and convenient for companies.

Companies that fail to file their tax returns or pay their tax liabilities on time may be subject to penalties and interest charges. Additionally, the IRAS may conduct audits and investigations to ensure compliance with tax laws and regulations.

Goods & Services Tax (GST) in Singapore

Overview of GST in Singapore

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a value-added tax levied on most goods and services sold in Singapore. GST is charged at every step in the production and distribution process, from the manufacturer to the retail level.

GST was introduced in Singapore on 1 April 1994, replacing the existing sales tax. The current GST rate is 7% and it is imposed on all taxable supplies of goods and services made in Singapore by a taxable person, unless specifically exempted.

The GST amount collected by the companies from the customer must be paid to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) on a quarterly basis via GST tax filing on the myGST portal on the IRAS’ website. The IRAS acts as the collecting agent for GST, ensuring the correct administration, assessment, collection and enforcement of this tax.

Registration requirements for GST in Singapore

The registration process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Submit an application: Businesses must submit an application for GST registration to the IRAS. The application can be done online via the IRAS e-Services portal.
  2. Provide required documents: Businesses must provide the IRAS with certain documents such as the company’s business registration certificate, the company’s UEN (Unique Entity Number) and the company’s bank account details.
  3. Attend a GST briefing: Businesses are required to attend a GST briefing organized by the IRAS to understand their obligations and responsibilities as a GST-registered business.
  4. Obtain an GST Registration Number (GRN): Once the application is approved, the IRAS will issue a GST Registration Number (GRN) to the business.

It’s worth noting that businesses that are not required to register for GST can still do so voluntarily. Once a business is GST-registered, it must charge GST on its taxable sales and claim GST credits on its taxable purchases. Additionally, GST-registered businesses are required to keep accurate records of their financial transactions for a period of five years for audit purposes.

Filing and payment procedures for GST in Singapore

In Singapore, businesses that are registered for GST are required to file GST returns and make GST payments to the IRAS on a regular basis. The filing and payment procedures for GST typically involve the following steps:

  1. File GST returns: GST-registered businesses are required to file GST returns with the IRAS on a regular basis, typically on a quarterly basis. GST returns must include details of the company’s taxable sales and purchases, as well as any GST due or claimable. The GST return filing can be done online via the IRAS e-Services portal.
  2. Calculate GST liability: Businesses must calculate the GST liability based on the information provided in the GST returns. The GST liability is the difference between the GST collected on sales and the GST claimable on purchases.
  3. Make GST payments: GST-registered businesses must make GST payments to the IRAS on a regular basis, typically on a quarterly basis. GST payments can be made online via the IRAS e-Services portal.
  4. Keep records: Worth repeating that GST-registered businesses are required to keep accurate records of their financial transactions for a period of five years for audit purposes. This includes records of GST-registered sales and purchases, GST returns and GST payments.
  5. Claim GST refund: GST-registered businesses that have a net GST refund due to them may claim the refund in their GST returns.

It’s worth noting that businesses that fail to file GST returns or make GST payments on time may be subject to penalties and interest charges. Additionally, the IRAS may conduct audits and investigations to ensure compliance with GST laws and regulations.

Personal Income Tax in Singapore

Overview of personal income tax in Singapore

Singapore has a progressive personal income tax system, where the tax rate increases as the income level increases. The personal income tax rate in Singapore ranges from 0% to 24%.

It’s worth noting that resident individuals are granted a Personal Relief of S$80,000, which can be used to reduce the amount of chargeable income.

Non-residents are taxed at a flat rate of 15% on the income derived from Singapore sources.

In addition to the progressive personal income tax, Singapore also imposes a progressive Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) on the purchase of properties. The ABSD rate increases with the purchase price and the number of properties owned by the individual.

Overall, Singapore’s personal income tax system is designed to be progressive and to encourage individuals to invest in their own development by providing tax reliefs and incentives.

Taxable income and tax rates

The personal income tax rate for a resident individual is as follows:

  1. 0% for the first S$20,000
  2. 2% for the next S$10,000
  3. 3.5% for the next S$10,000
  4. 7% for the next S$40,000
  5. 11.5% for the next S$40,000
  6. 15% for the next S$40,000
  7. 18% for the next S$40,000
  8. 19% for the next S$40,000
  9. 19.5% for the next S$40,000
  10. 20% for the next S$40,000
  11. 22% for the next S$180,000
  12. 23% for the next S$500,000
  13. 24% in excess of S$1,000,000

Filing and payment of personal income tax in Singapore

In Singapore, individuals are required to file and pay personal income tax to the IRAS annually. The process for filing and paying personal income tax typically involves the following steps:

  1. Register for income tax: Individuals who are required to file an income tax return must register for income tax with the IRAS.
  2. File an income tax return: Individuals are required to file an income tax return with the IRAS annually, typically within three months after the end of the financial year. The tax return must include details of the individual’s income, deductions, and reliefs for the year. Also the income tax filing can be done online via the IRAS e-Services portal.
  3. Calculate the tax liability: Based on the information provided in the tax return, the IRAS will calculate the individual’s personal income tax liability.
  4. Keep records: Individuals are required to keep accurate records of their financial transactions for a period of five years for audit purposes.

As always, individuals who fail to file their tax returns or pay their tax liabilities on time may be subject to penalties and interest charges. Additionally, the IRAS may conduct audits and investigations to ensure compliance with tax laws and regulations.

Cross-Border Payments

Transfer Pricing in Singapore

Transfer pricing refers to the pricing of goods and services between related parties, such as affiliates of a multinational corporation. In Singapore, transfer pricing is governed by the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax (Transfer Pricing) Rules.

The Singapore government has adopted the arm’s length principle, which requires that related party transactions be conducted on terms that would be made between independent parties. This means that the prices charged for goods and services between related parties should be comparable to those charged between unrelated parties.

The IRAS has the power to adjust the income or expenditure of a taxpayer in case of transfer pricing. IRAS also has the power to impose penalties for non-compliance.

Companies operating in Singapore are required to maintain accurate documentation of their related party transactions and be able to demonstrate that the prices charged for goods and services are at arm’s length. This documentation includes, but is not limited to, a master file, local file, and contemporaneous documentation.

In addition, Singapore has also implemented the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) action plan, which aims to combat tax avoidance and ensure that profits are taxed where economic activities generating the profits are performed and where value is created.

Singapore has a robust transfer pricing framework in place to ensure that related party transactions are conducted at arm’s length and to prevent tax avoidance. Companies operating in Singapore are required to maintain accurate documentation and be able to demonstrate that the prices charged for goods and services are in line with the arm’s length principle.

Withholding Tax in Singapore

Withholding tax is a tax that is withheld by the payer of income (e.g. employer) at the point of payment and remitted to the government. Singapore has a system of withholding taxes on certain types of income to ensure that tax is paid on these income streams as they are earned, rather than waiting for the end of the tax year.

Some examples of income that may be subject to withholding tax in Singapore include:

  1. Interest: Interest paid by financial institutions on deposits is subject to a withholding tax of 15%.
  2. Dividends: Dividends paid by Singapore-resident companies are generally exempt from withholding tax. However, dividends paid by non-resident companies are subject to withholding tax at the rate of 15%.
  3. Rent: Rent paid for the use of any property in Singapore is subject to withholding tax of 10%.
  4. Royalties: Royalties paid for the use of any property in Singapore are subject to withholding tax of 10%.
  5. Service fees: Service fees paid to non-resident companies for services rendered in Singapore are subject to withholding tax of 15%.

The payer of the income is responsible for withholding the tax and remitting it to the IRAS. The payer must also provide the recipient.

how to finance subsidiary in singapore

How to Finance a corporate Subsidiary in Singapore

Financing a corporate subsidiary in Singapore can be done through various methods such as equity financing, debt financing, and hybrid financing. Equity financing involves raising funds by issuing shares of the company to investors, while debt financing involves borrowing funds from banks or other financial institutions. Hybrid financing is a combination of both equity and debt financing. Singapore has a strong financial market that provides a variety of options for companies looking to finance a subsidiary. Companies can also tap into government grants and incentives to support their financing needs. Additionally, Singapore has a business-friendly environment that welcomes foreign investment and offers various tax incentives for companies that set up subsidiaries in the country.

Equity Financing

Equity financing is a method of raising funds for a corporate subsidiary in Singapore by issuing shares of the company to investors. This can include issuing shares to the public through an initial public offering (IPO) or issuing shares to private investors through a private placement.

An IPO is the process of offering shares of a company to the public for the first time. This process typically involves issuing new shares and listing them on a stock exchange. Companies that go public can raise a significant amount of capital, but the process can be time-consuming and costly.

A private placement, on the other hand, is the process of issuing shares to a select group of private investors. This process is typically faster and less costly than an IPO, but it can limit the amount of capital that can be raised.

Both types of equity financing are subject to regulatory compliance, such as the listing requirements of the stock exchange and the prospectus requirements of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Equity financing allows a subsidiary to raise capital without incurring debt, but it also dilutes the ownership of the existing shareholders and may require the company to share control and decision-making power with the new shareholders. It’s worth noting that equity financing also comes with potential liquidity events such as buybacks, mergers, and acquisitions.

Debt financing

Debt financing is a method of raising funds for a corporate subsidiary in Singapore by borrowing from financial institutions such as banks or other lending institutions. This can include loans, bonds, and other types of debt instruments.

One common form of debt financing is a term loan, which is a loan with a fixed repayment schedule and interest rate. Term loans can be used for a variety of purposes, such as working capital or capital expenditure.

Another form of debt financing is a line of credit, which is a revolving loan that allows a subsidiary to borrow up to a certain limit, repay the loan and then borrow again. This type of financing can be useful for short-term financing needs, such as seasonal fluctuations in working capital.

A subsidiary in Singapore can also issue bonds to raise debt financing. Bonds are debt securities that are issued to investors, who are effectively lending money to the subsidiary in exchange for regular interest payments and the return of the principal at maturity. Bonds can be issued to the public or to specific investors, and they can be traded on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) or over-the-counter.

Debt financing allows a subsidiary to raise capital without diluting the ownership of existing shareholders, but it also incurs interest and principal payments, which can be a significant ongoing financial burden. Additionally, the subsidiary may be required to provide collateral or personal guarantees for the loan, and failure to make payments on time could lead to default or bankruptcy.

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