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Malaysia - Self-employment and Business Start-ups

Malaysia has a thriving business community and there are opportunities for freelancers to offer their services. Looking at starting a business is another option and here are some guidelines for both.


If you’re able to work remotely then you can simply operate as you do from anywhere. If income is brought into the country then you only have to pay tax in your home country if you’re still resident there for more than 180 days per year. Once you live in Malaysia as a resident for more than 180 days per year you will be subject to the country’s tax obligations.

The government website gives information on your tax status and registering as a self-employed person. You’ll need to register for tax return filing. If you’re a citizen on a MyKad then you’ll have been advised at the time of registration. You have to register under the Companies Commission of Malaysia even if you’re running a sole operation. You’re still selling goods or a service and this has to be registered.

All the details for registering a business as a sole trader who trades under his or her name alone have 30-days in which to register their intent to trade.

All taxes can be submitted online and the above link will guide you on your tax situation.

Sole-traders are required to register their business under The Registration of Business Act 1956.

Business Start-up

Starting a business requires a little more detail in terms of registration and the above website will be able provides this information in detail. Once you’ve established the name of your business and checked the availability of the name, you’re all set to go.

Businesses with a company name are required to register under The Companies Act 1965.

The first step is to incorporate your business and this can all be done online which is in English. There is a fee to pay and your business will be incorporated in an hour from acceptance of the fee. This registration covers all aspects of trade in terms of selling goods or a service to individuals or other trades. There are two types of business: one has Limited Company status which is limited by shares. The second type of business is a limited company or a partnership. A company with Limited Company status is able to form a Private Limited Company. This means after their name, the words ‘Sendirian Berhad’ will follow. This company requires two directors and a company secretary. The company then employs the directors and the secretary and they draw a salary as if they were employed.

It is then necessary to place applications for licenses that may be required. The website again details the license types you will need depending on your business.

There are schemes set up by the Malaysian Government which are incentives in certain sectors of industry such as manufacturing and the service sector.

Details can be found here of these incentives. These are open to foreign investors.

Responsibilities as a Business and Employer

As an employer you’re responsible for the safety of your staff. You will also have to ensure you meet contributory requirements as laid down by the law such as pension contributions and depending on what benefits you offer in terms of employment, you have to meet these. The penalties are high for not doing so. You will also have to adhere to the guidelines on working hours, sick pay and holiday pay.

Finding an Accountant

Finding an accountant is a matter of research and procuring word of mouth requirements. Make sure the accountant you choose is registered by law to practice. Accountancy is a professional occupation and there are many providing professional financial services. Make sure they’re licensed to undertake the services such as auditing, commercial tax filing and all other accounting necessities. The last thing you would want is to find yourself on the wrong side of the law in a foreign country.


Malaysia is very open to business start-ups and offers a full range of services on their website.

Everything can be submitted electronically and all you need to start and run your business is available from this website.

This website deals with employment law. It’s highly important you furnish yourself with employment law knowledge as this is a monumental amount of information and is legally enforceable if your company does not meet the standards set out in legislation.

Like anywhere, Malaysia has a complex business law and you need to be fully aware of all of the facts before you start to trade.

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