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Singapore – Self-Employment

Singapore is one of the most business-friendly countries in the world, with a favorable regulatory environment and a strong economy. For expats looking to start their own businesses or work as self-employed individuals in Singapore, there are several options available. In this article, we will break down how self-employment works for expats in Singapore, provide a detailed step-by-step guide on how to register as self-employed, explore the possibilities of working as a digital nomad, and outline the process of starting a company in Singapore. We will also look at any incentives or programs that encourage expats to become self-employed or set up a company in Singapore.

How does self-employment work for expats in Singapore?

Expats can work as self-employed individuals in Singapore by registering with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) and obtaining a valid work permit. Self-employed individuals in Singapore are taxed based on their net income, and must file annual tax returns with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). Additionally, self-employed individuals are responsible for their own CPF (Central Provident Fund) contributions, which are mandatory for all employed and self-employed individuals in Singapore.

Step-by-step guide to registering as self-employed in Singapore

  1. Determine your eligibility: Before registering as self-employed in Singapore, you must determine whether you are eligible to work in the country. Expats must have a valid work visa or work permit to work in Singapore.

  2. Choose a business structure: Singapore offers several business structures, including sole proprietorship, partnership, and limited liability company (LLC). Determine the best structure for your business needs.

  3. Register your business with ACRA: Register your business with ACRA by submitting an application and paying the required registration fees. You will need to provide personal and business details, including your name, address, and business name.

  4. Obtain necessary licenses and permits: Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to obtain additional licenses and permits from various government agencies.

  5. Open a business bank account: Open a business bank account to keep your personal and business finances separate.

  6. Register for GST: If your annual turnover exceeds S$1 million, you will need to register for the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

  7. Register for CPF: Register for CPF as a self-employed individual to make mandatory contributions to your retirement account.

Can you work as a digital nomad in Singapore?

Singapore is a popular destination for digital nomads, with its high-speed internet, modern infrastructure, and favorable business environment. However, to work as a digital nomad in Singapore, you must obtain a valid work visa or work permit. The easiest way for digital nomads to work in Singapore is through the EntrePass program, which is designed for foreign entrepreneurs and innovators who want to start and run their own businesses in Singapore.

How can an expat start a company in Singapore?

Starting a company in Singapore is relatively straightforward, thanks to the country’s business-friendly environment and efficient registration process. Here is a step-by-step guide on how an expat can start a company in Singapore:

  1. Determine your business structure: Singapore offers several business structures, including sole proprietorship, partnership, and LLC. Determine the best structure for your business needs.

  2. Choose a company name: Choose a unique name for your company that complies with ACRA’s naming guidelines.

  3. Register your company with ACRA: Register your company with ACRA by submitting an application and paying the required registration fees. You will need to provide personal and business details, including your name, address, and business name.

  4. Obtain necessary licenses and permits: Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to obtain additional licenses and permits from various government agencies.

  5. Open a business bank account: Open a business bank account to keep your personal and business finances separate.

  6. Register for GST: If your annual turnover exceeds S$1 million, you will need to register for the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

  7. Hire employees: If you plan to hire employees, you will need to register with the Central Provident Fund (CPF) and obtain the necessary work permits.

Step-by-step guide to setting up a company in Singapore

  1. Choose a business structure: As mentioned, Singapore offers several business structures, including sole proprietorship, partnership, and LLC. Choose the best structure for your business needs.

  2. Choose a company name: Choose a unique name for your company that complies with ACRA’s naming guidelines.

  3. Determine the minimum paid-up capital: Depending on your business structure, you will need to meet a minimum paid-up capital requirement.

  4. Appoint a company director: Every company in Singapore must have at least one director who is a resident of Singapore.

  5. Appoint a company secretary: Every company in Singapore must have a company secretary who is a resident of Singapore.

  6. Register your company with ACRA: Register your company with ACRA by submitting an application and paying the required registration fees. You will need to provide personal and business details, including your name, address, and business name.

  7. Obtain necessary licenses and permits: Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to obtain additional licenses and permits from various government agencies.

  8. Open a business bank account: Open a business bank account to keep your personal and business finances separate.

  9. Register for GST: If your annual turnover exceeds S$1 million, you will need to register for the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

  10. Hire employees: If you plan to hire employees, you will need to register with the Central Provident Fund (CPF) and obtain the necessary work permits.

Incentives and programs to encourage expats to become self-employed or set up a company in Singapore

The Singapore government offers several incentives and programs to encourage entrepreneurship and attract foreign talent. Here are some examples:

  1. EntrePass: As mentioned earlier, the EntrePass program is designed for foreign entrepreneurs and innovators who want to start and run their own businesses in Singapore. The program provides a one-year work visa and can be renewed annually for up to two years.

  2. Startup SG: Startup SG is a government-supported initiative that provides funding, mentorship, and other resources to startups in Singapore.

  3. Global Investor Programme (GIP): The GIP is a scheme that allows foreign investors to obtain permanent residency in Singapore by investing at least S$2.5 million in a business or fund.

  4. Talent attraction and retention: The Singapore government has various schemes to attract and retain foreign talent, such as the Global Skills Partnership and the Tech.Pass program.

In conclusion, Singapore is a great place for expats to start their own businesses or work as self-employed individuals. The registration process is relatively straightforward, and the country’s business-friendly environment and efficient government services make it a favorable destination for entrepreneurship. With the various incentives and programs offered by the Singapore government, expats can find ample support and resources to help them succeed in their entrepreneurial endeavors.


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