Which is an ideal jurisdiction for company incorporation in Asia? Singapore and Hong Kong have been dominant players in the Asian region, vying for the position of “the best place to do business.” But the crucial questions are, which of these jurisdictions have an edge over the other? Is incorporating a business easier in Singapore or in Hong Kong?
Strategic location and attractive tax benefits make Singapore the most preferred location for the overseas companies to set up their business. Various options are – opening up a Branch Office, a Representative Office or a Subsidiary in Buona Vista one-north . The country also has liberal immigration policies. If the company wants to set up their regional head quarters in Singapore they are also provided with Financial Assistance.
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A key determinant for setting up a business in Buona Vista one-north is the tax regime in force. In this regard Singapore boast of being one of the lowest tax jurisdictions in the world. Detailed below is an overview of the tax system and Accounting System in Singapore.
Tax jurisdiction Singapore: Taxes are levied on a territorial principle i.e. companies and individuals are taxed on Singapore sourced income. In addition, the Foreign sourced income (branch profits, dividends, service income, etc.) are taxed when it is remitted or deemed remitted into Singapore unless the income was already subjected to taxes in a jurisdiction with headline tax rates of at least 15%.
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A key determinant for setting up a business in a given jurisdiction is the tax regime in force. In this regard, both Hong Kong and Singapore boast of being one of the lowest tax jurisdictions in the world. Detailed below is a comparative overview of the tax system in Singapore Vs HK.
- Taxes are levied on a territorial principle i.e. companies and individuals are taxed on Singapore sourced income.
- Foreign sourced income (branch profits, dividends, service income, etc.) will be taxed when it is remitted or deemed remitted into Singapore unless the income was already subjected to taxes in a jurisdiction with headline tax rates of at least 15%.
- Taxes are levied on the territorial principle i.e. only on income "derived from or arising in" HK and not on income sourced outside the SAR.
- No tax is levied on profits arising abroad, even if they are remitted to Hong Kong.
Corporate Tax Rate
- Singapore: Current corporate income tax rate - 18%. However, corporate income tax rate effective 2010 - 17%. Note: The effective tax rate is much lower - below 9% for profits up to SGD 300,000 and capped at 18% for profits above SGD 300,000
- Hong Kong: Current corporate income tax rate - 16.5%
Goods and Services Tax (known as VAT/Sales tax in other countries)
- Singapore: 7%
- Hong Kong: Nil
Capital gains tax
- Singapore and Hong Kong: Nil (Capital loss expenses are correspondingly not allowed as deductions)
Group relief for losses
- Singapore: Allowed
- HK: Not allowed
- Singapore: Interest, royalties, rentals from movable properties, management and technical fees, and director's fees paid to non-residents (individuals or companies) are subject to withholding tax. There is no withholding tax levied on dividends.
- Hong Kong: Royalties, rentals from movable properties, and fees paid to non-resident entertainers or sportsmen for their performances in Hong Kong are subject to withholding tax. There are no withholding taxes levied on dividends and interest.
Double Tax Agreements
- Singapore: More than 50 bilateral comprehensive tax treaties
- HK: DTA network of 37 treaties
- Singapore: 1 January - 31 December
- HK: 1 April - 31 March
Filing tax returns
- Tax returns along with audited accounts must be filed with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore by 31 October each year.
- Note: Dormant companies (i.e no accounting transactions for the financial year) and exempt private companies (not more than 20 shareholders and shares are not held by another company) with an annual turnover of less than SGD 5 million are exempt from audit requirements and can file unaudited accounts.
- Tax returns along with audited accounts must be filed with the Inland Revenue Department by 31 April each year. The auditor must be a member of the HK Institute of Certified Public Accountants and must hold a practicing certificate.
- Note: Dormant companies (i.e no accounting transactions for the financial year) and small corporations (i.e total gross income does not exceed HKD 500,000) are exempt from audit requirements and can file unaudited accounts.
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The extent of your business financial transparency and the level of expertise of the people responsible for such transparency will influence the growth and expansion of your business as well as its survival. This is why accounting and bookkeeping are some of the most crucial aspects of any business and should only be taken care of by licensed professionals with wealth of experience.
Regardless of the size of your business and niche, as it grows, the need for keeping accurate and transparent financial records also grows with it. This is a good reason why such aspect of your business must never be treated with levity. Considering the relationship between in-house accountants and other employees under the same roof, outsourcing your accounting functions is often the most appropriate option in ensuring financial transparency in every facet of your business.
But what exactly is outsourcing? It is the practice of giving out some job functions or responsibilities to a company or an individual that specializes in providing services for such functions or responsibilities, rather than have an in-house employee or department handle such jobs.
Here are the key benefits of outsourcing your accounting functions to a professional accounting firm:
Gives you enough time to focus on business growth
Outsourcing your accounting functions will give you all the time you need to direct your attention on other crucial aspects of your business. Once your accounting responsibilities are outsourced, you can focus on delivering high-quality services or products to your customers and prospects.
Also, you can develop strategies to break into new markets and expand on existing market etc. focusing on these core business competencies and less on the burdens of accounting accuracy and transparency will translate into business growth and profitability that will outweigh the costs of outsourcing.
Your payments will always be on time
Once you outsource your accounting functions you no longer have to worry about missing payments such as unpaid bills or invoices not going out on time. If your invoices are delayed, payments get delayed too and your business cash flow ultimately suffers.
Also, if your bills are not paid when they are due, you will receive collection calls, vendors will limit or stop their discounts, and you may even spend more time trying to resolve shut-off notices, unhappy vendors and grumbling collectors. But with a professional accounting firm handling your accounting, you can seat back, relax and watch your entire business accounting functions run smoothly.
You don't have to bother about turnover or absence
With your accounting functions outsourced, your business accounting will be done every day, every week and every month and you wouldn't have to bother about things like vacation, illness or turnover. The company you outsourced your functions to will be working for you round the clock ensuring professionalism in every facet of your job without excuses such as vacations, illness, absences, etc.
Maintaining your cash flow during growth
The survival of almost any business is tied to its cash flow. Once a business begins to grow, it gradually sucks cash. During periods of major growth, accounting functions are often relegated to the bottom of administrative responsibilities list. During such moment, you may not have the time to review your business report, manage collections and invoices, and your bookkeeping may end up in a very bad shape.
At such periods you will easily notice that while your business is thriving, you have no cash in the bank to show for it. Digging yourself out of such hole may require twice of the effort it took to get into it and you can easily lose sight of your business core competence while trying to dig yourself out.
Outsourcing saves money! When you outsource your accounting functions you don't have to bother about things like health insurance, vacation, sick time, payroll taxes, retirement benefits etc. The company you outsource your accounting functions to will bill you for its professional services and workers time depending on the agreement you signed.
The money you should have spent on an in-house accountant can be re-invested into other crucial areas of your business. Also, in the long run, you get to save a whole lot of money by outsourcing your accounting services.
Your business accounting will be done by top-notch professionals
Accounting companies that perform outsourcing services are often made up of top class accounting professionals with several years of experience and education to survive without being hired by just one client. They have skills, experience and expertise to deliver with speed and accuracy.
You don't have to bother about the level of competence of their workers or if they have the required experience to do your job as expected. Once you outsource your accounting services, be assured that your business accounting functions are in good hands. Also, you don't have to go through the rigor of screening accountants, conducting tests, interviews etc. before hiring. You can skip all that once you outsource your accounting functions.
You're still in charge
It is easy to assume that once you outsource your business accounting functions you will lose control of your money. That is a pure fallacy. Outsourcing gives you greater power to control your money and puts you in the driver's seat of your business financial matters. Every payment will require your approval before it is done. You will be involved in every relevant communication chain with your clients and prospects and your accounting reports will be consistent and up to date.
Without a strong bookkeeping and accounting services, it will be difficult for any business to thrive and compete in its niche. Outsourcing your accounting services will give your business the edge it requires to be at the forefront of financial transparency, recording and absolute accuracy in all its transactions and accounting related matters.