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 Bukit Merah . 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 Bukit Merah 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 Online 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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Singapore is one of the leading Asian countries for business and commerce and has been rated as one of the best business environments in Asia Pacific. It's no wonder that small and medium sized businesses and even business conglomerates from across the globe surge to this tiny nation.
If you are planning on starting a business in Singapore here are some useful tips that can help you in the Singapore business incorporation process.
Singapore Companies Act
To begin business formation in Singapore you must be familiar with the Singapore Companies Act (SCA). Singapore companies are primarily governed by the Singapore Companies Act, but it must be noted that companies may fall under regulations of other statutes based on the type of business they are into.
Requirements for Singapore business set up
• The law states that the in order to set up a company in Singapore, the company must have a minimum of 1 Shareholder + 1 Director + 1 Company Secretary
The director of the Singapore business setup must be a citizen or permanent resident of Singapore. He/she may also be Singapore Employment Pass holder. The director of the company must be above 18 years of age and must not be bankrupt nor have prior record of malpractice.
The law allows a maximum of 50 shareholders for a Singapore business setup. The share holders may be individuals or a corporate entity. The said director can be the shareholder as well or they can be separate individuals. 100% local or foreign shareholding is permitted.
The company secretary
According to the SCA, a Singapore business set up must have a company secretary. The company secretary needs to be appointed within six months of company incorporation and he/she must be a resident of Singapore.
• The company must also have a minimum initial paid-up share capital is S$1
The minimum paid-up capital for registration of a Singapore company is S$1 unless if you are an EntrePass holder in which case the paid-up capital will be S$50,000.
• The Singapore company setup must have a Singapore registered office address. The office address must be a Singapore registered address and addresses with a PO Box are not allowed.
Singapore business formation is made much simpler with the help of a professional business start up service. A professional service provider can aid you in the process of business incorporation in Singapore. A professional service provider will not only assist you in registering a company in Singapore but will also assist you throughout the entire process of business incorporation.
Professional business incorporation services ensure that you have the right information, documentation and get the right resources for setting up a business in Singapore.
Business incorporation services advise you on the relevant licensing requirements specific to your line of business and you can also avail useful business concierge services that can help you find a suitable location for your office, develop your IT and networking infrastructure etc.
You can also avail several supporting services such as taxation services, bookkeeping services and business accounting services.