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 Marina Centre . 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 Marina Centre 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 Payroll Services 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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What is an accountant? According to the Australian Accountants Directory they are, "a practitioner of accountancy or accounting, which is the measurement, disclosure or provision of assurance about financial information that helps managers, investors, tax authorities and others make decisions about allocating resources"("About Accountants"). As you may already know, different areas of the world have different professional bodies of accounting.
For example, not every country uses the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). As the name suggests, that's only used in the United States. Australia however, has three legally recognized local professional accounting bodies; the institute of public accountants (IPA), CPA Australia (CPA), and the institute of chartered accountants of Australia (ICAA).
The IPA has been around since 1923 and continues to grow in the organization today. After 90 years it currently sits more than 26,000 members and students across 64 countries and is ranked in the top professional accounting bodies in the world ("Institute of Public Accountants"). They acquired a full membership of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) in 2005 as well as the Confederation of Asian and Pacific Accountants (CAPA) in 2011. They are really working towards building relationships and exchanging knowledge overseas. They are innovative in everything that they do as they already are recognized as one of the top 20 in BRW's most innovative companies in Australia list for 2012. The IPA has three levels of membership, Associate (AIPA), Member (MIPA), and Fellow (FIPA). An Associate membership requires one to have an Australian Advanced Diploma of Accounting or a Bachelor's degree in Accounting that can be Australian or equivalent in nature. MIPA membership requires Australian Advanced Diploma of Accounting, two years of pre-IPA program full-time work experience in accounting or related fields and a mentored experience program. A FIPA membership requires 7 years' MIPA status or equivalent and 10 years' experience in accounting the last five years have to be at a senior level ("Institute of Public Accountants").
According to CPA Australia, they are one of the world's largest accounting bodies with a global membership of more than 150,000 members working in 120 countries around the world, and with more than 25,000 members working in senior leadership positions ("About Us"). They provide education, training, technical support and advocacy. They were an early entrant in the Asian Market, where their involvement began in the early 1950s and aimed at developing and strengthening the accounting profession in the region. As of today almost one-quarter of CPA Australia's members reside outside of Australia, with over 35,000 in Asia. They currently have nineteen staffed offices across Australia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, New Zealand and the UK. To become a member of this program candidates most hold a postgraduate award that is recognized by CPA Australia, and demonstrate competence in the required knowledge areas and, within a six year period, successfully complete the CPA Program ("About Us"). They must also have three years of professional experience in finance, or accounting for business. To offer public accounting services, CPAs must also complete CPA Australia's Public Practice program, which involves distance learning and a residential component, and must hold a Public Practice Certificate in accordance with the CPA Australia's by laws.
The ICAA is the professional body representing Chartered Accountants in Australia. They currently have over 50,000 members and 12,000 students("News and Updates"). In order to become a member of the institute, one has to complete the Chartered Accountants Program which includes study of Graduate diploma in Chartered Accounting (GradDipCA) and three years of practical experience. Entry is available to anyone who holds an accounting degree; however, those holding non-accounting degrees can also be permitted entry after additional requirements are met. If one does become a Chartered Accountant they must complete a total of 120 hours of Continuing Professional Education every three years. The ICAA is a founding member of the Global Accounting Alliance (GAA). Members of this alliance are part of the international accounting coalition of the world's premier accounting bodies. Chartered Accountants audit 100 percent of the top ASX-listed companies in Australia. They are recognized by the international accounting bodies of the leading financial centers of the world. As of November 2013, the ICAA merged with the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants and are now known as "Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand"("News and Updates").
Compared to the professional bodies in America the ones in Australia aren't too different judging from the research. They each go off of the same principals in a sense but there are very few minimal things that are different.
"About Accountants." Australian Accountants Directory / Australian Accountants Directory / Accountants. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2015.
"About Us." CPA Australia -. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2015.
"Institute of Public Accountants." Institute of Public Accountants. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2015.
"News and Updates." Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2015.
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The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) of Singapore regulate the businesses, public accountants, and the accounting services in Singapore. ACRA, unlike other government regulators, also facilitates for the promotion of these entities.
As a national regulator, ACRA demands strict statutory compliance from these entities. For this reason, Singapore businesses are better off with the assistance of accounting services in Singapore.
Compared to other countries, it is easier, seamless and effortless to open a company in Singapore. Although it depends on individual choices, ACRA advises foreigners to take assistance from external firms offering Singapore company registration services. There are many firms in Singapore offering incorporation services along with many other corporate business services like, accounting, auditing and taxation to different national and international clients.
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Singapore's taxation year or the Year of Assessment (YA), starts on 1 January and ends on 31 December. However, in case of many Singapore companies, the end of their financial year does not coincide with stipulated date, i.e., 31 December.
These business entities still have to complete their financial reporting and tax filing, as per the due dates issued by ACRA and IRAS (Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore). They need to host an annual general meeting and table their financial statements for the review and approval of their shareholders.
Genuine and accredited accounting firms in Singapore assist its clients to maintain their books of accounts, by offering their flawless and punctual bookkeeping services. These firms ensure that each and every financial transaction is entered and accounted for. These firms also offer preparation of bank reconciliation, XBRL, and directors' reports, along with the financial analysis on weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis.
The well-known CPA firms, while preparing the financial statements of clients prepare a balance sheet, profit and loss statement and cash flow statement. The 'books of account' maintained by the client, plays a major role in preparing these statements. Most of the entries and inputs in these statements are retrieved from what is found in the client's books of accounts. These financial documents are prepared in compliance with the Singapore Financial Reporting Standards (SFRS). In addition to that, different types of transactions are treated as per the set principles and governing practices of the governing bodies.
In order to offer unmatched and high-quality accounting and auditing services to the clients, firms offering accounting services employ only experienced and certified auditors. These professionals are trained to structure their auditing reports on the data contained in the books of accounts, submitted by clients for inspection. After the auditing reports are prepared and authenticated by the prime service provider, these reports are submitted to shareholders, investors, employees, management and the government regulators for analysis and approval. A comprehensive auditing report serves as a definitive medium for the client, to take speculative decisions about the future course of their business. Therefore, preparing such report, from a well-known and qualified audit firm in Singapore is much more necessary.
After understanding the importance and necessity of well-structured audit report, business management proceeds to hire an external auditing firm for conducting internal audits of their company. The reports generated, allow them an insight into the effectiveness of processes, internal checks and methods that are in place in the organization. On the other hand, the shareholders of the company are also empowered to hire audit services in Singapore, for conducting parallel external audits for them.
The meticulously prepared financial reports are essential for gauging the financial health of a company. These reports also reveal its weaknesses and help the management in taking preventive measures against them. Remember, apart from exempted companies, every single Singapore business must file their financial statements with the ACRA.
It is the duty of the corporate business services firms based in Singapore to advise and help their clients with accurate Singapore tax filing. ACRA specifically mandates; that it is a duty of the business service-providing firm to educate and advise its clients on GST registration in Singapore, GST filing, ECI filing, Withholding tax and other taxes. Most importantly, it assists the client in the careful preparation of its corporate income tax.
The CPA's working at these firms usually takes into account the tax rebates, incentives, deductions and exemptions that client qualifies for, to incorporate those relevant details in the financial statements. The firm also assists Singapore businesses in complying with the ACRA's XBRL filing requirements, by converting their business data into the XBRL format.