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 Seletar . 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 Seletar 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 Tax Planning 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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In 2010, Singapore was ranked as the most competitive country in the world. Doing business in Singapore, therefore, means a more fulfilling business atmosphere and better chances of higher profits. However, anyone can say the same about any other country or city in the world. So, what sets Singapore aside from the others? What makes it unique and more business friendly? Why is it that many multinationals are moving their headquarters in to this 710 square kilometers span of an island?
What Makes Doing Business in Singapore Attractive?
1. Singapore is a modern city
Singapore is placed among the most dynamic cities to live in and work in the world today. It has global connections, is cosmopolitan and is also multi-cultural, accommodating a population of about 5 million inhabitants. It is also regarded as one of the most conducive cities for the knowledge-driven industries, globally.
2. It is pro business
Within the last 4 decades, this city has transformed itself from being a small business trade center to one of the world's top financial hubs. It has international air, sea hubs, and one of the most open economies for investment and trade.
3. Consistency in governance
This city is governed by consistent guidelines on business and investment where any business is guaranteed access to an impartial and competent judicial system. There is also clarity and commitment with regards to corporate governance and anti-corruption policy enhancement.
4. Ease of set up
The excellent infrastructure, a cosmopolitan labor force that is highly skilled, attractive tax laws that allow avoidance to double taxation, and low startup costs make starting a business in Singapore very attractive and easy to set up. Entrepreneurs are known to come in to Singapore and set up big businesses within a week!
5. Knowledge based industry
The economy of Singapore is skewed towards high knowledge based industries. There is a lot of emphasis towards innovation and this is what keeps this city very competitive business-wise. The government of this city-state is also relentless in its efforts to protect intellectual property to ensure that ideas and innovations nurtured here are well protected. This further enhances competitiveness.
6. Free trade
Being an active member of the World Trade Organization, Singapore businesses enjoy the luxury of investment guarantee agreements and the many free trade agreements with most other countries in Asia and around the world. International businesses here also get to enjoy 50 of the state's comprehensive double taxation avoidance agreements.
It is these powerful factors that have made Singapore to stand as one of the strongest financial hubs in the Asian region regardless of its small size and small, almost insignificant, population. It has grown in to an Asian region power house for international banking, maritime finance, asset and wealth management, trade finance, treasury operations and insurance.
Companies and businesses that seek to establish themselves in this city-state can easily tap in to the diverse and deep capital markets, while at the same time getting access to the many local and international professional service and financial institutions that are based here.
Simply put, doing business in Singapore is affordable, easy to set up, and fun for any serious business person.