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 Bay . 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 Bay 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 Audited Accounts 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.
Professional Accounting Bodies In Singapore
For some business owners, a third party accountant just seems like a waste of time and money. Sure, they can minimize the amount of time you spend calculating taxes and duties, but when you're high on time and short on financial resources, the overall cost of an accountant can seem to be too high to have any purpose. While this is sometimes true, for the vast majority of businesses accounting services have the exact opposite effect; you actually end up saving money by using them.
There are several different types of business currencies out there. Of course, money is known as the universal business currency, and it is for trading and purchasing. However, there's another currency that's worth just as much to millions of businesses: time. Without time, there's no way to achieve your annual sales goals, grow your business and meet your business targets. While the global recession has made more businesses starved for money, even during points of economic prosperity businesses are troubled by limited time.
This is where accounting services can prove highly useful. Hiring in-house accountancy staff is incredibly expensive, especially when you take the health costs, legal hiring expenses and time costs into account. While having extra employees adds manpower and time to your business, the cost associated with it is often too high. Accountancy services can save you both time and money in this regard. By minimizing the accountancy workload for your team, you can focus on more direct and important goals. Of course, by using an outside contractor rather than an internal employee, the amount of paperwork surrounding your accountancy dealings decreases tremendously.
Of course, the benefits of using accounting services for your business aren't just limited to time. Many people associate outside contractors and services with extra costs, but for accountants this can be a misguided and inaccurate way to judge them. Accountancy services can save you money, and the cost of using an accountancy firm is easily made up in the amount that you'll save on taxes, duties and government rates. Think about it this way - when you're taking care of your own taxes, you're in a financial world that's completely foreign. As such, some things get passed over and some boxes are left un-ticked. However, by using accounting services to manage and calculate your taxes, you're putting the job in the hands of an experienced specialist, who knows exactly what they need to do to save you money.
It's the old cost vs. time dilemma, and a lot of business owners fall for the wrong metric. Time saved is money saved, regardless of whether it comes with a direct cost or not. If your business has the potential to earn $1000 per hour with your full attention, spending your time on accountancy tasks that can be outsourced for just a fraction of that is a waste of both time and money. Opportunity cost factors for a lot in business, and by focusing on what is important you'll end up saving a bucket load of income.
So next time you're about to embark on a complicated tax mission using your internet employees, or even your own time, think about the opportunity cost involved. Juggling taxes and payments with a major project could end up costing you the quality of both, which means extra costs on both sides. Whenever possible, stick to the direct services of your business, and let your accounting services provider take care of the rest. You'll save money, save time, and grow your business without having taxes, payments and accounts bother you.