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 Ang Mo Kio . 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 Ang Mo Kio 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 Accounting 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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The Accounting Profession of Singapore
The Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore (ICPAS) is the national body representing the accounting profession in Singapore. It maintains a register of qualified accountants comprising mainly local graduates. Membership is open to members of the Institutes of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, Australia, Scotland, Ireland and a number of other accounting bodies. Generally, prior to being admitted as a full member, they must attend a week-long pre-admission course. Members are designated as certified public accountants (CPA).
The Public Accountants Board, whose council members are appointed by the Ministry of Finance, licenses and registers accountants who wish to practise. It also handles practice monitoring, disciplinary matters and regulations on professional conduct.
Accounting Records in Singapore
All companies incorporated under the Companies Act are required to maintain books of accounts that sufficiently explain the transactions and financial position of the company.
The books may be kept either at the company's registered office or at another place the directors think fit. If the books are maintained outside Singapore, sufficient records must be maintained in Singapore to facilitate the preparation and/or audit of financial statements that reflect accurately the company's financial position.
Sources of Accounting Principles
Financial Periods Commencing before 1 January 2003 The principal source of accounting principles in Singapore, namely Statements of Accounting Standards (SAS) and Interpretation of Statements of Accounting Standards (INT), are issued by ICPAS. These standards are essentially International Accounting Standards (IAS) modified for certain transitional provisions. They provide guidelines on the accounting measurements and disclosure requirements. Businesses may depart from such standards if the standards conflict with disclosure exemptions granted by law. Otherwise, ICPAS may take disciplinary action against any of its members who are in violation of the standards.
Rules on accounting measurements are generally established by SAS and INT. Disclosure requirements are governed by SAS, INT and the Companies Act.
ICPAS is a member of the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC). Compliance with IASC standards are not mandatory, but the institute supports the IASC objectives of formulating and publishing standards for observance during presentation of audited financial statements and promoting worldwide acceptance of such standards.
Financial Periods Commencing on or after 1 January 2003 With the implementation of section 37 of the Companies (Amendment) Act 2002, SAS issued by ICPAS will not be used with effect from annual financial periods commencing on or after 1 January 2003. Instead, Singapore Financial Reporting Standards (FRS), issued by the new accounting standards-setting body, the Council on Corporate Disclosure and Governance (CCDG), are now effective. FRS are essentially adopted from International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The previous SAS were adopted from the same set of IFRS (formerly referred to as IAS) but with modification to certain transitional provisions. Consequently, there are differences between FRS and SAS.
Interpretations of Standards are authoritative guidance on the application of the relevant standards. CCDG adopted all international interpretations as Interpretations of FRS (INT FRS) with effect from financial periods beginning on or after 1 January 2003.
Compliance with FRS is a statutory requirement whereby any non-compliance amounts to a breach of the Companies Act by the directors.
Financial Reporting in Singapore
The Companies Act requires that an audited set of financial statements, made up to not more than six months before every Annual General Meeting, is to be presented to the shareholders at the meeting. Generally if a company incorporated in Singapore has one or more subsidiaries, it must prepare consolidated financial statements unless it meets certain criteria as provided for in FRS 27 Consolidated and Separate Financial Statements. Currently, financial statements under the Companies Act consist of the balance sheet, income statement together with explanatory notes. With the Companies (Accounting Standards) Regulations 2002 coming into operation for financial periods on or after 1 January 2003, a complete set of financial statements will comprise the balance sheet, income statement, statement of changes in equity, cash flow statement and explanatory notes.
The financial statements must be accompanied by the directors' and auditors' reports and by a statement from the directors declaring that the financial statements show a true and fair view and that it is reasonable to believe that the company can reasonably pay its debts as they become due.
Companies which meet specific provisions in the Companies Act may be exempt from having their accounts audited but nevertheless must prepare financial statements that comply with the Companies Act.
Annual Requirements for Companies in Singapore
The Companies Act requires every company, except for those exempted in accordance with the provisions in the Act, to appoint one or more auditors qualified for appointment under the Accountants Act to report on the company's financial statements. The auditors are to ascertain whether proper books of accounts have been kept and whether the financial statements agree with the company's records. They will then report on the trueness and fairness of the financial statements to the shareholders at the Annual General Meeting.
Audit Exemption Starting with the financial year beginning on or after 15 May 2003, the following companies are no longer required to have their accounts audited. However, they are still required to prepare accounts (and consolidated accounts where applicable) that comply with FRS.
o Small exempt private companies An exempt private company with revenue in a financial year below S$5m is exempted from appointing auditors and from audit requirements. Revenue is defined according to the statutory accounting standards, i.e. the FRS.
o Dormant companies A dormant company is exempted from appointing auditors and from the audit requirements if it has been dormant either (a) from the time of its formation or (b) since the end of the previous financial year. A company is considered dormant during a period in which no accounting transaction occurs, and the company ceases to be dormant on the occurrence of such a transaction. For this purpose, transactions arising from the following are disregarded:
- Taking of shares in the company by a subscriber to the memorandum
- Appointment of company secretary
- Appointment of auditor
- Maintenance of a registered office
- Keeping of registers and books
- Fees, fines or default penalties paid to the Registrar of Companies
What Does It Take to Get a Corporate Finance Job?
Accounting is one of the most crucial aspects of almost any business. If you intend to outsource your company's accounting functions to a third-party, it is absolutely important to carefully assess every facet of such company's activities before reaching a conclusion.
Here are core tips for choosing a professional accounting vendor for your business:
State your expectations and find out if they can deliver them
Your search for a professional accounting vendor should start with a clear definition of what you want from the vendor and the value you expect the relationship to bring to your business. Find out if the vendor you intend to partner with can deliver what you expect in terms of value and ROI. Do not conceal your expectations.
Discuss your expectations with the vendors. Tell them exactly what you want, how you want it and how you intend to measure their performance. This approach will prevent misunderstanding in the future if they fail to meet your expectations. Also, ensure all agreements are done in writing and signed accordingly.
Growth and size of the accounting vendor
Experience is crucial in accounting. Before outsourcing your accounting functions to any company, do some research on the level of growth of the company in recent years. If the company has shown a positive level of business growth, it could be an indication of the quality of services they render clients.
Find out about the internal structure of the company and the level of experience of the experts they can boast of. Outsourcing to a startup may not be such a good idea, although some may deliver beyond expectations. But outsourcing to an established professional accounting firm will ensure your business accounting is in safe hands and you wouldn't have to bother about ROI.
Track Record of the accounting vendor
The track record of any accounting firm is a reflection of the quality of service it renders clients. Find out if the prospective accounting vendor has a track record of service commitment or if it has a recognized reputation within its own industry. Also, find out if the vendor tracks customer satisfaction level, which is a strong indication of the extent they are willing to go to ensure customer satisfaction.
Feedbacks from previous customers
Listen to what previous customers are saying about the prospective accounting vendors you are considering. One easy way to start is to go online and search for reviews. Find out if an unsatisfied client has written a piece about the vendor or if a satisfied client has recommended them. But do not stop there, ask the accounting vendors to give you a list if their previous customers. They will have no problem with providing you such list, if the quality of the services they are rendering is top-notch.
Data security is as important as your business accounting or even more. Before outsourcing to any accounting company, find out about their security and confidentiality processes. Accounting vendors must be able to show that they use modern and secure information technology systems.
Assess the level of information security management of the vendor, if you observe loopholes or have doubts about the authenticity of their data security, do not hesitate to consider other options. Also, find out if the company has invested in modern data security technology such as cloud to ensure client data are secured.
Relationship management is crucial for the success of the accounting functions you outsource. You need to understand how the accounting vendor you intend to outsource to manage relationship with clients. Consider their communication skills.
Do they often create a communication gap that leaves you searching for more information? Or will language and business culture be a barrier between you and them? You need to consider how well your company can relate with them, share ideas, discuss solutions, establish and maintain a professional relationship.
Avoid the deceit of lowest bidders
There is often the temptation to outsource your business accounting functions to the lowest bidder. Professionals in the accounting business are relatively expensive in service delivery. If you intend to outsource to a professional accounting firm, be ready to pay a competitive price. Just like in any other industry, there are charlatans in the accounting business too. One of the easiest methods these charlatans use to get victims is offering prices that falls below the normal competitive market price.
While the lowest bidder may not be the best option, the most expensive accounting firm may fail to deliver on its promises. As such, do your best to strike a balance between a successful track record, expertise and competitive pricing when selecting an accounting vendor.
Assess financial stability
It is crucial to ensure that the accounting vendor you intend to outsource to be financial secured. You need to find out if the vendor is financially strong enough to manage its business. If the vendor is financially weak or has financial problems such as inability to pay employees, such weakness will affect their quality of service delivery and ultimately affect your business.
How often will you have the opportunity to discuss your concerns with the accounting company you outsourced to? You need to consider the availability of the accounting vendor before signing any contract. In most cases, many small businesses often demand for face-to-face meetings every week or every two weeks, while some large business may demand for monthly meetings or vice versa. Depending on the nature of your business, you may have to discuss with the department or employees responsible for communicating with vendors in order to come up with a reasonable timeframe that will favor your business. It is crucial for you to outsource for the best accounting services for your business in order to ensure ROI.