Shortly after setting up my own corporate secretarial and business consulting business, I “packed myself up’ in a suitcase and headed straight to my dreamland Barcelona. Accompanying me is my trusty old Macbook of 5 years, which has long weathered many adventures with me through work, play and even travels as a digital nomad. Not a day goes by with me having to reply all my emails, rush out client board resolutions and business agreements or simply rush to meet the deadline for some client’s compliance and tax filing issues. All that canned-cubicle office work is in the past. As a new age digital nomad, work is more efficient yet effective and being out here in the open wide world helps change the perspective of my profession too.
Over the years, I have met clients and even like minded travellers who ask me how I manage my kind of business and yet be able to work on the road. As a corporate secretarial provider, I usually have tight deadlines with regards to statutory compliance matters that are bound by strict legislations. I also need to ensure my team is always on point, giving professional and productive advice and, above all, delivering quality work that is in compliance with the local laws. Most people assume that being a corporate secretarial provider, I should be bound to a desk behind a cubicle 10 hours a day 5 days a week.
Well, I shall say it’s all because I started my business at the right place; Singapore. If you were to ask me for one word to sum it up – Versatility. Singapore is generally a super business friendly country with low start up costs and simple annual compliance alongside attractive tax rates and benefits as compared to neighbouring countries around the region. Additionally, it does not require you to run your business physically or locally, or even have a physical office in Singapore. You can be working anytime from exactly where you are, be it your home, by the beach or in a cafe waiting for your latte. The only thing you need to do is simply ensure that your once a year compliance is filed with the relevant authorities and your annual tax returns submitted and paid, if any.
In this post, I will be sharing why Singapore is, in my opinion, the best country to set up your business especially for the travelling bosses, millennial global-preneurs, travel-preneurs, digital nomads, or even self-made bosses like me.
Why set up your business in Singapore?
Singapore is a well developed, self-acclaimed first world multi-cultural cosmopolitan city with concrete governance and security. It’s geographical location places it exactly 8 hours from GMT between Europe and the United States, making it a perfect base for multi-national and transnational corporations to set up their regional head quarters. It’s enforcement of intellectual property rights laws, competent workforce and manpower, high productivity, attractive corporate tax rates, islandwide logistic convenience, as well as good communication facilities provide the best conducive and safe place to start a business. Not to mention, the main transactional and documented language is English too.
1. Excellent location and infrastructure
Situated in the heart of South East Asia, Singapore is well connected with the rest of the world with a world class airport and its island wide optical fibre network and 4G data frenzy infrastructure. The renowned Changi Airport of Singapore serves more than 100 airlines flying to about 400 cities globally and itself has acclaimed many international airport awards consecutively. Blessed strategically as a major sea entre-port between the east and west, Singapore is also a highly favourable e-commerce hub for many online retail businesses or e-commerce businesses for its consumer-based economy. Besides its island wide mass logistics network, Singapore is also an important transhipment hub with connections to a vast number of seaports around the world connecting industrial and agricultural export economies to the world. Singapore is a free port with free trade zones and with no customs and excise duties on most items except mainly for tobacco and alcoholic products (i.e items that attract sin-taxes).
There is no language barrier. If you can read and understand what I am saying here, you’re good to go! The official language in Singapore is English which is pretty much the international business language used globally. Hence, no need for translation and transcribing works.
3. Political stability
Since Singapore’s independence in 1965, the country has not seen any violent or turbulent political instability. Compared to its neighbouring countries, Singapore has been hailed globally as the world’s most politically stable and corruption-free country. In recent years, new measures and regulations to counter international terrorism, human trafficking, drugs, and money laundering threats have also been implemented to place a robust control against such unwanted threats and to safeguard Singapore’s stakeholders.
4. Easy to start and industry friendly
Singapore welcomes businesses from various industries from across the globe and is constantly growing and advancing with the changes and market trends happening around the world. Whether you are an online graphic designer, craft shop selling homemade items or even a blogger offering products and consulting services, you can register and start a business in Singapore. Registering a business is straightforward and the start up cost is low and competitive across different service providers.
5. Attractive tax benefits
Attractive single-tier corporate tax benefits is one of the main incentives that have attracted many people to set up their businesses in Singapore. Though recently some neighbouring countries have also reduced their corporate tax rates to 17%, Singapore still offers other further tax allowances and incentives for newly incorporated Singapore entities that further outperform other countries. Also with the avoidance for double taxation treaties signed and ratified with nearly all the countries in the world, having an entity in Singapore allows for greater tax saving potential for your global business(es).
These tax benefits include:
- Corporate income tax rate is 0 – 17%
- Personal income tax rate is 0 – 20%
- Dividends are tax free
- No tax on capital gains
- Tax credit pooling
- Unilateral tax credit
- Reduced withholding tax on foreign-sourced income
- Capital and other tax allowances and credits
6. Everything is Online
One major leap forward in Singapore is having most of its government agencies and service portals available online nearly 24/7. This enables foreigners and Singaporeans to obtain support, or to do their respective transactions with those agencies online via their secured web-portals at anytime and anywhere at their own convenience. This allows most digital nomads like me to operate halfway across the world and yet deliver works to the relevant agencies on time as scheduled. Payments can also be made online as they accept all major cards with statements and receipts delivered online, near instantaneous, via email.
Type of Business A Foreigner Can Set Up
There are several types of businesses a non-Singaporean or foreigner can set up. However, do note that each of these entity types have their key specific pre-requisites and compliance structure requirements prior to their setting up. The one I would strongly recommended is the third one – a local company.
1. Sole Proprietorship – A sole proprietorship is a business that is not formed into a legal corporation as a separate legal entity. It is the simplest form of business to start and is owned by an individual and the owner faces liabilities personally.
2. Partnership – A partnership is a business arrangement in which generally involves a cooperation of 2 to 20 individual partners to manage and operate a business together. The liabilities are shared equally by all parties of the partnership as per their partnership agreement.
3. Local Company – A local company is a business entity incorporated in Singapore as a legal separate entity and has the right to own property, has perpetual succession and can sue or be sued in its own name. Its liabilities are also limited to the equity invested in the company and does not affect the individual shareholders personally.
The entity registration process is generally similar across all three types of entities from choosing a business type and booking a business name, indicating a local mailing and registered address for the business all the way to completing the entire registration form on the Bizfile+ portal. However, you will require a Singaporean Singpass credential to login. This can only be registered to a local person with a local contact number. Thus, you will have to engage an authorised corporate secretarial provider like myself to handle these transactions for you.
Most corporate secretarial providers in Singapore provide services from business set up to annual compliance filing at very affordable rates. Services are usually customised into annual packages depending on your business needs and charged annually. However, the level and scope of certain services varies. Although the cost of living in Singapore has increased greatly over the years, being a digital nomad like me, I am not affected whatsoever. You can be anywhere wherever you want to be, like me sipping a strawberry mocktail on a rooftop bar in Barcelona while typing this post.
Maintaining a business in Singapore is definitely effortless and cost efficient unless you are planning to have a physical place of business in Singapore entirely. Nevertheless, tax benefits, government venture programs and start-up co-funding support all lend a helping hand to shaping new Singapore businesses to becoming leaders in the global entrepreneurial world.
By having an experienced corporate secretarial provider to oversee your business set up and compliance, you are sure to get a total peace of mind while exploring your favourite destinations and sharing your own business name card with your new potential customers. The business is all yours and you can enjoy the boss life whichever way you want it to be.
Should you wish to understand more about how you can set up a business in Singapore, do feel free to contact me for a non-obligatory chat so that I can give you a more elaborate guide on setting up a sustainable business in Singapore that you can take with you globally.