Guide to setting up in Singapore – SMEs

Setting up a business very similar to building an architect: you want to build it on a solid foundation and you want to use sturdy materials. When you set up your business the right way, you are setting up your business for long-term success.

Although the nation has a well-deserved international reputation for the ease of doing business, Singapore Company Registration can get complicated without sufficient research and guidance. Mistakes made at any juncture can possibly cost you not just money but also your chances of establishing your business.

In today’s article, we’d like to share three ways of making sure you start your business right when it comes to carrying out your company incorporation in Singapore.


1. Familiarize yourself with the government bodies

1) ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority) regulates Singapore’s businesses, public accountants and corporate service providers.

2) IRAS (Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore) has a basic guide to help new businesses understand their tax obligations.

3) MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore) is the go-to for setting up businesses in the banking, finance and insurance industries.

4) Legal Services Regulatory Authority is where you apply for your new entity licence or registration if you’re looking to put up a law firm.

5) MOM (Ministry of Manpower) is where you get your EntrePass if you are a foreigner who wants to start and operate a new business in Singapore. 

2. Learn the laws that govern businesses in Singapore

1) GST. If your business generates annual taxable revenue of over SGD1 million a year, you will have to register for the Goods and Services Tax, which taxes goods and services in Singapore as well as goods imported into the country.

2) CPF. Employers and Singapore citizens and permanent residents are required by law to set aside a percentage of their monthly salaries for their Central Provident Fund pensions.

3) Manpower. If you are hiring employees, be aware that there are laws in place for their protection, as well as regulations covering the engagement of foreign workers. You can find helpful information at MOM or at

4) Registration number. Your ACRA-issued business registration number needs to be on all of your official business communications.

5) Customs. If you are involved in import-export activities, you need to register with Singapore Customs.

3. Take it one step at a time.

1) Choose the business structure that’s right for your business: are you a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a company? You’ll also have to choose a business address. You can get help picking out the right location for your business at the Economic Development Board (EDB). Once you settle on your address, have your office location approved at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

2) Check if you have met all the eligibility requirements, which varies according to the business structure you have chosen as well as whether you are Singapore citizen or permanent resident, or a foreigner.

3) Name your business according to the government’s rules, which stipulate that your name readily expresses what your business is all about, and doesn’t sound too much like an existing business’ name.

Business name must also not contain any vulgar or obscene words, or words related to any of Singapore’s national symbols. Check for the availability of the business name you have in mind here.

 4) Get the necessary licences that permits your business needs, particularly if it is one of or is similar to the following:

– Bank

– Childcare centre

– Financial advisor

– Importer

– Liquor distributor or retailer

– Moneylender

– Private school

– Travel agency

– Video company

– Wholesaler


5) Open your company bank account at a local bank or an offshore bank. 

Most banks in Singapore offer services especially for businesses such as trade financing, treasury & market services, international fund transfers, business insurance and liquidity management services. Get to help you choose the right bank here.


If you’re interested to learn more of business strategies, tips and how to tackle common issues that many SMEs face, follow the H.E.R Entrepreneur Facebook page. We post weekly articles on a variety of business related topics, and it’s all completely free.

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