Accounting and Tax

Every Tax Business Owners Should Know in Singapore

02 January 2024
Grof Writer
6 Minutes Read
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Launching a business in Singapore is an exciting venture, but understanding the intricacies of its tax system is a critical component of long-term success. For entrepreneurs and small business owners, navigating the taxation landscape is not just a legal obligation but a strategic move that can significantly impact the financial health of their ventures. 

This comprehensive guide explores Singapore's taxation framework in depth. We will provide insights and guidance on key decisions. This includes choosing between a sole proprietorship and a private limited company. 

Unravelling the mandatory tax filing requirements, withholding taxes, Goods and Services Tax (GST), and the importance of the Double Taxation Agreement will equip you with the knowledge necessary to steer your business towards financial success. 

Overview of the Tax Framework in Singapore 

Singapore boasts a business-friendly environment, but it's essential to grasp the taxation landscape thoroughly. The city-state follows a territorial system, taxing income earned within its borders. Singapore's personal tax rates start at a competitive level, providing a favourable environment for businesses to thrive. Here’s a breakdown: 

Corporate Tax

Both local and foreign entities in Singapore are subjected to a corporate tax rate of 17% on profits generated or remitted within Singapore. This approach is territorial, taxing only the income earned within Singapore, unlike some countries like the U.S., where all income is taxed regardless of the recipient's residency. 

The 17% tax rate is payable to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). This rate can be reduced with government incentives. These incentives are particularly beneficial for startups. For example, startups in Singapore get a 75% tax reduction on the first $100,000 of chargeable income. They also receive a 50% reduction on the next $100,000. This applies for the first three years. 

Income Tax for Sole Proprietors and Partnerships

The taxation for sole proprietorships and partnerships differs from corporations. In these business structures, the owners are taxed on their personal income, which includes business earnings. This income is subject to Singapore's personal income tax rates, which can go up to 22% for high earnings. 

Beginning with the Year of Assessment 2024, Singapore introduces a new tier to its personal income tax system. This change aims to improve tax progressivity. Incomes above $500,000 and up to $1 million will now be taxed at 23%. This is a rise from the previous rate of 22%. 

Additionally, for chargeable income exceeding $1 million, the tax rate will rise to 24%, up from the existing 22%. This adjustment marks a significant step in evolving the tax system to ensure a more progressive taxation approach. 

Singapore’s progressive income tax system ensures that lower earners pay a minimal rate, potentially as low as 2%. Sole proprietors and partners can also leverage various tax deductions, rebates, and relief schemes to optimise their tax obligations. For example, the Allowable Business Expense scheme permits the deduction of certain business costs like utilities, transport, and other IRAS-approved expenses. 

Goods and Services Tax in Singapore 

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a consumption tax levied on the supply of goods and services in Singapore. For business owners, navigating the GST framework is crucial to ensuring proper compliance. The current GST rate of 8% adds a layer of financial consideration for businesses, influencing pricing strategies and overall financial planning. 

If you receive an invoice and only a portion of the goods or services in 2023, the applicable GST rate will be 8% on the value of those goods or services received within 2023. For the remaining goods or services that you receive on or after January 1, 2024, the GST rate will increase to 9%. 

Want to Know More? 

For a deeper dive into understanding GST for businesses in Singapore, don’t miss our comprehensive guide. Read it now at The Ultimate Guide to GST for Businesses in Singapore and get all the insights you need! 

Businesses must understand the implications of GST on their operations, pricing, and cash flow. It's not just a matter of compliance but a strategic element that can impact competitiveness and profitability. Engaging with GST consultants or experts can also provide valuable insights into optimising your business processes to navigate the complexities of GST effectively. 

Withholding Taxes in Singapore 

Withholding tax in Singapore applies when payments are made for services rendered by non-resident companies or individuals. It acts as a kind of levy that the payer in Singapore must remit to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) when engaging a non-Singaporean or non-resident service provider. 

A business operating in Singapore may still be deemed a non-resident for tax purposes. This applies if its crucial management and decision-making processes are conducted abroad. Take, for instance, a company with its main headquarters in Australia and a branch in Singapore. Under Singaporean tax law, this company would not be considered a resident company. Furthermore, an individual must spend at least 183 days in Singapore to qualify as a resident according to IRAS standards. 

Navigating the complexities of withholding taxes is a collaborative effort between both businesses and tax authorities. Staying informed and seeking professional advice is crucial to meeting withholding tax obligations while optimising your business's financial efficiency. 

Double Taxation Agreement 

Singapore's extensive network of Double Taxation Agreements (DTAs) is a strategic advantage for businesses engaged in international transactions. These agreements aim to eliminate the potential for double taxation on income that is subject to tax in both Singapore and the foreign countries involved. DTAs provide clarity on the taxing rights of each jurisdiction, preventing businesses from being taxed twice on the same income. 

Understanding the specific terms of the DTAs relevant to your business activities is a strategic move. It allows you to optimise your tax liability by taking advantage of provisions such as tax credits or exemptions outlined in these agreements. This nuanced approach to international taxation enhances the competitiveness of Singapore-based businesses in the global market. 

Furthermore, DTAs promote cross-border trade and investment by providing certainty and predictability in tax matters. Businesses can engage in international transactions with confidence, knowing that the tax implications are clearly defined by the terms of the relevant DTA. As the global economy continues to evolve, leveraging DTAs becomes increasingly crucial for businesses seeking to expand their international footprint. 

To navigate this landscape effectively, let's explore the decision-making process between setting up a Sole Proprietorship and a Private Limited Company. 

Deciding Between Setting Up A Sole Proprietor and Private Limited Company 

The decision between a sole proprietorship and a private limited company is multifaceted and requires a nuanced understanding of your business goals and the implications of each structure. Opting for a sole proprietorship means you are the sole owner and operator of your business. This simplicity brings advantages such as minimal paperwork and complete autonomy over decision-making. Small businesses or solo entrepreneurs who value simplicity and direct control often favour this structure. However, the downside is that you are personally liable for the business's debts, putting your personal assets at risk. 

Conversely, choosing a private limited company structure introduces a separate legal entity. In the event of business debts, this entity, offering limited liability, protects the owner's personal assets, and it is distinct from its shareholders. The private limited company structure is conducive to scalability, making it an attractive option for businesses with growth ambitions or those seeking external investment. The decision between these structures should align with your business goals, risk tolerance, and long-term vision. 

Understanding the implications of each choice is crucial for the success and sustainability of your business. Therefore, it's advisable to seek professional advice to make an informed decision that aligns with your specific circumstances and objectives. 

Mandatory Tax Filing for Sole Proprietor and Private Limited Companies in Singapore 

As a responsible business owner, compliance with tax regulations is paramount. Both Sole Proprietors and Private Limited Companies in Singapore are obligated to file their taxes annually. The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) provides a comprehensive guide to corporate income tax, offering insights into the basics and requirements for tax filing. Leveraging this information ensures a smooth and compliant tax filing process. 

Of course, understanding the mandatory tax filing requirements is not just about meeting regulatory obligations; it's a strategic approach to maintaining financial transparency and staying on top of your business's fiscal health. Failure to comply with tax filing requirements can result in penalties, making it essential for business owners to stay informed and engaged with the tax process. 


In conclusion, understanding the tax landscape in Singapore is integral to the success and sustainability of your business. Whether you opt for a Sole Proprietorship or a Private Limited Company, staying informed and seeking professional advice will empower you to make sound financial decisions. 

Navigating Singapore's tax landscape can be intricate, and seeking professional guidance is a prudent step. As tax regulations evolve, collaborating with experts ensures that your business stays compliant and takes advantage of available opportunities. Consider partnering with Grof for expert accounting services tailored to the Singaporean business environment. Our expertise can streamline your financial processes, allowing you to focus on growing your business. 

Your Ultimate Singapore Incorporation Checklist
Explore crucial dos and don'ts, along with essential tips for a successful company registration when establishing your foothold in Singapore!
Your Ultimate Singapore Incorporation Checklist
Explore crucial dos and don'ts, along with essential tips for a successful company registration when establishing your foothold in Singapore!
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