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Accounting and Tax

Singapore's Corporate and Foreign Income Tax Explained

03 November 2023
Grof Writer
3 Minutes Read
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If you're an entrepreneur or a small business owner in the vibrant city-state of Singapore, understanding the differences between corporate and foreign income tax is crucial for your financial success. Singapore’s favourable tax regime is internationally recognised. It enables entrepreneurs and companies to benefit from low tax rates. Additionally, it provides various types of tax relief through incentives, a comprehensive network of tax treaties, and exemptions for specific income sources.


But here's the catch – Singapore's tax authorities diligently ensure that they properly report and tax all income tied to business activities within the country. They do this regardless of the source. This means that if your business generates income overseas and brings it back to Singapore, you must be ready to fulfill your tax obligations. This involves reporting and paying taxes in line with Singapore's tax laws and regulations.


In this article, we'll break down Singapore's corporate tax system. We'll explain how it impacts small business owners operating in the country. Additionally, we'll delve into the distinctions between corporate income tax and foreign income tax in Singapore. This will give you a clear idea of how to meet your tax responsibilities without getting overwhelmed.


Understanding Corporate Income Tax in Singapore

Singapore's corporate income tax plays a key role in creating a business-friendly atmosphere. It applies to the income of companies registered and operating within Singapore. The corporate tax rate is a flat 17%, one of the most competitive rates globally. However, Singapore offers various tax incentives and schemes that can significantly reduce the effective tax rate for eligible companies.


Since January 1, 2003, Singapore has embraced a single-tier corporate income tax system. This means no double taxation for stakeholders. Also, a company pays tax on its chargeable income, and this tax serves as the final tax. Shareholders are exempt from further taxation on dividends received. Furthermore, there are no capital gains taxes in Singapore, which includes gains from the sale of fixed assets and foreign exchange transactions.


Foreign Income Tax in Singapore: How it Works

Singapore's corporate income tax primarily focuses on income generated within the country. On the other hand, foreign income tax deals with earnings from overseas sources by Singaporean companies. So, if you run a business in Singapore and engage in activities abroad, Singapore taxes any income generated overseas.


Now, here's the deal: sometimes, your foreign income gets taxed twice – once in the foreign country and then again in Singapore.


But don't worry; if you're a Singapore tax resident, there are ways to ease this double taxation burden. Here are a few:

  • You might get an exemption or a reduction in tax for certain foreign income if that income is from a country that has a deal with Singapore to avoid double taxation.
  • There's also a tax exemption for specific types of foreign income, like foreign dividends, foreign branch profits, and foreign service income. This is according to Section 13(8) of the Income Tax Act 1947.
  • Lastly, you can get a foreign tax credit. This means you can use the taxes you already paid in the foreign country to lower the taxes you owe in Singapore on the same income.


Foreign Companies & Non-Residents in Singapore

Singapore does not tax foreign-sourced income, meaning income earned overseas and not in Singapore. Meaning that foreign companies with no local base in Singapore can remit their foreign income to a Singaporean bank without being taxed.


The same principle also applies to non-residents, referring to those who stayed in Singapore for less than 183 days. This encourages foreigners and foreign businesses to use Singaporean banks and management firms, regardless of their origin.


Hiring a Tax Consultant in Singapore: When and Why You Might Need One

Navigating Singapore's tax system can be complicated, particularly if you're an entrepreneur or a small business owner. Engaging an accountant in Singapore like Grof can provide your business with expert guidance and support in managing tax obligations and maximising tax savings.


An accountant can help identify applicable tax incentives and exemptions, optimise tax planning strategies, and ensure compliance with tax laws and regulations. Their expertise can provide peace of mind and valuable insights into Singapore's tax landscape, allowing businesses to focus on their core operations while entrusting the complexities of tax management to professionals.


When in Doubt, Reach Out!

If you need clarification or assistance, feel free to reach out and engage with our budget-friendly accounting services. Our experts are here to guide you through your unique taxation circumstances and keep your finances organised and up-to-date.


Feel free to contact us for a complimentary consultation to discuss the specifics of your business, and we'll respond promptly within 24 hours. Your financial success is our priority.

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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
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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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