Over the past few months, Singapore’s government has launched new e-services, enhanced its pro-business regulations, and launched new business incentives that make it easy to launch and conduct business in the country; many of these measures are designed to attract more foreign entrepreneurs so that they use Singapore as the launchpad for their new ventures. This post provides an overview of these developments that are of interest to entrepreneurs pursuing commercial activities in Singapore.
Filing time extended for Register of Registrable Controllers
Since 2017, all Singapore companies — unless exempted from doing so — have been required to maintain a Register Of Registrable Controllers (RORC) which lists information about the company’s beneficial owners, in the company’s registered office or that of its authorised filing agents. As of July 30, 2020, companies are also required to lodge the same information in their RORC that is maintained by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority’s (ACRA) central register. The new requirement is part of the ACRA’s ongoing efforts to enhance transparency about the ownership and control of corporate entities that are based in the country. Information in ACRA’s central RORC will only be made available to government organizations for the purpose of administering or enforcing laws under their purview. Members of the public will not have access to the data in the central register.
The announced deadline for lodging the RORC information with ACRA was September 29, 2020. However, ACRA has extended that deadline for companies and LLPs by one month — to October 31, 2020. It is important for every company to lodge this information by that date to avoid being subject to penalties. Your company’s corporate service provider should perform this task on your behalf; if you are running into any problems, please switch to our firm.
ACRA launches new Business Name Alert service
ACRA is offering a new Business Name Alert service to allow businesses to receive monthly notifications on selected business names registered with ACRA. The service will alert company owners if another business entity with a name similar to their own business has been registered. An email will be sent to the subscriber on the last day of each month. Each name alert subscription is valid for three years. The service is free of charge and allows up to 10 business names to be tracked. Any authorised officer of a company or a registered filing agent authorised to file on behalf of the business can subscribe to the service via the Business Name Alert service. Click here for more information on the new service.
Seamless digital filing for SMEs
ACRA and the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS), together with leading accounting software providers, co-created an enhanced service that allows small and medium Singapore businesses to handle the preparation and filing of statutory returns with IRAS and ACRA more effectively. The new solution incorporates ACRA and IRAS filing requirements into a single accounting software that can auto-generate the required returns for companies with simple tax obligations and accounting transactions. The new service is linked to both the ACRA and IRAS systems, making it easy to file with both agencies without the need to log into two separate systems — ACRA’s BizFile+ and IRAS’ myTax Portal. More information can be found on ACRA’s website here.
Implementation of the revised XBRL filing requirements
Singapore ACRA has revised the requirements and data elements for filing financial statements in eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) format. The revisions are designed to simplify filing requirements. Most companies will find that the number of data elements they need to file with ACRA has been reduced. The full ACRA Practice Direction on the new requirements can be found here.
To allow businesses more time to make this transition while they are dealing with the COVID-19 restrictions, the effective dates for the revised XBRL filing requirements are as follows:
- Companies are required to apply the revised filing requirements and data elements beginning January 1, 2021;
- Companies can opt to voluntarily implement the new rules any time up to December 31, 2020.
ACRA has also launched an updated version of the BizFinx preparation tool to help companies prepare, validate, and upload their XBRL financial statements based on the revised filing requirements.
New regulations for insolvency practitioners
Following lengthy discussions, the Singapore Parliament passed the Insolvency, Restructuring and Dissolution Act 2018 (IRDA), which came into effect on July 30, 2020. The new act consolidates written laws related to personal and corporate insolvency and debt restructuring into a single piece of legislation. The law also establishes a regulatory regime for Insolvency Practitioners (IPs).
The IRDA requires individuals who wish to act as a liquidator, Judicial Manager (JM), or Trustee in Bankruptcy (TIB) to be registered as Insolvency Practitioners with the Ministry of Law for the purpose of undertaking new winding-up, JM, or TIB cases that are commenced after the act came into effect.
All insolvency filings and restructuring documents will continue to be made via ACRA’s online business registration and filing portal, Bizfile. In line with new filing requirements set out in the IRDA, existing insolvency and restructuring e-Forms have been modified, and new e-Forms have been introduced. You may find more information on the new regulations here.
MAS launches enhanced Financial Sector Technology and Innovation Scheme
In August 2020, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) initiated the enhanced Financial Sector Technology and Innovation Scheme (FSTI 2.0) to accelerate technology and innovation-driven growth in the financial sector. FSTI 2.0 aims to strengthen support for large-scale innovation projects and to build a stronger pipeline of Singaporean talent in FinTech. The revised programme will introduce several enhancements.
Enhancing support for early-stage tech experimentation
The maximum funding amount will be doubled, from S$200,000 to S$400,000, under the Proof-of-Concept (POC) Grant, and the maximum funding support will be increased from 50% to 70% of qualifying project cost. This change is expected to enable financial institutions and FinTech firms to undertake larger-scale POC projects to experiment, develop, and deploy innovative solutions.
Strengthening adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) within the financial industry
MAS will raise the maximum funding amount for all qualifying AI projects under the Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics (AIDA) Grant from S$1 million to S$1.5 million, to give financial institutions an incentive to implement innovative AI solutions.
Building a stronger talent pipeline of Singaporeans for FinTech
Furthermore, MAS will co-fund existing innovation labs for new Singaporean hires. All new projects under the Financial Institution-Level Projects, Industry-Wide Projects, and AIDA tracks will now qualify for funding support for training costs related to capability transfer. Eligible training costs include expenses incurred to engage specialists to train the local talent pool, and expenses incurred to send local employees for overseas training. Find more details on FSTI 2.0 at the MAS website.
MOM launches the Jobs Growth Incentive to support local employees
The Singapore government has set aside S$1 billion to support companies to hire locals under the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) scheme. The JGI provides substantial salary support if firms bring forward their hiring plans and grow their local workforce over the six months from September 2020 to February 2021.
To be eligible for the JGI, firms must have achieved an increase in their local workforce in the period from September 2020 till the end of February 2021, compared to the size of their local workforce in August 2020. The increase in local workforce must be accompanied by an increase in jobs that pay at least S$1,400 in gross monthly wages. The scheme applies to firms that were established on or before August 16, 2020.
For eligible companies, the MOM will provide substantial salary support. For each new local hire aged below 40, the government will co-pay 25% of the first S$5,000 of gross monthly wages for 12 months. For each new mature local hire aged 40 and above, government support is doubled to 50%. In total, eligible firms can receive up to $15,000 for each local hire aged below 40, and $30,000 for each local hire aged 40 and above.
The JGI is a step up in terms of the level of salary support compared to the Enhanced Hiring Incentive announced earlier, in May 2020. The Enhanced Hiring Incentive has been replaced by the JGI, with effect from September 1, 2020.
For more information on the new programme, visit the IRAS website.
Singapore continues to enhance its business climate by simplifying laws, improving the regulatory regime, and providing various purposeful incentives to Singapore companies. Such business-friendly changes continue to improve Singapore’s reputation as an excellent jurisdiction to start and grow a business.
Our state-of-the-art Corporate Service Platform (CSP) is designed and our service delivery team is trained to adjust and effectively assist clients with such changes. Incorporate your Singapore company or switch your company to us today!
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