Choosing an SSIC code for your Singapore company
Foreign entrepreneurs consider Singapore a very attractive choice for starting a business due to its excellent infrastructure, technologically advanced industrial sector, business-oriented regulations, and numerous government incentives; this combination of factors allows startups to launch and grow quickly without too many regulatory hurdles.
Setting up a business in Singapore is relatively easy. Almost all of the governmental paperwork for establishing a company can be submitted electronically, thereby saving processing time. For details, please refer to our guide on company registration requirements and the incorporation process. There are certain regulatory requirements that entrepreneurs must follow before starting company operations — choosing the appropriate SSIC code is among them.
What does the SSIC code stand for, and how is it used?
SSIC is an acronym for Singapore Standard Industrial Classification and it is a national standard for classifying all possible business activities that can be undertaken by Singapore entities. The SSIC incorporates the basic structure and concepts of the International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC) system on which it is based.
SSIC is regularly reviewed and updated by Singapore’s Department of Statistics to reflect new developments in Singapore’s economy, new emerging business activities, and changes in international standards. It is important to ensure that your company’s SSIC codes are accurate and reflect your current business activities, which may evolve after its incorporation.
An SSIC code is meant solely for statistical and administrative purposes. Data reported under the SSIC code is used in reports, surveys, censuses, administrative databases, and other forecasting and planning documents. It helps the Singapore government identify the prevailing types of economic activities in the country and their performance.
The SSIC code is also used to determine if your company’s business activity is regulated and therefore requires a business license. It is also used to determine if your company is eligible for grants or tax incentives and other government support programs. Similarly, SSIC codes were used to grant permission to resume operations during the pandemic. If your SSIC code requires a license, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) may use it to refer your application to the appropriate licensing department for their approval; the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) uses the SSIC code to determine tax incentive eligibility for a company.
If you plan to apply for a business license or a grant under one of the incentive programs, you should choose the appropriate SSIC code that corresponds to the business activity eligible for the license or grant.
Determining the correct SSIC code for your new Singapore company
The SSIC code of the business activity for your new company must be lodged with ACRA at the time when the company’s business name is reserved. You must submit at least one SSIC code to represent the business activities of your company, and may one additional optional SSIC code. If your business activity is especially unique and no SSIC code matches it, you can enter a customized description, which will be reflected in the company’s BizFile.
The SSIC code should reflect your company’s “economic activities”. An economic activity takes place when resources such as labour, capital, goods, and services are used in a production process to produce goods and services. A company’s economic activities may be divided into three types:
- Principal activity refers to an activity that contributes the most to the value added of the goods and services produced by the company, or the activity with the highest value added among the activities of the company.
- Secondary activity refers to an activity which is not the company’s principal activity but is performed by the company.
- Ancillary activity refers to an activity undertaken to support the main productive activities by providing goods or services entirely for its internal use (e.g. human resources functions, bookkeeping, purchasing, storage, and sales promotion).
The basic SSIC principle is that a company is assigned an SSIC code based on its principal activity — the activity that contributes the most to the value added to the goods and services produced by the company. In cases where a company has more than two principal business activities, the two activities having maximum revenue should be listed with ACRA.
During the name reservation stage, if the company has selected an SSIC code that requires further review and approval from the relevant referral authorities in Singapore (e.g. the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Ministry of Law, Enterprise Singapore, Council for Estate Agencies, etc.), the application will be sent to the respective authorities. The review may take 14 to 60 days to process.
Our Corporate Services Platform will provide you a list of all SSIC codes and you can search it using keywords. You can also visit the ACRA website if you need an official source. Below are some tips on conducting a SSIC code search:
- Enter the primary keywords that best define your company’s business operations and conduct a search.
- Try different variations of keywords related to your company’s business for a better result.
- The search tool should list a number of SSIC codes based on your keywords. Choose the one that most closely matches your company’s business activities.
- Double-check that your keywords aren't misspelled, and that they're the most widely used in terms of your business.
- In case the SSIC search does not return an appropriate SSIC code, you can also search for it manually in the latest SSIC 2020 report. In this document, you can find the codes listed by common SSIC categories.
Check this detailed step-by-step guide for using ACRA’s SSIC search tool.
List of most commonly used SSIC codes by category
Below are common SSIC codes, according to the latest edition of SSIC released in March 2020. This SSIC 2020 is an update of the SSIC 2018 edition. For more information on the classification, principles, structure, and changes from the previous edition, please refer to this government website.
The SSIC classification has a hierarchical structure, with 21 broad categories. A numerical five-digit coding system is used to distinguish the different levels of classification.
- The term “n.e.c.” sometimes appears in a code descriptions below. It stands for “not elsewhere classified”. Typically, this term is attached to a code with a broad i.e. high-level description of a business activity. You should select this code if a more specific description of that business activity is not available in any other SSIC code.
- In the list below, SSIC codes marked with “*” are those that might be sent to the relevant authority for approval.
- In the list below, SSIC codes marked with “**” refer to those business activities that may require you to apply for a license before your company starts operations (subject to the relevant regulatory authority approval).
The latest complete list of available SSIC codes divided into categories, can be found here. Please refer to this resource for a more detailed definition of each category, class, subclass for the above SSIC codes.
Frequently Asked Questions
The SSIC code is a 5 digits code created by the government to track and categorise Singapore companies’ business activities. The SSIC system eases collaboration between businesses and government agencies, and helps government authorities to determine whether a company is required to apply for any license, or is entitled to certain tax benefits or incentives.
Determining an appropriate code might be confusing, especially when you are not sure about the scope of your business and how its future activities should be categorized. Our consultants will be glad to help you pick the correct SSIC code that corresponds to your business activity if you decide to incorporate your company with us. If you have any questions about SSIC codes or need assistance on any other matter relating to your new company, we will be delighted to guide you through the incorporation process. Please contact us.
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