Guide to starting a Singapore business

Last updated on 18 May 2022

Quick tips to start your business

Looking to become a business owner? Singapore is a great place to start a company because of its pro-business environment.

Firstly, you need to decide on what sort of business you want to start. The various options are outlined in the table below:

Type of businessOwnershipLegal implications
Sole ProprietorshipSingle ownerOwner is personally accountable for risks, debts and losses.
Partnership2 to 20 individuals or companiesPartners are personally accountable for all risks, debts and losses.   Partners can also be made accountable for losses incurred by other partners.
Limited Liability PartnershipMinimum of 2 partnersPartners have limited liability but are personally liable for debts and losses that result from their own actions.
Limited PartnershipAt least 1 general partner and 1 limited partnerGeneral partner: has unlimited personal liability  
Limited partner: liable up to an agreed investment criteria
Private Limited/Public CompanyAt least 1 resident director  
Private: maximum of 50 owners  
Public: unlimited number of owners
Companies are separate legal entities  
Owners have limited liability
Variable Capital Company    Non-authorised schemes:
At least 1 resident director  
Authorised schemes: At least 3 directors  
At least 1 director is a qualified representative or a director of its fund manager
Separate legal vehicle for investment funds.   Members have limited liability

The biggest difference between the different types of businesses is in the liabilities.

If you are currently a sole proprietor or a partner in a general partnership, we recommend incorporating a company to convert your business into a limited liability company.

Incorporating a company can take between 15 minutes to two weeks, depending on the complexity. For other businesses that need the approval of other authorities, it may take up to two months.

Checklist for Incorporating a Company in Singapore

  • A Proposed Company Name
    Do a quick search of the name you have in mind, to ensure it is unique and if you can obtain an available domain name for your website. Try to include some description of your business activities in the name to help your marketing. Be mindful when using sensitive words such as “bank” or “university”.
  • Business Activities
    Each Company is permitted to have two principal activities which are based on the Singapore Standard Industrial Classification (SSIC).
  • Financial Year End (“FYE”)
    The day and month your financial year starts and ends. Note that in deciding FYE, companies should consider whether the chosen date affects their eligibility to receive tax incentives.
  • Company Constitution
    A legal document stating the rules and regulations on how the company should be managed. The rights, responsibilities, and distribution of powers among the directors, shareholders, and company secretary are spelled out in the Constitution.
  • Capital Information And Functional Currency
    Information about share capital and the currency of the primary country your company operates in.
  • Registered Office Address
    This address must be in Singapore. Note that the address must be a physical local address and cannot be a P.O. Box.
  • Director Details
    A limited company in Singapore must have a director, with a local residential address. This means they should be a Singaporean Citizen, Permanent Resident or Employment Pass holder.
  • Shareholder Details
    The shareholder can be an individual or a corporate entity. 100% local or foreign shareholding is allowed. A director and shareholder can be the same or different person.
  • Company Secretary Details
    Includes contact details, identification documents and local address. Note that Singapore requires at least one local company secretary.
  • Auditor Details
    A company shall appoint an auditor within 3 months from the date of its incorporation, unless it is exempted from audit requirements under Section 205B, or 205C, of the Companies Act.

Need more help? Feel free to reach out to any of our specialists for incorporation services in Singapore and we will do our best to answer your questions and make your incorporation process a smooth one.