How to register a business in Singapore?

I have registered my own sole-proprietorship in 2004 and have since been working as a freelancer. Many people have asked me how to do the registration, so I decided it’s time to put it online, so that I can just refer the next person to the URL, without having to find the description again….  

The procedure is quite simple once you have figured it out (the figuring out part is the one that takes time), so I’m glad to help you with this!  Before you go over to registration, it’s good to have the following information at hand and sorted out first:

  1. business name
  2. business address
  3. nature of the business
  4. a SingPass (in case you didn’t have one yet – in my case I did have it – this is also useful for CPF online) 

For the business address, this can either be: an office address, a private housing address or if you live in HDB, you can apply at the HDB website for permission to use your home address as a business address. For nature of business, there is a whole list and in some cases you need special certification from AVA or MOE, or other government organisations. In my case, I have registered my business under “software consultancy”, as I thought that would be most applicable and no special permissions or certifications needed. 

This website is extremely useful:  it has a very good FAQ on how to register business or company, check if a certain business name can be used and a link as well to the website of the business registration  The bizfile website is where you need to login with the SingPass and then you can fill up the entire registration form online.

After login, you go to: Business Transactions > Business Name Application and Registration.

Then you select:Application to Register a New Business … And then fill up the form. You can actually just go through these steps and then see what are the things that you need to fill up. And come back there again on a day that you are doing the registration.When i finally did my registration I needed only about half an hour and my company was registered.  All the above is for registration of a sole proprietorship. The fee is SGD 65 for 1 year. Subsequent years you pay SGD 50 renewal fee. Change of address is also possible – costs SGD 15.  

Other things that might be useful, once you have registered the business, is to open a corporate bank account.  This is useful to have as some companies will only issue a cheque to your company’s name and not to your personal name. A cheque issued on a company’s name cannot be posted into your private account.  To open a corporate account, I have done this with DBS bank (because my personal account is with POSB – so I thought easier have both at the same bank). It was pretty simple, needed my company registration confirmation letter (you receive by email few minutes after registration – just print it out) and a minimum of 3,000 SGD. They have a penalty though of 15 SGD per month if the balance goes below 10,000 SGD. 

So I have opened my account with starting capital of 10,000 SGD. I’m not sure how it is for other banks, but I guess should be similar, though other banks have a higher starting capital for opening new accounts.  For taxes, you still file under personal income tax, there is a special category there for income out of sole proprietorship. Based on the income tax statement, you will then receive a letter from CPF to “advise” you how much CPF you need to contribute to your Medisave account. This is a mandatory minimum amount you will need to top up and depends on how much you have earned. Other CPF contributions are purely voluntary (in my case I don’t contribute voluntarily). This CPF is important once you are going to do your yearly renewal of your business, they will check if you have followed CPF’s advice and have sufficient funds in your Medisave. For all this you will receive letters, so you don’t have to worry too much about it, but it’s good to know in advance so that you can keep some financial reserves for this.   


11 Responses

  1. It’s actually crucial to consider what structure your business is going to be before you actually register for one. Sole proprietoryship may be suitable for certain kinds of businesses, but have its own limitations.

    I registered for a sole proprietorship for my freelance writing business as well. However, there can be some downsides – as a writer I can run the possible risk of defamation. This means that I technically have very little protection if I run afoul of the law and may lose everything.

    I’m now thinking if a LLC would be a better idea.

    I have a corporate bank account with UOB,and they also specify a $15/month penalty if the total is less than $10K in the account. This sucks for small businesses!

  2. Thanks for the comment Daniel! Yes, I agree with you that it is important to consider up front whether you should register a sole prop (business) or a company (Pte. Ltd.). In my case I have set up a sole prop because it was the best for me at the time, in the future I might change it to a limited liability, for the reasons that you mention as well. The yearly costs of that however have so far put me off from doing so.

    My post was meant as a help for people who are trying to register a sole prop, as over the past few years I have a few friends who were thinking of starting one and asked me how to do this.

  3. Thanks for the post. I found the information very useful.

  4. Thanks for the positive comment, Jeremy! 🙂

  5. Hi Whitecat,

    Do you also have any idea how to register as LLP or LLC in Singapore?

    Thanks in advance.

  6. Hi Alan,

    I have no experience yet in registering as LLP or LLC in Singapore, but you can get information on this at the ACRA website. There is more paperwork involved for sure.


  7. Hi Whitecat,

    I’ve a few questions to ask regarding business registration in Singpaore:

    1) Do I need to resign my current job? Is there any legal issue?
    2) If I still work for other company , and the company pay me CPF since I’m NRIC holder, is there any problem for that because I’m also a business owner which should be self-employed, but in CPF website, I still claim as other company’s employee and receiving CPF every month.

    Thank you!

  8. hi Lawrence,
    I have sent you an email to try and give an answer to your questions.
    As I’m just sharing personal experiences, I’m not really an expert, but still hope to be able to help!


  9. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  10. Hi, do I need to register my business if i receive one business for advertising on my blog? I read HDB website, it seems that we don’t need approval for use of home address when for blogging business, right? Then what address to use for business registration for blogging? Must have a business address right?
    sorry for so many questions.

  11. We would like to set up a business in Singapore. We have a company ltd in vitenam at the moment. What procedures and papers do we have to submit ? How much for the charges ?

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