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How to Reduce Income Tax in Singapore

In Singapore, the current corporate tax rate stands flat at 17% and the tax rate imposed on personal income ranges from 0% to 22%. These rates are indeed appealing to many foreign workers and investors since they are relatively low when compared to other jurisdictions. But there are more!

In fact, the actual tax paid can be much lower due to a significant number of favorable tax schemes and incentives. In this article, BBCIncorp will show you how to reduce income tax in Singapore by summarizing some of the most common types of tax relief and other methods to lower payable taxes.

1. How to Reduce Income Tax in Singapore for Businesses

In order to lower tax bills, companies can legally aim for the following common tax reliefs:

1.1. Tax Exemption Scheme for New Start-up Companies

New companies that satisfy all the below conditions are eligible for this scheme:

  • The company must be incorporated in Singapore;
  • The company is a tax resident in Singapore for that Year of Assessment (YA);
  • The total share capital of the company for that YA is directly held by no more than 20 shareholders in which:
    • all of them are individuals, or
    • at least one of them is an individual holding no less than 10% of the issued ordinary shares.
  • The main business activity of the company is not investment holding;
  • The company does not develop property for either sale or investment.

Form YA 2020, the qualifying companies will be given the following tax exemption for the first 3 consecutive YAs:

Exempt percentage from tax Chargeable income Amount exempted from tax
75% The first $100,000 $75,000
50% The next $100,000 $50,000

All in all, under this scheme, an eligible start-up company is entitled a maximum exemption amount of $125,000 for each YA.

1.2. Partial Tax Exemption (PTE) Scheme for Companies

Companies which have already used up 3 tax-exempt years under the tax exemption scheme for star-ups and all other companies are qualified for this scheme. Businesses will enjoy tax exemption described as below:

Exempt percentage from tax Chargeable income Amount exempted from tax
75% The first $10,000 $7,500
50% The next $190,000 $95,000

Under the PTE scheme, an eligible company is given a maximum exemption amount of $102,500 for each YA.

1.3. Corporate Income Tax Rebate

Generally, all companies receive a corporate income tax rebate with a rate regulated differently each year. This policy has been consecutively extended each year from YA 2103 to 2020:

YA Tax Rebate Cap
2020 25% $15,000
2019 20% $10,000
2018 40% $15,000
2017 50% $25,000
2016 50% $20,000
2013 to 2015 30% $30,000

1.4. Tax Exemption for Foreign-sourced Income

There are three types of foreign-sourced income subject to tax exemption: foreign-sourced dividends, foreign-sourced service income and foreign branch profits. Pursuant to Section 13(9) of Income Tax Act, tax imposed on these types of income can be exempted when all the following conditions are met:

  • The income has been taxed in the foreign jurisdiction where the income arises.
  • The headline tax rate of the foreign jurisdiction where the income arises is 15% at least at the time it is remitted to Singapore.
  • The government is convinced that the tax exemption would benefit the resident in Singapore.

> Read more: How to be exempted from Singapore foreign income tax.

1.5. Tax Incentive for Specific Industries

In addition to the corporate tax rate of 17%, existing companies in Singapore can greatly benefit from a wide range of tax incentives for many industries. Below are some of the most common examples:

Sector Scheme and Incentive Target Main Benefit
Manufacturing and services

 

Pioneer Certificate (PC) & Development and Expansion (DEI) Incentive Companies expanding their activities in Singapore Concessionary tax rate of 5% for PC or 10% for DEI
Finance and treasury activities Finance and Treasury Centre (FTC) incentive Treasury management company operating in Singapore Reduced tax rate of 8%
Insurance Business Development Scheme Licensed insurers providing quality services Concessionary rate of up to 10%
Trading Global Trader Programme Trading companies having substantial operations in Singapore Reduced corporate tax rate of 5% or 10%
Shipping and maritime MSI-AIS award International ship owners and operators Tax exemption on qualifying shipping income
Tourism Double Tax Deduction Companies wanting to promote inbound tourism or expand their markets 200% tax deduction on qualifying expenditure

For even further detailed information, please visit another blog of BBCIncorp on Tax Incentives for Specific Industries in Singapore.

1.6. Deduction of Expenses before the Date of Commencement

The date of commencement is the date when a business receives its first dollar of business. It is regulated that revenue expenses incurred within one year before the first day of the financial year in which a business receives its first dollar (date of commencement) will be tax-deductible.

1.7. Deductions on Donations

From 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2021, corporations can claim 250% tax deduction for qualifying donations made in the preceding year. The deductible donations are:

  • Cash Donations
  • Computer Donations
  • Artefact Donations
  • Public Art Tax Incentive Scheme Donations
  • Land and Building Donations

The tax deductions will be automatically reflected in the tax assessments based on the information sent from the approved registered charities or Institution of a Public Character (IPC).

2. How to Reduce Income Tax in Singapore for Individual Taxpayers

Individuals in Singapore, both local and foreign, are given many types of tax relief to reduce their payable income tax. It is very important to know that the maximum tax relief on personal income is $80,000 per Year of Assessment (YA).

2.1. Types of Tax Relief for Singapore Tax Residents

An individual is deemed a tax resident when that person is:

  • A Singapore citizen
  • A Singapore permanent resident
  • A foreigner who is physically present in Singapore for no less than 183 days

With the status of tax resident, one can legally make use of the following types of tax relief to lower their payable income tax:

2.1.1. Course Fee Relief

Individuals can claim relief for the current YA (2020) on fees of:

  • Any attended course, seminar or conference in the previous year(2019) that resulted in an approved academic, professional or vocation qualification;
  • Any attended course, seminar or conference in the previous year(2019) which is relevant to the current employment, trade, business, profession or vocation.

The maximum amount of claim is $5,500 each year regardless of the number of attended courses.

2.1.2. Earned Income Relief

An individual will be automatically given tax relief if his/her taxable earned income in the previous year coming from employment, pension or carrying trade, business, profession or vocation.

The relief amount varies depending on the age and taxable earned income in the previous year:

Age (in the previous year) Maximum amount of relief
Below 55 $1,000
55 to 59 $6,000
60 and above $8,000

2.1.3. Life Insurance Relief

To be qualified for this type of relief in the current YA (2020), an individual must satisfy all the following conditions:

  • The total sum of compulsory CPF contribution, self-employed Medisave or voluntary CPF contribution and voluntary cash contribution to Medisave account in the previous year(2019) was no more than $5,000;
  • That person must pay on his/her own life insurance policyin the previous year (2019) to an insurance company that has an office or branch in Singapore.

A qualifying individual can claim one of the following proportions, whichever is lower:

  • The difference between $5,000 and the contribution to CPF; or
  • Up to 7% of the insured value of his/her own life or his/her spouse’s life, or the amount of insurance premiums paid.

2.1.4. Supplementary Retirement Scheme Relief

The Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) is designated to encourage individuals to voluntarily save for their retirements, along with the CPF. Being a tax resident for a current YA, an individual can automatically claim a relief amount which equals the amount contributed to SRS in the preceding year.

2.1.5. Other types of relief for tax-residents

Other available reliefs are:

For all individuals For married/divorced/widowed individuals
For both male and female For female
Handicapped Brother/ Sister Relief

NSman (Self) Relief

Parent/ Handicapped Parent Relief

NSman (Parent) Relief

Qualifying/ Handicapped Child Relief

Spouse/ Handicapped Spouse Relief

Foreign Maid Levy Relief

Grandparent Caregiver Relief

NSman (Wife) Relief

Working Mother’s Child Relief

Furthermore, as for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents, they can make use of reliefs relating to Central Provident Fund, including:

  • CPF Cash Top Up Relief
  • CPF Reliefs, comprising CPF Relief for employees, CPF Relief for self-employed and Compulsory and voluntary Medisave contributions.

2.2. Other Methods to Reduce Income Tax in Singapore

Allowable deductions and other available special schemes are great ways to reduce income tax for individuals in Singapore. Non-residents can also make use of these methods.

2.2.1. Deductions

Some of the most common deductions are:

Deductions on Employment Expenses

Individual taxpayers can deduct allowable expenses from their taxable income if those expenses were:

  • Incurred while carrying out official duties; and
  • Not reimbursed by the employer; and
  • Not capital or private in nature.

Deductions on Donations

Taxpayers can also claim 250% tax deduction for qualifying donations made in the preceding year, meaning a deduction of 2.5 times the donation amount. The following donations are deductible for individuals.

  • Cash Donations
  • Shares Donations
  • Artefact Donations
  • Public Art Tax Incentive Scheme Donations
  • Land and Building Donations

Same as corporate, the tax deductions will be automatically reflected in the tax assessments based on the information sent from the approved registered charities or Institution of a Public Character (IPC).

Deductions on Rental Expenses

Property owners can deduct an amount of actual allowable rental expenses from rental income derived in Singapore when the two following conditions are met:

  • The expense was incurred solely for the purpose of producing the rental income;
  • The expense was incurred during the period of tenancy.

Deductions for sole-proprietors, self-employed person and partners in partnership

Taxpayers can deduct the following from their taxable income if they meet the conditions specified for each:

  • Business Expenses
  • Capital Expenditure incurred on Renovation or Refurbishment works (S14Q – R&R cost)
  • Capital Allowances (CA) on fixed assets
  • Medical expenses
  • R&D Expenditure
  • Land Intensification Allowance
  • Expenses incurred before commencement of business
  • Business making losses and unabsorbed capital allowances
  • Business and IPC Partnership Scheme (BIPS)
  • Double Tax Deduction for Internationalization Scheme

The details for each deduction may be found on IRAS official website.

2.2.2. Special Tax Schemes

There are two tax schemes that can help to reduce income tax: Not Ordinarily Resident Scheme and Area Representative Scheme.

Not Ordinarily Resident Scheme

Under this scheme, for 5 consecutive years, qualifying individuals may benefit from:

  • Time Apportionment of Singapore Employment Income: employment income during the dates spent outside Singapore (at least 90 days) for business purposes will not be taxed.
  • Tax Exemption of employer’s contribution to non-mandatory overseas pension fund or social security scheme.

The general conditions for individuals to be eligible for the scheme are:

  • Being tax resident for the current YA; and
  • Being a non-resident for the 3 consecutive preceding YAs.

Nevertheless, the Not Ordinarily Resident Scheme will cease after YA 2020. Upon the end of the scheme, qualifying individuals will continue to enjoy the benefits until the 5 qualifying years expire.

Area Representative Scheme

Individuals are eligible for this scheme if they meet all the following conditions:

  • Being employed by a non-resident or foreign employer;
  • Being based in Singapore for geographical convenience;
  • Being required to travel outside of Singapore due to duties;
  • Receiving remuneration paid by the foreign employer that is not charged to the accounts of a Singapore permanent establishment.

Under this scheme, qualifying individuals can take advantage of Time Apportionment of Income. In particular, the employment income will be adjusted according to the duration of their physical presences in Singapore during the calendar year. The income will be later taxed based on the residency status of the taxpayers.

3. Key Takeaways

There are many answers to the question of how to reduce income tax in Singapore for both individual taxpayers and businesses.

For businesses there are:

  • Tax exemption scheme for start-ups
  • Partial tax exemption scheme for companies
  • Corporate income tax rebate
  • Tax exemption for foreign-sourced income
  • Tax incentives for specific industries
  • Deduction of expenses before the date of commencement
  • Deductions on donations

For individual taxpayers, there are:

  • Tax deductions
  • Special tax schemes
  • Many other types of tax relief for Singapore tax residents

Should you have further questions, feel free to talk to our experts now! BBCIncorp is always willing to help!

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