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THE government continues to cut red tape, remove ad-hoc fees and simplify rules to make Singapore more business-friendly and to ensure it stays competitive, Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong has said.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday during the Budget 2017 debate for the Ministry of Finance (MOF), he also announced that the taxman will extend simplified corporate tax filing to more companies.
"MOF continually reviews its corporate regulations to ensure that they remain robust yet business friendly.
"We will exempt all private companies from holding annual general meetings provided they meet certain conditions."
Companies and limited-liability partnerships also no longer need to use the common seals, which will lower business costs, he said.
The government is also on a drive to reduce compliance and regulatory transaction costs for businesses.
For instance, TradeFIRST (Trade Facilitation & Integrated Risk-based System) is an assessment framework used by the Singapore Customs to determine the type of trade facilitation to be provided to a company.
The number of criteria on the checklist has been slashed by half, he said; this has been saving each trader around 14 man-hours of application time since January.
Another example is the revamped electronic transaction system, BizFile+, which was launched by Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) in January 2016. This system has streamlined processes, removed more than 100 ad-hoc fees and included mobile options for key transactions.
The enhancements will benefit 450,000 registered business entities.
At the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras), tax filing using a simplified corporate tax return has been extended to companies with an annual revenue under S$5 million, instead of S$1 million. This will make filing taxes easier for an additional 28,000 companies.
The government will also amend the Companies Act to allow companies registered in another jurisdiction to transfer their registration to Singapore, a process known as inward re-domiciliation.
"This will make it easier for foreign companies to relocate their businesses here to tap into Singapore's institutional strengths and ease of doing business," said Mr Wong.
To improve transparency and boost Singapore's reputation as a trusted financial centre, laws will be amended to require companies and limited-liability partnerships to maintain non-public registers containing the particulars of their beneficial owners.
"By enhancing efforts to combat money laundering and terrorism financing, this will strengthen our position as a trusted international financial centre," he said.
On introducing new taxes, he said the government will be mindful of income tax changes in other countries.
Noting that corporate income tax rates have been coming down across the world, he described Singapore's corporate tax rate of 17 per cent as "still competitive internationally".
Our competitiveness is not just based on taxes alone, he said.
"We compete on many other factors - our quality workforce, rule of law, good corporate governance and infrastructure. All this have helped to build Singapore's reputation of trust, integrity and reliability, and given businesses the certainty to invest here for the long term."