Setting up Your Own Business

Although we have job listings, many ANZA Members are excited about the possibility of working on their own businesses in Singapore. We’ve teamed up with Katherine Chapman of CSLB Asia to answer some questions about how you can do that.

Katherine Chapman has been living and working in Hong Kong and Singapore for the last 19 years. While in Asia, Katherine was Head of Practice Management – Asia at an international law firm before becoming the Founder and Managing Director of CSLB Asia.

Katherine is a qualified Australian lawyer with over 25 years’ experience working within private practice, and the financial services and government sectors in Australia and Asia. She is passionate about supporting and mentoring women in business, and moderates and speaks at various business associations and networks across Asia. She is registered corporate secretarial and filing agent with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) in Singapore to ensure her clients are compliant with the regulatory regime in Singapore.

Katherine’s company, CSLB Asia provides corporate secretarial and legal compliance business support services across all industry sectors in Asia. Our clients range from single-entrepreneur start-ups, to venture capitalists and multinationals, seeking cost-effective guidance on incorporation, obtaining work and regulated activity permits, data protection, template commercial agreements and support with a variety of regulatory issues.

Katherine is also the presenter of our Informers Guide to Working in Singapore series.


Can I Work From Home Without A Letter Of Consent?


“A Letter of Consent (LoC) will not be required when:

  • The Dependent’s Pass (DP) holder is working for an overseas company from home; and
  • The overseas company has no local presence; and
  • The DP holder is not meeting or providing services to clients in Singapore.
  • Therefore, you may still perform work for your overseas employer via telecommunicating from home if all the above requirements are met.”

So states the MOM. They don’t mind you working here … if you’re not really working here. If you’re working from home, on your offshore company and not meeting clients here in Singapore, you’re good to go. Being a boss. In your pyjamas. SOLD.

Alternatively, if you’re adamant about launching your business here, you really have two options.

A Sole Proprietorship

What is it?

It’s a business owned by one person or one company. There are no partners and the Sole Proprietor (SP) has complete influence in the running of the business. If you are either a Singapore citizen, a PR, a foreign individual deemed as a person living outside of Singapore or a local company, then you are eligible. 

What do you need?

  • Get approval for the business name with ACRA.
  • Provide a description of the actual business – i.e. what will you be doing?
  • Register the business address. Homeowners can conduct small-scale businesses out of their residential property as long as they’re not employing ‘external employees’ and must have written go ahead to use their homes for home office use.


  • It is the easiest and least expensive business structure to set up
  • Terminating a SP is easier, less time consuming and less expensive than other business entities.
  • You are free of the obligation of filing returns annually and only need to renew your membership either every year or three years.
  • Profits of the SP are treated as income of the individual who owns the entity and this is subjected to a tax rate as that of personal income (0-20%).


  • The registered owner is financially and legally responsible for all debts.
  • Creditors may sue for debts incurred and can obtain a court order to claim your personal assets.
  • Capital is limited to your personal finances and the profits generated by the company so business expansion is limited and difficult.
  • You can transfer the business only by the sale of assets, not the name.
  • To work for an SP, you cannot apply on an Employment Pass (EP).

What does this mean?

A Dependent Pass (DP) holder can no longer set up as a SP – contrary to what you’ve heard or read in the past. The MOM still issues Letters of Consent for DPs to work for an SP owned by a Singaporean or PR etc. Ergo, if you have your Big Idea, you can go into business with a PR etc., but they own your business on paper – you take the risk of losing out.  The owner can request a LoC from the MOM that will enable you to work FOR the business. Most of the time, the owner is a friend you are setting up with, but to avoid any nasty surprises, protect yourself and them by drawing up an employer/employee contract.

A Private Limited Company

What is it?

It is a registered business under the Companies Act, Chapter 50 and is the favourable legal option. It has rights to own properties, has perpetual succession and can sue or be sued in its own name. It is locally incorporated with a maximum of 50 shareholders. Singaporeans or PRs are eligible.

What do you need?


  • What are you called?!
  • Preferred registration date.
  • What you’re doing – the business activity, you have 2 choices.
  • Registered company address

Ownership Details

  • Share capital amount (in $) & no. of shares
  • Allocation of shares among shareholders

Management Details

  • Confirmation of who will be the company Directors
  • Confirm that at least one is Singaporean or PR


  • Shareholders are not personally liable for debts and losses.
  • Profits are taxed at corporate tax rates which benefit from tax exemptions and incentives.
  • There are no taxes on capital gains so this allows private business to distribute dividends to shareholders without incurring any tax liability.
  • Shareholders’ personal assets are protected
  • Company shares can be easily transferred from one member to another.


  • Directors must disclose their interest in the company’s shares, contracts and debentures.
  • Governed by Singapore Companies Act and violations will result in penalties. Annual Returns and Directors’ reports are required and must be filed, so the company must have at least one Director and one Company Secretary
  • Operation costs are higher
  • Must maintain on-going compliance with ACRA/IRAS.

What does this mean?
There is plenty left to cover with this option, but you’re still facing a similar issue if you’re here on a DP. Once the company is registered, directors appointed, share capital and shareholders shown, company address registered as well as a company secretary on the books, the PTE LTD then needs to set up a bank account – never the most straight forward situation. And only then can the company approach the MOM to request a LoC or an EP for you to again technically work FOR the company.

If you are interested in discussing your options further, please book a time with Katherine via this link.


CSLB Asia provides virtual company secretarial and corporate advisory services to businesses looking to expand to Asia. CSLB Asia is led by Katherine Chapman – who was a corporate lawyer for 13 years with the region’s leading private companies and law firms – and a team of experts with over 30 years of collective experience in the industry.

CSLB Asia makes it quick and easy for entrepreneurs to establish and grow their business across Asia – without wasting their time on administrative tasks or spending a fortune on hiring an in-house compliance team.

Established in 2012, CSLB Asia works with a wide range of SMEs, Startups and Corporates to deliver customised corporate advisory support tailored to every client’s needs.

Our clients get access to accredited professionals who offer enterprise-level corporate advisory and compliance support – without the overheads of hiring a traditional firm or internal staff.

Contact Us at CSLB