Singapore is an extreme destination for expats for a diversity of reasons. Dazzling dining options that suit all palates, a vivacious nightlife, and easy convenience to the rest of South East Asia for quick getaways, great investment avenues, and magnificent growth opportunities for working professionals in a prosperous economy, and the lowest tax rates for any developed economy are just some of them.
Let’s take a look at an expat’s life in Singapore from the viewpoint of entrepreneurship, investment, and personal taxation.
Expat earnings and tax
Expats in Singapore earn US$257,000 per year on average, according to an ECA International survey released previous this year. In Singapore dollar terms, that is approx S$325,000.
What is the personal tax then paid by the average expat in Singapore? Only S$42,000, as per the personal tax calculator released by IRAS, and after taking into account some common tax reliefs like premiums paid on life insurance policies.
That gives a capable personal tax rate of 13% for an average expatriate. Do note that tax residency in Singapore is guided by the number of days’ actual stay in Singapore on a permitted pass.
At least some of us have heard of the Angel Investors Tax Deduction Scheme, which offers a 50% tax deduction on investments made in local start-ups. So if an investment of S$50,000 is made in 2014, and a further S$50,000 in 2015 (there’s a minimum S$100,000 investment requirement in a 12-month period), that would knock S$5,000, or 12%, off the average expat’s tax bills for 2014 and 2015. This is one great tax incentive.
Immigration and the expatriate
Possibly you are ready for more and want to take the entrepreneurial force! Many expatriates are unwilling to look at these avenues as they are EP (Employment Passes) or PEP (Personalized Employment Passes) holders. There are some options you can consider, yet.
- You could invest in a Singapore-incorporated private limited company.
- Your spouse could start a company and be employed as the local director by extending his/her Dependant Pass into a full working visa via a Letter of Consent.
- You could act as a non-executive director for a Singapore-private limited company. This means you are not vigorously employed or draw a salary from this role. This also requires preceding approval from both the Ministry of Manpower and your employer.
- Though PEP holders cannot start their own companies, the spouses of PEP holders have ownership avenues open to them. They are not limited as they have their own work passes.
- Think about converting your EP or PEP into a PR (Permanent Residence) status. You are not required to give up your citizenship to be granted stable residency. PR holders can own shares and act as local directors for Singapore-incorporated companies, and have more litheness in owning properties in Singapore.