Businesses who want to establish a presence in Singapore without immediately conducting operations within the country is called a Representative Office (RO). A representative office most often has to register in a firm in order to be accepted and may also need to set the preliminary actions needed to pursue a business within a given area. Since a RO is not considered a business entity, this means that no activities may be done in terms of active pursuit of profit – at least not yet.

Representative Office Service Fee at SGD$1299

Do take note that:

    • Fee quoted excludes 7% GST, government filing fees, any out-of-pocket expenses and disbursement; and
    • A presentation of the proposal is required for the management’s agreement upon review of the relevant documents required before the engagement of our services.

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Registering as a Representative Office (RO)

All ROs have a designated lifetime of 3 years which can be cancelled at any time in the event of specific circumstances. Most companies who have set up a RO in Singapore de-list it after a period of time, replacing the classification with a subsidiary or branch office that essentially makes it possible for them to conduct business.

Normally, the application for RO goes through several channels, dependant on the nature of the RO. The first step is utilizing a professional business registration firm for application to the International Enterprise. For the banking and insurance industry, a RO must first consult with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Requirements During Registration

Companies who wish to establish a RO needs to meet the following basic requirements:

    1. A certified copy of the parent company’s incorporation certificate – this must be written in English and is of perfect translation, in the case of non-native English speaking companies.
    2. Annual report and audited account of the foreign parent company. For new companies who do not have this report, the parent company must self-declare and offer additional data such as brochures, contracts, etc.
    3. Completed documents promising to abide by the Singapore law.
    4. Accomplished processing fee.
    5. A Letter of Approval will be sent to the parent company once all the documents have been checked and cleared.

What can a RO in Singapore Do?

Once properly registered and recognized by Singapore, the company has the right to establish base – by obtaining property to express purposes of conducting non-profit oriented activities. Some of the activities ROs can do include conducting feasibility studies and market research to assess the maturity of the targeted product. They could also offer customer support and supervise the activities of local agents.

In most cases, the RO acts as a liaison between the main office and any other business based in Singapore that they intend to negotiate with when the time comes. In summary, the RO mainly deals with the preparation aspect of a business when settling down in Singapore.

What can a RO Not Do?

Since a RO is NOT officially a business entity, it is not allowed to perform any activities in relation to making profits. Examples of these activities include entering into a full binding business contract, lease space to other companies, offer technical services, issue receipts, and even ship/store goods without a local agent in Singapore.

Employees and Operations

A RO may hire locals as part of their staff, but it is crucial that a chief representative is brought in from the headquarters to handle the situation. Singapore law also specifies that a RO must identify itself as a RO through various means comprising of the cards of their staff, plaque, phone number registrations, signs, etc. Due to special situation, ROs are subject to special income tax treatment.