If you’ve done your research about setting up a company in Singapore, you might have heard about ACRA. It features prominently in discussions about company incorporation, registrar of companies, and compliance filing in Singapore. What’s more, you’ve probably seen the term a couple of times on our web pages and blog posts.
So, how about we put this issue to rest once for all? What is ACRA, and why is it so relevant to companies that are incorporating in Singapore?
ACRA basically stands for the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, which is Singapore’s principal regulator of companies, corporate service providers, and public accountants. The statutory body was established under the Singapore’s Ministry of Finance on the 1st of April 2004 through a merger between two major bodies.
The first one was the then Registrar of Companies and Businesses (RCB) in Singapore, while the other was the Public Accounts Board (PAB). Together, they formed a body that oversees not only the incorporation of companies, but also the subsequent corporate compliance processes, plus the registration and regulation of accountants.
That means that if you want to set up a business in Singapore, ACRA will be one of your first stops. But, make no mistake about it. You won’t be required to physically visit ACRA’s offices to submit the company registration documents. Instead, ACRA facilitates and runs everything through its BizFile portal.
That said, it’s worth noting that your dealings with ACRA won’t end with company incorporation. Once your registration application sails through, ACRA will be on the lookout for the subsequent compliance filings.
So, you can expect to be back at the BizFile portal when the time comes for submitting reports- such as the company’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) minutes and financial statements. Otherwise, any delays or defaults here could attract court summonses and composition fines from ACRA.
Now, to avoid all that, you might want to familiarize yourself with ACRA’s compliance filing tools, starting with the XBRL system.
XBRL, in full, refers to ACRA’s eXtensible Business Reporting Language. And although it sounds complicated, XBRL is actually built for simplicity. You can think of it as a straightforward XML-based language for exchanging digital business information over the internet.
In essence, ACRA uses the system to standardize the filing format of financial reports. And in so doing, the state manages to conveniently process all the relevant aggregated data.
At the moment, however, ACRA might be a bit lenient to companies that are yet to learn how to use the XBRL system. But, not for long. From the 1st of January 2021 onwards, all the financial report submissions are required to strictly adhere to the XBRL format, with no exceptions.
Thankfully though, at least you’ll get a valid template to help you with that. But, get this- the templates are not the same across the board. They vary slightly across different types of companies. So, before proceeding, you might want to confirm your specific XBRL guidelines from the same BizFile system provided by the registrar of companies.
And speaking of which, what is the BizFile system all about?
As soon as ACRA was formed in 2004, it embarked on several initiatives meant to facilitate companies in Singapore. One of its main goals was digitizing corporate filings and optimizing statutory processes for businesses as well as the registrar of companies. This gave rise to BizFile, a system that has since made everything much easier for companies based in Singapore.
BizFile is basically a web-based portal that connects you with ACRA. And by that, we mean that BizFile electronically facilitates all the corporate applications and filings. It gives you the privilege of not only digitally applying to the registrar of companies, but also e-filing your compliance documents through the web.
ACRA, on the other hand, uses the system to expedite its application processing, plus automate and streamline internal operations. In short, therefore, you won’t be queuing up at the registrar of companies or ACRA’s service centre.
Since BizFile is entirely web-based, it’s available globally. You should be able to access it remotely from anywhere, as long as you’re connected to the internet.
There’s just one caveat though. While anyone can conveniently access the system, logins are only reserved for people who possess a special electronic identity called SingPass. And, as it turns out, the SingPass is only allocated to Singapore citizens and permanent residents.
Yes, it just so happens you can. But, while the application process is pretty straightforward for Singapore citizens, foreigners are required to meet special conditions. You can only get a SingPass if you hold a valid Singaporean Work Permit, Long-Term Visit Pass-Plus, Dependent Pass, S-Pass, EntrePass, or Employment Pass.
Theoretically, they can. But, practically, they can’t access the system directly since the special passes are not readily available to new applicants. Apparently, you can only get them after successfully incorporating a company.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. There’s a way out in the form of corporate service providers like WealthBridge. They can seamlessly access BizFile and other government services on behalf of foreign corporations.
Working with a registered corporate service provider saves you a lot of trouble and costs. You get to circumvent requirements that would otherwise disqualify your application. Plus, the service providers know all the finer details that you might miss while you register the company and file its compliance reports.
As we’ve seen, ACRA’s BizFile system is pretty comprehensive- it facilitates almost all the important applications and submissions required by the Singapore Companies Act. You can use it to get in touch with the registrar of companies and incorporate a business, update your company information, or submit its compliance reports.
However, that’s not all there is to setting up and running a company in Singapore. You still have to set up accounts and process applications in several other government platforms.
If you’d like to apply for a business license, for instance, you have to use Singapore’s GoBusiness service. Then when it comes to tax compliance, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) is the one that regulates everything.
From the look of things, the process of incorporating a company in Singapore can go both ways.
If you have a lot of time on your hands, you might be tempted to go at it alone. Fair enough, but, you’re bound to hit a dead-end at some point.
Strategic business owners, on the other hand, manage to save themselves all that trouble by choosing the recommended option. They let expert providers like WealthBridge handle the registration applications and compliance filings on their behalf.
So, go ahead and talk to us today. Our seasoned professionals know all the tricks that’ll help you save time and money when you’re dealing with the registrar of companies in Singapore.