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Tax Exemption for New Startups: Navigating Financial Incentives

Author Gabi Bellairs-LombardGabi Bellairs-Lombard

6 min read
Money Talk

Unlock financial advantages for your new startup with tax exemptions. Dive into our article to understand eligibility, the application process, and how tax benefits impact cash flow, growth initiatives, and stability. Navigating the world of tax exemption is a crucial step for startup success.

Tax Exemption for New Startups: Navigating Financial Incentives

A tax exemption for new startups refers to a financial incentive governments provide to encourage and support the growth of businesses in their early stages.

Singapore has gained recognition as a thriving startup hub, fostering innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. To further encourage the growth of new businesses, the Singaporean government offers attractive financial incentives, including tax exemptions, to qualifying startups. Navigating these incentives requires a comprehensive understanding of the qualifying criteria, application process, benefits, compliance obligations, and potential limitations, including how they relate to an ecommerce business’ tax-deductible expenses. This article delves into the various aspects of tax exemption for new startups in Singapore.

Qualifying Criteria for Tax Exemption

Before we delve into the world of tax exemptions, let's first understand the qualifying criteria that startups need to meet. Meeting these criteria will set the stage for your startup to enjoy the benefits of tax exemptions.

Assessing startup eligibility for tax benefits

The eligibility criteria for startups seeking corporate tax exemptions in Singapore play a pivotal role in determining which companies can avail of these benefits. To be considered for tax exemption, startups must meet certain requirements:

  • Incorporation: The startup must be incorporated as a private limited company in Singapore. This means you must register your company with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) in Singapore. Doing so will make you a legal entity and enjoy the benefits of operating in this thriving business hub.
  • Tax resident: The company must be a tax resident in Singapore for the relevant Year of Assessment (YA). Your company must have its control and management exercised in Singapore. In other words, your key decision-making processes should occur within the country. As a tax resident, you will be subject to Singapore's tax laws and regulations, including the eligibility for tax exemptions.
  • Shareholding: The startup should not have more than 20 shareholders, and at least one shareholder must hold at least 10% of the ordinary shares. This requirement ensures that your company remains a small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) and is not controlled by many shareholders. By limiting the number of shareholders, the focus can be on fostering growth and innovation within the company.
  • Core Income-generating Activities (CIGA): The startup must engage in qualifying CIGAs, which typically involve activities that contribute directly to the company's revenue generation. Examples of approved business activities include manufacturing, trading, and providing services.

Factors determining the duration and extent of tax exemption

The startup's status determines the duration and extent of tax exemption as a "Qualifying Startup" or a "Certified Startup." A Qualifying Startup can enjoy:

  • Full tax exemption: For the first three consecutive YAs, the startup is exempted from paying taxes on its initial S$100,000 chargeable income.
  • Partial tax exemption: For the next YAs, a Qualifying Startup benefits from a 75% exemption on its next S$100,000 chargeable income.

On the other hand, a Certified Startup can receive:

  • Full tax exemption: For the first three consecutive YAs, the startup is exempted from taxes on its first S$600,000 of chargeable income.

Types of Tax Exemptions

Once your startup meets the qualifying criteria, you can potentially enjoy three tax exemptions: the Full Tax Exemption (FTE), the Partial Tax Exemption (PTE), and the Start-Up Tax Exemption (SUTE).

  • The Full Tax Exemption (FTE) exempts newly incorporated startups from paying tax on their first S$100,000 of chargeable income for their first three consecutive years of assessment. For the subsequent three years, the exemption is 75% of the same amount.
  • The Partial Tax Exemption (PTE) applies to startups not qualifying for the FTE. It grants a 75% exemption on the first S$10,000 of chargeable income and a 50% exemption on the next S$290,000 for all assessment years.
  • On the other hand, the Start-Up Tax Exemption (SUTE) is specifically designed for startups that meet certain conditions, including those related to the Singapore GST tax. It provides qualifying startups with a 75% exemption on the first S$200,000 chargeable income for their first three consecutive years of assessment.

Application Process for Tax Exemption

To apply for tax exemption, startups must complete and submit the relevant forms to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). These forms include the YA Form, Appendix 1, and any supporting documents required. Providing accurate and complete information is essential to expedite the application process. The IRAS may request additional information or documentation during the evaluation process, so be prepared to respond promptly.

Once your application is approved, you'll receive a letter from the IRAS notifying you of your tax exemption status. Congratulations! You're one step closer to reaping the rewards of tax exemption.

Required steps needed for the application process

Applying for tax exemption involves the following steps:

  • Incorporate the company: Register your startup as a private limited company in Singapore through the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).
  • File for tax exemption: When filing the startup's annual corporate income tax return, indicate your eligibility for tax exemption.
  • Provide necessary information: Furnish details about your startup's activities, financials, and shareholders' information.

Document requirements, submission procedures, and timelines

To successfully apply for tax exemption, startups need to submit documents such as financial statements, particulars of shareholders, and details of CIGAs. The application is typically submitted during the company's annual filing of its corporate tax return. Startups should ensure compliance with submission timelines to avoid penalties. Additionally, self-employed individuals or freelance professionals should also be aware of the relevance of these exemptions in their self-employed freelance tax calculation. By providing accurate and complete documentation, startups can navigate the application process smoothly, optimising their chances of benefiting from the available tax exemptions.

Benefits and Implications of Tax Exemption

Tax exemption offers significant benefits to startups, allowing them to allocate more resources to business growth and development. By reducing the tax burden, startups have greater flexibility in investing in research and development, talent acquisition, and marketing initiatives.

Analysing the advantages of tax exemption for new startup growth

Tax exemption offers several benefits that can significantly impact a startup's growth:

  • Enhanced cash flow: Tax savings can be reinvested in the business, supporting expansion and innovation.
  • Improved profitability: Reduced tax liability contributes to higher retained earnings and profitability.
  • Investor attraction: Tax incentives can make startups more attractive to potential investors.
  • Operational flexibility: Startups can focus on scaling operations without the immediate burden of substantial taxes.

Potential impact on cash flow, profitability, and reinvestment

Tax exemption's positive impact on cash flow allows startups to allocate funds strategically,  including those with offshore company setups, potentially accelerating growth initiatives. Increased profitability strengthens financial stability and resilience, enabling startups to weather uncertainties more effectively. Furthermore, reinvesting tax savings can enhance research and development efforts, market expansion, and talent acquisition.

Tax Compliance and Reporting Obligations

A tax exemption doesn't mean you can simply forget about your tax obligations. Startups are still required to comply with certain tax reporting obligations. This includes submitting annual tax returns to the IRAS at their fiscal year-end, financial statements, and tax computations.

Understanding ongoing tax compliance responsibilities post-exemption

While tax exemption alleviates the immediate tax burden, startups must comply with ongoing tax obligations. This includes timely filing of tax returns, maintaining accurate records, and adhering to Singapore's taxation regulations.

Maintaining records, filing requirements, and adhering to regulations

Maintaining proper record-keeping of all financial transactions and documents for at least five years is also important. This ensures transparency and enables quick and accurate compliance with any tax queries or audits. Additionally, they must adhere to filing requirements for annual returns, financial statements, and other relevant documentation.

Limitations and Expiry of Tax Exemption

While tax exemptions provide great benefits to startups, they do come with some limitations.

Limitations and potential conditions attached to tax exemption

Tax exemption schemes come with certain limitations:

  • Duration: The tax exemption benefits are available only for a specified period (normally three years). After that, the benefits are gradually reduced.
  • Shareholding changes: Altering the shareholding structure could impact the startup's eligibility for tax exemption.
  • Cessation of CIGAs: If the startup ceases its qualifying core activities, the tax exemption might be affected.

Preparing for the transition from tax-exempt status to regular taxation

As startups approach the end of their tax-exempt period, planning for the transition to regular taxation is crucial. This involves assessing the financial impact of increased tax liability and making necessary adjustments to the business's financial strategies.

Comparative Analysis: International Context

Singapore's tax exemption scheme for startups is renowned globally and often serves as a benchmark for other countries. Its attractive incentives and pro-business environment have attracted numerous startups from around the world.

However, it's always essential to consider other countries' tax regimes and incentives when deciding where to base your startup. Factors such as tax rates, regulations, and access to global markets can significantly impact your startup's long-term growth and competitiveness. A reputable accounting service can advise you on all of this so that you start your business, fulfilling all the requirements from day one.

Impact of Tax Exemption on New Startup Ecosystem

The availability of tax exemptions has played a crucial role in fostering Singapore's vibrant startup ecosystem. The government has created an environment conducive to innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic development by providing startups with financial relief.

The tax exemption scheme has attracted both local and foreign entrepreneurs, fostering a vibrant community of startups that drive job creation, technological advancements, and sectoral diversification.


In conclusion, tax exemption for new startups in Singapore is a valuable financial incentive that can significantly boost your startup's growth and success. By meeting the qualifying criteria, understanding the types of exemptions, navigating the application process, and fulfilling your compliance obligations, you'll be well on your way to reaping the benefits of this initiative. So, take advantage of Singapore's startup-friendly ecosystem and confidently embark on your entrepreneurial journey!

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