XBRL and Tax Filing in Singapore: An Introduction

Though it may sound complex, eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) is actually all about simplicity. Companies in Singapore use this XML-based language to standardise the format of filing financial statements online. This makes it easier for the state to process the aggregated data and make the right regulatory decisions on its basis.

Who do the XBRL filing requirements apply to?

XBRL filing applies to all business organisations in Singapore. Whether unlimited or limited by shares, it’s a requirement that all incorporated companies file their financial statements with ACRA in XBRL format. The official ACRA website states that you are not required to file financial statements with ACRA if you own a limited partnership, partnership or sole proprietorship. If your company is dormant and fulfill the requirements under the Singapore Companies’ Act Section 201A, you are also exempted from preparing and filing the XBRL documents.

This requirement came about as of March 2014, so it’s important to note when it comes to tax filing compliance as an entrepreneur. Another reason to get up to speed on these new requirements is that the previous option of partial XBRL filing will no longer be applicable.

Below we’ve outlined requirements for different types of companies when it comes to XBRL filings. You can take a look at a full and detailed list of who needs to file financial statements on ACRA’s website.

Which filing requirements apply to different companies?

Complete set of financial statements in XBRL format:

  • Private and public companies (both limited and unlimited by shares)
  • Companies that have a Corporate Shareholder

Financial statement highlights in XBRL format + PDF copy:

  • Companies regulated by the central bank of Singapore (MAS) — this includes the likes of insurance companies and merchant banks.
  • Companies permitted use accounting standards other than Singapore Financial Reporting Standards (SFRS), SFRS for Small Entities, and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)

Exempt, but encouraged to file full set of financial statements (or highlights)

  • Solvent Exempt Private Companies (EPCs)

Full set of financials in XBRL or PDF copy + XBRL highlights:

  • Insolvent EPCs

Copy of financial statements in PDF format:

  • Foreign companies or their branches

What makes up a “full set” of financials?

Based on the financial year that’s just passed, or one that’s currently ending, you should include the following documents as part of the full set of financials that are submitted:

  • Statement of financial position: This covers assets, liabilities and company equity. It’s also referred to as a balance sheet.
  • Statement of profit or loss: This should cover comprehensive income, company financing costs, capital gains and losses as well as revenue.
  • Changes in equity: This statement includes things like transactions among shareholders or amends to classes of shares you’ve issued, as well as any amends to your company’s share capital, dividends declared and other things that affect equity.
  • Cash flow: This statement includes any cash (or cash equivalents) that flow in or out of the company as a result of any investing, operating or financing activities.
  • Financial notes or comparative information: Any additional information from auditors or directors that may serve as helpful and/or explanatory.

How to prepare and manage XBRL financial statements

As part of ACRA’s regulatory updates, they introduced a new preparation tool called BizFinx. Among other functions, here, PDF copies of financial statements or highlights can be filed. The tool is available for download. Since it was introduced, it there have been several updates; you can read about the latest update on their website.

What’s the minimum requirement list when filing a full set of XBRL financial statements?

Along with outlining how you should prepare your XBRL financial statements, ACRA has also established a minimum requirement list — described as “a set of elements within the ACRA Taxonomy” — that you’ll need to meet to streamline the process. So whether you’re an existing local business owner or an entrepreneur who wants to set up a company, it’s important that you understand what these entail.

There are two parts to the minimum requirement list:

  1. Text Block Element for submitting your full set of financial statements (matching those presented at your Annual General Meeting (AGM). This report will be available to the public in a PDF format and will be attached to your AR extracts.
  2. Details Information Elements: This is where you’d submit more detailed information about specific sections of you FS (including independent auditors’ report or a statement on your company’s financial position)

Need more detail? Download a template including the minimum requirement list and ACRA’s full taxonomy.

Who is responsible for XBRL filing?

Preparing financial statements in XBRL format means having a firm grasp of the concepts outlined by the Singapore Financial Reporting Standards (SFRS) and SFRS for Small Entities. Company directors are ultimately the ones who are responsible for the accurate and correct submission of their financial statements in XBRL format. For this reason, it’s very important that they double-check any information being filed by their company before they authorise its submission to ACRA.

Compliance is paramount, but the filing process can be tedious and put a lot of pressure on a company’s internal resources. A lot of businesses can save a great deal of time and money by outsourcing their XBRL filing needs and have a third-party help them prepare their financial statements in line with compliance standards.

A recap of what to keep in mind when filing your annual return

  • Audited financial statements: When you’re submitting your Annual Return with ACRA, you’ll also need to attach your company’s audited financial statements.
  • Annual Return date: This is usually based on one of the two; the date you last filed your Annual Return, or a year following the official incorporation of your company.
  • Deadline: Whether you are filing your Annual Return or you are getting the assistance of a third-party, make sure to get it done no more than 28 days after its due.

2020 changes to the XBRL filing requirements

Be advised that in early 2020, ACRA will be implementing simplified XBRL requirements. The revisions promise to make business’s filings easier and more transparent: there will be fewer data elements and the remaining ones will have to be aligned for the reader to easily retrieve the information they need.

They are currently gathering feedback from the public — in case you are interested.