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What Is Payroll in Singapore: A Comprehensive Guide

  • Published: 11 June 2024
  • 11 min read
  • Grow Your Business
What Is Payroll in Singapore: A Comprehensive Guide
  • Author Gabi Bellairs-Lombard

    Gabi Bellairs-Lombard

    Business Writer

    Gabi's passionate about creating content that inspires. Her work history lies in writing compelling website copy and content, and now specialises in product marketing copy. When writing content, Gabi's priority is ensuring that the words impact the readers. As the voice of Osome's products and features, Gabi makes complex business finance and accounting topics easy to understand for small business owners.

Payroll is a critical business function and a part of Singapore’s tax compliance requirements. This payroll guide offers a detailed look at efficient payroll management, Singapore's payroll tax policies, effective payroll processes, and different deductions available for your company and employees.

Key Takeaways

  • The payroll process in businesses involves calculating gross pay, accounting for deductions, and distributing net pay to employees, which requires meticulous adherence to legal regulations to avoid penalties.
  • Singapore’s payroll regulations, such as the Employment Act, mandate timely salary disbursement and set minimum employee entitlements. They emphasise the need for accuracy in employee classification and staying updated with legislative changes.
  • Singapore companies have no income tax withholding obligations; hence, there is no payroll tax in the traditional sense. Instead, employees must file their income taxes with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). Meanwhile, the employer is responsible for fulfilling social security scheme contributions, the Skill Development Levy (SDL), and the Foreign Workers Levy.
  • Automated payroll solutions can improve efficiency, reduce errors, and simplify compliance management. With various integration capabilities, these tools provide strategic advantages for businesses in financial management and growth.

What Is Payroll?

Payroll ensures your employees receive their deserved earnings. It’s the meticulous calculation of an employee’s gross pay, including overtime and additional earnings. Unlike many other countries, Singapore employers have no withholding obligations. Rather, employers contribute to social security schemes, the Skill Development Levy (SDL), and the Foreign Workers Levy. Hence, there technically are no payroll taxes in Singapore.

What is payroll?

A reliable and responsive payroll process can foster a trusting employer-employee relationship while safeguarding the company from potential legal penalties for taxes and wages. Osome's comprehensive accounting services are designed to optimise your payroll processes. Let us handle everything from calculating your employee's gross pay to managing deductions so you can focus on growing your business.

The Payroll Process Decoded

Payroll is the process that ensures prompt, accurate payment for your employees according to their total hours worked following predetermined pay periods. To calculate your employees' gross pay, time their standard work hours by hourly rate. The overtime pay is calculated by multiplying overtime hours with the overtime rate.

Once paid, your employees are responsible for filing annual income taxes and reporting voluntary deductions and other deductions they may qualify for. For example, any expenses created solely to generate employment income may be deductible at the end of the year.

Record hours worked

Precise time-tracking can significantly impact payroll processing and your employee's wages. Modern payroll services have timekeeping features that meticulously monitor standard and overtime hours worked, absences, and leave balances for the pay period, transforming timesheets from paper trails to legally binding documents of utmost importance.

Calculate your employee's gross pay

The next act requires a deft hand and an analytical mind, which involves transforming gross pay into the net amount employees take home. This transformation is achieved by subtracting pretax deductions, payroll taxes, and voluntary contributions from the employee’s gross earnings.

The payroll maestro should meticulously navigate these deductions, confirming the correct amounts are withheld, and the employee’s salary accurately reflects their entitlements.

Run payroll

With calculations complete, the final act of the payroll process takes centre stage: the distribution of payments. In the digital age, many prefer direct deposit, which offers a swift and secure transfer of funds straight into employees’ bank accounts. Yet, issuing paper checks remains a stalwart alternative for those who relish tradition or require a physical record.

Simplify your payroll process

Struggling with payroll complexities? Our expert payroll services in Singapore ensure accurate, timely, and compliant payroll management, freeing you to focus on your business growth.

Simplify your payroll process

Key Payroll Legislation Impacting Businesses

Diving into the sea of payroll legislation, we find the Employment Act of Singapore, which, since 1968, has been the compass guiding businesses in these waters. This Act mandates that salaries must be paid promptly, no later than seven days after the end of the salary period, and sets the standard for minimum employee entitlements. The sentinel also ensures employees’ rights to annual, maternity, and childcare leave are upheld, though it does not impose mandatory health insurance.

Misclassifying employees, particularly foreign employees in senior positions, can incite legal complications, highlighting the need for precise employee classification and up-to-date knowledge of legislative changes.

Payroll taxes are a type of federal taxes used to fund Social Security and other benefits. This is referred to as the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) in the US and the National Insurance Contributions Act in the UK. Meanwhile, the Singapore payroll tax works sligthly differently.

In Singapore, the Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions is one of the few witholding obligations an employer has, with special rules for different income brackets that must be adhered to diligently. Your employees can also make voluntary deductions that top up their CPF contribution on their end.

Payroll Systems and Solutions for Efficiency

In a bid for efficiency, businesses must choose between manual and automated payroll systems, offering distinct advantages. While affordable and easy to implement, manual methods can be burdensome and prone to errors, especially as a business grows. On the other end of the spectrum, automated payroll solutions offer a streamlined approach that saves time and reduces the margin for error.

Payroll systems and solutions for efficiency

Manual vs. automated payroll solutions

The contrast between manual and automated payroll solutions is clear; while manual methods offer control and immediacy in data handling, automated solutions elevate efficiency. Automated solutions bring their prowess in integrating time-tracking systems and automating complex tax calculations and deductions to the table, thus sparing businesses the headache of manual errors and aligning payroll activities with broader HR functions.

With features like customisable reporting and analytics, automated payroll systems save time and provide valuable insights into payroll trends, which can be crucial for strategic decision-making.

Integration with accounting software

The harmonious integration of payroll systems with accounting software offers several benefits for businesses, including:

  • Centralised financial management
  • A holistic view of the company’s financial health
  • Facilitating critical analyses
  • Aiding in strategic planning

Looking ahead, businesses anticipate payroll technologies to:

  • Offer greater flexibility and scalability
  • Synchronise effortlessly with diverse business functions, including human resources and global payroll tools
  • Mitigate compliance risks tied to international payments.

Payroll Taxes for Small Business Owners: Pre-Tax Deductions and Post-Tax Deductions

Small businesses can significantly benefit from a trusted payroll service. Sole proprietors must file everything as their income tax and, therefore, make voluntary deductions for what would have traditionally been the employee's contribution. You don't have a fixed pay period. Instead, you're paid when your business gets paid.

If a small business functions as a corporation, you can put yourself onto the monthly payroll. You will need to set a pay period and are responsible for processing payroll according to the schedule. In this case, your company, the corporation, pays the CPF contributions and any other pre-tax deductions, whereas you, the "employee," file your wages on your annual return.

If you need help with small business payroll, talk to Osome's accounting experts. We can help you manage payroll, adjust pay periods, help you pay your necessary taxes, and keep your money in order.

Payroll Taxes for Foreign Employers: Tax Clearance Requirements

Foreign employees in Singapore must go through payroll tax clearance before leaving the country for an extended period or permanently. This process is also known as IR21, and is only waived if a company will be back in Singapore within six months of its leave.

Upon completing IR21, companies will receive a Directive to Pay Tax. You must pay the amount of money stated within 10 days from the date of the Directive. If that sounds like too much work, most payroll services can handle the clearance for you.

Payroll Services for Business Growth

Outsourcing payroll services strategically is like handing over your ship’s wheel to an experienced captain, enabling the business to steer towards growth while expertly managing payroll duties. By outsourcing payroll services, businesses can focus on their core competencies and drive their growth agenda. Small businesses, medium businesses, and larger enterprises can all benefit from payroll service outsourcing.

Most payroll services will take care of the following tasks:

  • Handling payroll functions, such as tracking employee works and paying your employees on time based on pay periods
  • Ensuring direct deposits to employee bank accounts
  • Documenting employee information and work history.

Expert accountants on your side

Our local team of experts helps founders get their set-up, taxes and paperwork right from the start

Expert accountants on your side

Payroll Software: Transforming Payroll Management

Digital advancements have radically changed payroll management, with software leading this transformation. Automating routine payroll tasks boosts efficiency and simplifies the complex web of tax filings and payroll management, ensuring that the process is streamlined from start to finish.

With specific solutions catering to niche industries, businesses can enjoy tailor-made features that seamlessly integrate employee data, automate processes, and enhance cybersecurity to protect sensitive information.

Features that simplify running your own payroll

The allure of running your own payroll becomes irresistible when payroll software enters the picture, boasting features that drastically cut down on administration time. Accurate calculations of wages, taxes, and benefits are the bedrock of these systems, ensuring compliance with tax laws and fostering employee empowerment through self-service tools.

For businesses in the restaurant industry, integrated time tracking is particularly beneficial, offering precise management of shift-based work hours and helping owners keep their fingers on the pulse of their operations.

Selecting the right payroll software for your business

Choosing the appropriate software is strategically crucial, requiring careful evaluation of the business’s unique needs and financial limitations. From cloud-based solutions to enterprise resource planning systems with payroll modules, the options are plentiful, each with its own set of features and price points.

Factors to consider when choosing software for your business include:

  • Customer support
  • Software reputation
  • User experience
  • Integration capabilities

It is wise to heed recommendations and to test the software through free trials, ensuring it aligns with the business’s requirements before committing.

Employee Benefits and Payroll: Flexible Spending Account and Life Insurance Plans

When managed through a proficient payroll system, employee benefits can yield significant financial gains for staff. Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) exemplify this by allowing employees to allocate pre-tax funds towards eligible health-related expenses. By using these funds to pay for medical costs not covered by insurance, employees can effectively reduce their taxable income, reaping financial benefits while the payroll system seamlessly manages the contributions.

Child Maintenance Account

Anyboyd with child support duty must pay into the Child Maintenance Account on time and in full. The amount of money you need to pay is calculated by the court, often based on costs for accommodation, food, clothing, medical bills, and education. If you have child support obligations, you can make your contributions in the form of voluntary deductions. This takes a chunk out of your paycheck each pay period and saves you the hassle of having to make separate payments.

Training Grants

Need to pay for advanced skill training? Singapore government offers training grants based on 50% of one's average income over the latest available 12-month period, up to $3,000 a month for up to 24 months throughout a single employee's lifetime. The grant, or allowance, is not tax deductile. However, accommodations, travel, and food expensese incurred during the training may be deductible depending on the actual circumstances.

Employee benefits and payroll

Best Practices for Payroll Record Keeping

Maintaining comprehensive and accurate payroll records forms the foundation of financial reporting and tax submissions. These records, encompassing personal details, employment terms, and payment history, must be meticulously organised and readily accessible. Additionally, the legal mandate in Singapore for issuing itemised payslips reinforces the necessity for precision in payroll record-keeping, ensuring transparency and compliance.

Avoiding Common Payroll Pitfalls

The payroll journey is riddled with potential pitfalls like miscalculations and missed deadlines, each capable of undermining employee trust and triggering financial penalties. Ensuring the accuracy of payroll calculations is vital, as errors can lead to a domino effect of financial and administrative corrections. Ensuring paying your employees ontime is equally important, as that can at least damage your employer-employee relationship and at most lead to severe law suit and legal disputes.

Timeliness is equally critical, with missed deadlines potentially leading to fees and employee dissatisfaction. Adopting robust payroll software with time tracking can alleviate these risks, preventing inaccuracies and preserving the integrity of the payroll process.

Payroll Trends and Innovations To Watch

Many emerging payroll trends and innovations have been reshaping this essential business function. Many now pay their employees with payroll services integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies to automate manual tasks, enhancing efficiency and accuracy.

These solutions are not only keeping pace but are evolving to accommodate the shifting landscapes of remote and hybrid workplaces, ensuring that payroll systems remain nimble and responsive to the changing needs of the workforce.


Running payroll in Singapore is requires accuracy, compliance, and strategic foresight. From the meticulous calculations of gross to net pay to the evolving landscape of payroll technology, most businesses must navigate a complex ecosystem. And that's when payroll services come in.

Trustworthy payroll services ensure your payroll work is done right and your employee receives well-deserved pay on time. You will also find several useful tools in this payroll guide related to how business owners get paid. In conclusion, payroll can become a smooth, efficient process with the right tools and an understanding of the legislative framework.

If you are looking for payroll services to help you handle payroll taxes, paying employees, and other variables in the process, Osome provides various options that help you with taxes, bookkeeping, general accounting, and paying your employees.

Author Gabi Bellairs-Lombard
Gabi Bellairs-LombardBusiness Writer

Gabi's passionate about creating content that inspires. Her work history lies in writing compelling website copy and content, and now specialises in product marketing copy. When writing content, Gabi's priority is ensuring that the words impact the readers. As the voice of Osome's products and features, Gabi makes complex business finance and accounting topics easy to understand for small business owners.

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  • What is the significance of the Employment Act in the payroll process?

    The Employment Act is significant in the payroll process as it establishes the standards for payment, employee entitlements, and the rights and obligations of both employers and employees, ensuring compliance with legal requirements.

  • How much do I need to contribute to the social security schemes in Singapore?

    The current contribution level to the Central Provident Fund (CPF), Singapore's social security scheme, is 17%. While there is no payroll tax withholding obligations for Singapore companies, the CPF contribution is mandatory.

  • Why is it important for a business to keep accurate payroll processing records?

    Accurate record-keeping is essential in payroll processing because it facilitates financial reporting, tax submissions, and compliance with regulations while also providing a reliable system for recording and accessing employee compensation information.

  • Does Singapore have a payroll tax holiday?

    Since the traditional payroll taxes do not exist in Singapore, neither do payroll tax holidays. These are specific days assigned to provide a payroll tax cut, leading to a lesser withholding amount from the employer to the federal government. As a result, employees take more money home. This is not the case with Singapore payrolls. You always pay your employees the wages they've earned through working, and the employees are responsible in filing annual returns and reporting any additional deductions.

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