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An All-Inclusive Guide to the Singapore Companies Act

An All-Inclusive Guide to the Singapore Companies Act

There is no doubt that the complexities of the Singapore Companies Act (CA) can seem daunting; its extensive coverage and detailed provisions mean that it has almost all-encompassing effects on a business’s operations. Understanding the full scope of this legislation, let alone the specifics relevant to any one business, poses challenges.

Thankfully, by the end of this guide, you will understand how the Singapore Companies Act directly concerns your business and how to ensure full compliance with its regulations. This knowledge is crucial for both new entrepreneurs and established businesses aiming to strengthen their operational foundations in Singapore’s economy.

Understand the Companies Act With Expert Help

Overview of the Companies Act of Singapore

The Singapore Companies Act, first established in 1967, serves as the cornerstone of corporate governance and compliance in Singapore. It is an extensive piece of legislation covering a business’s full lifecycle — from incorporation to dissolution — guiding local companies and foreign entities with operations in Singapore.

Key Components

The Companies Act outlines a comprehensive framework for:

  • Incorporation and Powers: It sets the legal groundwork for the formation of companies and details their legal capacities.
  • Regulation of Shares, Debentures, and Charges: This includes the management and duties associated with shares and securities.
  • Duties of Company Directors and Officers: The Companies Act specifies the responsibilities and ethical standards expected of company directors and key managerial personnel.
  • Regulation of Accounts and Audits: It mandates the financial reporting requirements and auditing standards that companies must adhere to.
  • Schemes of Arrangement, Reconstructions, and Amalgamations: These provisions help businesses restructure in compliance with legal requirements.
  • Receivers and Managers: The Companies Act governs the roles and intervention triggers for receivers and managers in cases of company distress.
  • Judicial Management and Winding-Up Provisions: These are critical during insolvency proceedings, ensuring that they are conducted in a fair and orderly manner.
  • Local and Foreign Investments: It outlines the implications and regulations surrounding both local and overseas investments by Singaporean companies.
  • Corporate Criminal Offences: The Companies Act specifies the legal consequences for corporate misdemeanours and non-compliance.

Applicability of the Singapore Companies Act

The Singapore Companies Act applies to a broad range of business entities, both local and foreign, that engage in commercial activities within Singapore’s jurisdiction.

Types of Entities Covered

  • Private and Public Companies: The Act applies to all companies incorporated in Singapore, whether publicly listed or privately held.
  • Foreign Companies: Foreign entities with a branch or presence in Singapore must also adhere to the Singapore Companies Act.

This coverage under the Singapore Companies Act ensures that all business entities operating in Singapore maintain a standard of governance that aligns with international best practices. This protects the interests of shareholders and stakeholders and enhances Singapore’s well-known reputation as a stable and reliable business hub.

Main Regulations and Compliance for the Singapore Companies Act

Roles and Responsibilities of a Singapore Company Director

Directors are tasked with the general management of the company, guiding its strategic direction and ensuring lawful and ethical operation. Directors’ responsibilities under the Companies Act include:

  • Conflict of Interest: Directors must disclose any personal interest that might conflict with their duties.
  • Duty of Care: Directors must act with a reasonable degree of care, skill, and diligence.
  • Fiduciary Duties: Directors should act in the best interests of the company, avoiding any exploitation of their position or misuse of company information.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Corporate Secretary

The corporate secretary plays a pivotal role in maintaining the company’s compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements. Key responsibilities include:

  • Statutory Compliance: Ensuring adherence to obligations set out by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).
  • Liaison Between Stakeholders: This involves acting as a mediator between the company’s shareholders and directors for communication and compliance.

A corporate secretary must be appointed within six months of company incorporation and is crucial for the smooth functioning of the company’s governance structures.

Related Read: A Company Secretary Represents a Key Role in Any Business. This is Why

Under the Singapore Companies Act, shareholders of a company are granted several rights to ensure their interests are protected and to provide them with a voice in company matters. These rights include:

  • Right to Vote: Shareholders can vote on key company decisions during general meetings.
  • Right to Dividends: Where relevant, shareholders are entitled to receive a share of the company’s profits as dividends, which are declared by the board and approved at a general meeting.
  • Right to Fair Treatment: The Companies Act ensures that all shareholders are treated equitably.
  • Right to Call and Attend Meetings: Shareholders can convene and attend general meetings to discuss company affairs.
  • Right to Assets on Winding Up: In the event of company liquidation, shareholders have rights to a proportionate share of the residual assets.

Legal Consequences for Non-Compliance of Singapore CA

Non-compliance with the Singapore Companies Act can lead to various legal consequences, ranging from financial penalties to more severe actions, depending on the severity and nature of the offence. ACRA strictly enforces these regulations to maintain corporate governance standards.

Here are some of the most common offences for the Companies Act, and the specific penalties (where stated), according to ACRA:

  • Failure to have a Registered Office Address (Section 142(2)): Companies must have a registered office in Singapore that is accessible to the public for at least 3 hours on business days.
  • Failure to Notify Changes in Registered Office Address and Office Hours (Section 143(2)): Companies must notify any changes to their registered office address or business hours within 14 days.
  • Failure to Publish Company’s Name and Registration Number (Section 144(1A)): It is mandatory for companies to include their name and registration number on all business documents.
  • Requirement to have at least one ordinarily resident director in Singapore (Section 145(1)): Every company must have at least one director who is an ordinary resident of Singapore.
  • Bankruptcy-related Disqualification to Act as Director (Section 148(1)): Undischarged bankrupt individuals are prohibited from managing companies unless permitted by the court or with written permission from the Official Assignee. Violations can result in a fine of up to S$10,000 or imprisonment for a term of up to 2 years, or both.
  • Persistent Default in Relation to Delivery of Documents to Registrar (Section 155(1)): This includes repeated failures in fulfilling statutory filing requirements. The penalty for persistent default can include fines up to S$10,000, imprisonment for up to 2 years, or both.
  • Failure to Notify the Registrar of Changes in the Register of Directors, Managers, Secretaries, and Auditors (Section 173A(1)): Companies are required to notify any changes concerning these officers within 14 days. Non-compliance can attract a fine of S$5,000.

Conducting Company Meetings

The Singapore CA stipulates requirements for two main types of company meetings:

  • Annual General Meeting (AGM): AGMs must be held to address the company’s statutory requirements, such as the approval of financial statements. However, private companies can be exempt from holding AGMs if they send their financial statements to members within five months of the end of the fiscal year.
  • Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM): EGMs are convened to address urgent matters occurring between regular AGMs. The company’s Articles of Association should outline the procedures for calling and conducting EGMs.

Recent Amendments to the Singapore Companies Act and Their Impact

In 2017, the Singapore Companies Act underwent significant revisions to increase transparency around the ownership and control of businesses, alleviate the regulatory load on smaller entities, enhance business operations, and refine processes related to debt restructuring. Here’s a breakdown of the major changes:

Adjusted Obligations for Company Secretaries

Recent legislative changes have relaxed the stipulations for company secretaries. Now, there is no requirement for company secretaries to be present physically at the business’s registered office address. This offers the possibility of outsourcing company secretarial duties for more flexibility in managing administrative duties.

Streamlined Audit Requirements for Smaller Enterprises

Smaller companies can now benefit from an exemption from mandatory audits if they meet two of the following conditions consecutively for two years:

  • Annual revenue does not exceed S$10 million.
  • Assets remain under S$10 million throughout the fiscal year.
  • They employ 50 or fewer individuals.

Revised Filing Deadlines for Annual Returns

The deadlines for submitting annual returns have been restructured:

  • Public companies are required to file their returns within four months after their fiscal year ends.
  • Non-public entities have a five-month window post-fiscal year-end to file their returns.

Where to Next With InCorp

Singapore is renowned for its vibrant business environment, offering almost countless entrepreneurial opportunities. However, to maintain this environment of abundance, the city-state maintains stringent compliance regulations under the Singapore CA to ensure transparency and fair operations.

At InCorp, we specialise in helping businesses understand and adhere to these requirements effectively. By partnering with us, you secure expert guidance to manage regulatory demands efficiently, allowing you to focus on growing your business in Asia’s fast-growing market. Reach out to InCorp today and make the most of Singapore’s entrepreneurial landscape with confidence.

FAQs About Singapore Companies Act

  • A Singapore company must file its annual returns within four months after the fiscal year-end for public companies and within five months for private companies, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Shareholders in Singapore enjoy rights including voting on company matters, receiving dividends, fair treatment, participation in general meetings, and claims on assets upon company dissolution.
  • A corporate secretary ensures that a company meets all statutory and regulatory requirements, acting as a crucial link between shareholders, directors, and regulatory bodies.

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About the Author

Sharon Lim

Sharon heads a team of professionals to offer compliance, governance, and regulatory advisory at InCorp. As a qualified Practicing Chartered Secretary, she has more than 25 years of valuable experience as a company secretary for private and publicly listed companies across a multitude of sectors. Her extensive background includes assisting a diverse range of clients from various industries and backgrounds.

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