Hiring Independent Contractors in Singapore : A Step-by-Step Guide

night view of Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

portrait of Kurt Von Moos
By Kurt Van Moos, Executive Director, Client Solutions, GoGlobal  

Hiring independent contractors offers businesses the flexibility to tap into specialized skills for specific projects without the commitment of full-time employment. In Singapore, a global business hub known for its talent pool and supportive environment, engaging independent contractors can be a strategic move.  

This guide explores the intricacies of hiring independent contractors in Singapore, covering the steps for setting up a sole proprietorship, legal considerations, thriving industries, crucial insights into personal income tax and special guidelines for foreigners.  

What is an independent contractor? 

Independent contractors are self-employed professionals who provide services to companies on a contract basis. They offer specialized skills for specific projects, maintaining flexibility and autonomy in their work. 

Independent contractors notably have more control over how they perform their work, including the tools and methods they use. They also enjoy the freedom to work with multiple clients simultaneously. They are responsible for managing their own business operations, such as setting their rates, determining their work hours and handling their taxes and other financial matters. 

Why do companies often engage independent contractors in Singapore? 

Using independent contractors allows businesses to access expert skills without the commitment of permanent employment. Singapore is a top choice for hiring independent contractors because of its vibrant business landscape, strategic location, access to talent and government support. The city-state serves as a key hub for talent and knowledge, providing companies with high-quality contractors for regional projects. 

Setting up a sole proprietorship in Singapore 

For independent contractors, establishing a sole proprietorship is a common and legally compliant way to operate. It provides them with full control over business operations, decision-making and financial matters. 

The following are key steps an independent contractor must take for setting up a  sole proprietorship in Singapore:

1. Register Business Name  Select a unique business name that adheres to trademark and uniqueness criteria. 
2. Establish Business Address  Provide a local Singapore address for the business location. 
3. Business Registration  Prepare and submit required documents to ACRA, including personal details and business information. 
4. Obtain Business Licenses   Verify whether specific licenses or permits are required for the chosen industry. 

Key legal and regulatory considerations 

While establishing a sole proprietorship grants independent contractors full control over their business operations, it also comes with personal liability for any debts or losses incurred. Understanding the legal and regulatory landscape of setting up a sole proprietorship in Singapore is vital.

Here are several crucial aspects that demand attention:  

Contracts and Agreements  Clear contracts define expectations, project scope and payment terms, minimizing disputes. Expert assistance in crafting compliant contracts is available through GoGlobal. 
Intellectual Property Rights  Properly addressing ownership and usage rights of intellectual property in contracts helps prevent potential disputes between contractors and clients. 
Data Protection  Adherence to Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) is essential when handling personal data of clients or individuals. 
Tax Compliance  Independent contractors are responsible for managing their own tax affairs, filing personal income tax returns and registering for GST if applicable. 

Thriving industries and sectors using independent contractors

Singapore’s diverse economy offers opportunities for Independent Contractors across various industries and sectors. While independent contracting is prevalent in several fields, here are some industries and sectors that exhibit higher demand for engaging independent contractors:

Industry/Sector  Description 
Information Technology (IT)  Independent IT contractors are in high demand due to the technology-driven nature of businesses, offering skills in software development, cybersecurity and IT consulting. 
Creative Services  Industries like graphic design, copywriting and content creation rely heavily on independent contractors. 
Consulting  Independent consultants provide specialized expertise in fields like management, finance and HR. 
Marketing and Digital Marketing  Marketing contractors contribute to branding, advertising and digital marketing efforts, with skills in social media, content and SEO. 

Understanding taxation for independent contractors in Singapore 

For independent contractors in Singapore, understanding tax obligations is crucial for compliance and avoiding any issues with the tax authorities. In this section, we will cover the key considerations for independent contractors in Singapore when it comes to taxation. 

Personal Income Tax Rates and Deductions: Singapore’s progressive tax rate system imposes varying tax rates based on income levels.  

  • 0% for the first S$20,000 of chargeable income
  • 2% for the next S$10,000  
  • 3.5% for the next S$10,000  
  • 7% for the next S$40,000  
  • 11.5% for the next S$40,000  
  • 15% for the next S$40,000  
  • 18% for the next S$40,000  
  • 19% for any amount above S$320,000  

Deductible expenses and reliefs can reduce taxable income. This may include business-related costs, professional fees and contributions to approved pension and provident funds. Personal reliefs, such as the Earned Income Relief, Parent/Handicapped Parent Relief and Course Fees Relief, can further reduce taxable income. 

Goods and Services Tax (GST): If the independent contractor’s annual turnover from taxable supplies exceeds the GST threshold (currently set at S$1 million), GST registration will be required. GST registration requires charging GST at the prevailing rate (currently 9%) on taxable supplies and submitting regular GST returns to the tax authorities. 

Tax Filing and Payment: Independent contractors are required to file their tax returns by the stipulated deadline, usually on or before April 15th of the following year. Taxes can be paid online through the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) website or via various payment methods. 

Special guidelines for foreigners 

For foreign citizens, registering a sole proprietorship in Singapore is still possible. It requires appointing an authorized representative who is a legal resident in the country. This representative can be either a Singapore citizen, a permanent resident, or a holder of an EntrePass.  

Additionally, as a foreigner, it is essential to obtain approval from the Ministry of Manpower. The application process is accessible to individuals with a SingPass, and it can be completed through the BizFile+ website. 

Looking ahead: stay informed 

Hiring independent contractors in Singapore provides a gateway to a world of opportunities but understanding the legal, regulatory and tax aspects is required to navigate the process with confidence. Ensuring clear contracts, protecting intellectual property rights and complying with data protection regulations safeguard the interests and reputation of both the company and the independent contractors.  

As the business environment evolves, companies and contractors should stay informed about changes in taxation and seek professional advice to optimize financial planning when engaging independent contractors.

Check out GoGlobal’s Independent Contractor Services (ICS) or contact us for expert guidance in hiring and managing independent contractors in Singapore, ensuring seamless compliance and efficient contract management.