Singapore Branch vs Subsidiary vs Representative Office

A foreign company planning to setup an office in Singapore has three options: 1) Branch Office; 2) Subsidiary Company; or 3) Representative Office. This article compares these three type of entities to help a foreign company decide the best option for their particular needs.

You may also want to refer to the related guide foreign company options in Singapore.

A key point to note is that a representative office is not allowed to engage in any business activity except market research and liaisoning activities. Two of the ways in which a foreign company may carry on business in Singapore are by registering a branch office or by incorporating a limited liability company (i.e. subsidiary company) in Singapore.

Singapore Branch Singapore Subsidiary Singapore Representative Office
Legal Type: Not a separate legal entity but an extention of the parent company Separate legal entity  distinct from its parent company Has no legal status but just a temporary administrative arrangement
Liabilities: Liabilities extend to parent company Liabilities limited to subsidiary Liabilities extend to parent company
Entity Name: Must be the same as the parent company Can be the same or different from parent company Must be the same as parent company plus must include ‘Representative Office’
Allowed Activities: Must be the same as the parent company Can be the same or different from parent company Can only conduct  market research or feasibility studies
Validity Period: Registered forever until closed Registered forever until closed Has to be renewed every year with a 3 year maximum
Normal Registration Time: 1-2 days 1-2 days 3-5 days
Taxation: Taxed as non-resident entity, local tax benefits not available Taxed as Singapore resident entity, local tax benefits available N/A as Rep Office cannot generate income
Annual Filing: Must file branch office as well as parent company’s accounts Must file accounts of the Singapore subsidiary N/A
Bank Account: Can open bank account in Singapore Can open bank account in Singapore Can open bank account in Singapore to run the cost centre operations. Must be funded by the parent company.
Staff Hiring: No restrictions on hiring local or foreign staff No restrictions on hiring local or foreign staff Chief representative must be a staff member from the parent company. Can have only five employees.
Appointment of Officers: Must appoint at least one local authorised representative Must appoint at least one local resident director Must appoint a Chief Representative who will relocate from headquarters

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