Singapore Branch vs Subsidiary vs Representative Office

A foreign company planning to setup an office or expand their business in Singapore has several options that they may consider for their company structure. This article compares the three types of business entity to help a foreign company decide the best structure that is most suited to their particular needs.

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 ways in which a foreign company may conduct business in Singapore are by registering a branch office or setting up a limited liability company (i.e. subsidiary company).

Singapore Branch Office Singapore Subsidiary Company Singapore Representative Office
Legal Type: Not a separate legal entity but an extension of the parent company Separate legal entity distinct from its parent company Has no legal status, a temporary administrative arrangement
Liabilities: Liabilities incurred by the branch office extend to parent company  Parent company can limit  liabilities to subsidiary  Liabilities incurred by the representative office extend to parent company 
Entity Name: Must be the same name as the parent company and sign contracts under the parent company name  Can be the same or different from parent company Must be the same as parent company plus must include ‘Representative Office’
Allowed Activities: Limited to the same range of activities as the parent company  Can be the same or different from parent company Can only conduct market research or feasibility studies. Not allowed to conduct business activities that yield profit. 
Validity Period: Registered forever until closed Registered forever until closed Has to be renewed every year up to a maximum of 3 years. RO status is evaluated and renewed yearly. 
Normal Registration Time: 1-2 days 1-2 days 3-5 days
Taxation: Taxed a flat corporate tax rate of 17% as non-resident entity, local tax benefits and exemption not available  Taxed a flat corporate tax rate of 17%  as Singapore resident entity, local tax benefits available  Not applicable as representative office cannot generate income
Annual Filing: Must file branch office as well as parent company’s accounts Must file accounts of the Singapore subsidiary Not applicable
Bank Account: Can open a new corporate bank account in Singapore or use the same as the parent company  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

 You may also wish to refer to the related guide foreign company options in Singapore for more information.

Need guidance on the business entity type most suitable for your business?

Let our experts guide you.

contact us

Company Registration

Hawksford is a leading provider of company formation and administration services for companies of all sizes in Singapore. To support businesses in Singapore, we offer customized company formation solutions designed exclusively to meet the needs of Foreign Entrepreneurs, Foreign Companies and Singapore Residents.

Why outsource to Hawksford?

  • Extensive and intricate business expansion knowledge 
  • Multilingual capabilities covering 20 nationalities and speaking 22 languages
  • Local regulatory and technical compliance knowledge  
  • State of the art technology and security.