A Pocket Guide to Understanding Tax Regulations for E-commerce Businesses in Singapore

5 minute read

The rapid growth of e-commerce in Singapore has transformed the way businesses operate, allowing them to reach global markets with ease. However, with the convenience of cross-border transactions comes the responsibility of understanding and complying with tax regulations.

If you run an e-commerce business in Singapore, you should know the tax rules and requirements for your field. This detailed guide to e-commerce tax in Singapore will help you stay compliant and reduce risk. We will delve into the tax obligations that e-commerce businesses in Singapore need to be aware of, including registration requirements, tax residency, and applicable taxes such as Goods and Services Tax (GST), Corporate Income Tax, and Withholding Tax. We will also address common compliance pitfalls and emphasise the importance of seeking professional advice for international tax matters.


Understanding Tax Obligations for E-Commerce Businesses:

1. Registration Requirements for E-commerce Businesses:

Before commencing operations in Singapore, e-commerce businesses must adhere to the following registration requirements:

– Business Registration: All e-commerce businesses operating in Singapore are required to register with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). This registration process ensures that your business is legally recognised and compliant with the country’s laws.

– Goods and Services Tax (GST) Registration: As an e-commerce business, you may be required to register for GST, depending on your taxable turnover. If your annual turnover exceeds or is expected to exceed SGD 1 million, you must register for GST. For businesses with turnover below the threshold, voluntary registration is also an option to claim input tax credits on business expenses.

Requirements for Incorporating an E-commerce Business in Singapore (infographic copy)

  • Distinctive Brand Name
  • Singaporean Address for Official Use
  • Partners, Stockholders, and Board Members’ Bios
  • Account of Company’s Operations
  • Paid-in-full Funding for the Business
  • Valid Photo Identification of all the Shareholders
  • One Resident Director and Shareholder is a must
  • Appointment of Auditors

Registering your Singapore-based company is a crucial step once you’ve decided on a business structure and gathered the necessary paperwork. For online businesses, registration is the most essential. With no room for error, you should very carefully register your business. Singapore’s BNRA Section 5 is particularly important for business owners, providing valuable insights into the Singaporean market. 

Approval of a Company Name:

Ensure your business name is unique and not similar to others. Avoid using offensive language. Once you have a distinctive name, it can be approved within hours. You’ll have 120 days from approval to officially register the name, provided no other business is using it.

Keep in mind that registering your company in Singapore is a significant step, regardless of its online nature. Following the registration process diligently will set your business on a solid legal footing in the dynamic Singaporean market.

2. Determining Tax Residency and Implications:

– Tax Residency Criteria: The tax residency of your e-commerce business is determined based on factors like the place of incorporation, management control, and the location of central management and control. Understanding these criteria is essential to determine your Singapore e-commerce tax.

– Tax Residency Implications: If your business is considered tax-resident in Singapore, you will be subject to Singapore’s territorial-based tax system. This means that you will only be taxed on income earned in Singapore and certain foreign-sourced income received in Singapore.

Generally, income derived from outside Singapore is taxable in Singapore when remitted to and received in Singapore. Where the foreign income arises from a trade or business carried on in Singapore, it is taxable in Singapore upon accrual, regardless of whether it is received in Singapore. However, certain foreign-sourced incomes can be exempted from taxation upon satisfying the criteria.

Types of E-commerce Business Taxes in Singapore

1. Goods and Services Tax (GST):

The Goods and Services Tax (GST), commonly known as Value-Added Tax (VAT), is a sales tax collected on goods and services in Singapore. If you sell goods or provide services in Singapore, you may be required to sign up for GST and charge your users this tax.

GST registration requirements for E-commerce businesses

Companies in Singapore are legally required to register for GST if they have taxable turnover (GST-relevant revenue) over a S$1 million. Other businesses that don’t meet the revenue level may voluntarily register for GST if they so choose. All GST-registered businesses must collect GST and submit quarterly GST returns. 

Mandatory Registration 

Businesses must get GST registration and start collecting the tax if and only if:

At any point in time, if you anticipate your taxable sales to be over S$1 million, you must register for GST within 30 days from the date of your forecast. 

Voluntary Registration

Companies with a taxable annual turnover of less than S$1 million are not obliged to register for GST but can choose to do so. 

There are some considerations for voluntary GST registration:

  • Remain GST-registered for at least 2 years
  • Maintain a GIRO account for payment and refund of GST
  • Make taxable supplies within 2 years
  • Comply fully with the responsibilities of a GST-registered business.

Directors will also need to take two online courses: Registering for GST and Overview of GST, unless one of the following applies:

  • The CEO is seasoned in the management of GST-compliant companies.
  • An Accredited Tax Adviser (ATA) or Accredited Tax Practitioner (ATP) is responsible for filing GST returns for a business.
  • The individual responsible for preparing GST returns has finished the three online learning courses within the last two years.

 E-commerce GST Collection and Compliance Obligations: As an e-commerce business, you are required to charge GST on taxable supplies made to your customers. Understanding your responsibilities for GST compliance is vital to avoid penalties and ensure accurate reporting.

– Importing and Exporting Goods and the Impact on GST: If your e-commerce business involves importing or exporting goods, you need to consider the impact of GST on cross-border transactions. GST may be applicable to imported goods at the point of import, while exported goods are typically zero-rated, allowing for a GST refund on related expenses. 

Say goodbye to GST registration headaches and never miss a filing deadline again. Let Sleek take care of it all for you.

2. Corporate Income Tax:

Corporate Income Tax is levied on the income of companies incorporated in Singapore. For e-commerce businesses, the following aspects are essential to consider:

– Determining Tax Residency for Corporate Income Tax: Understanding the criteria used to determine the tax residency of your e-commerce business is crucial for accurate tax assessment. A tax-resident company is taxed on its worldwide income, while a non-resident company is taxed only on income derived from Singapore.

For e-commerce tax purposes, a company is considered a tax resident of Singapore if its control and management activities are conducted in Singapore. Individuals are considered tax residents if they meet any of the following criteria:

  • Singapore citizenship.
  • Singapore permanent residency.

– Tax Rates and Exemptions for E-commerce Businesses: Singapore’s corporate tax rates are competitive, and certain tax exemptions are available for qualifying startups and small businesses. The headline corporate tax rate is 17%, but startups may enjoy tax exemptions on the first three years of taxable income.

Since e-commerce transactions are digital and cross-border by definition, determining whether or not they are liable to Singapore taxes necessitates considering some elements.

  • The taxpayer’s residency
  • Income earned in or sourced from Singapore is subject to taxation
  • Income received in Singapore from outside Singapore is subject to taxation
  • Various elements help determine the taxation base, including
    • Place of contract
    • Origin of investment funds.
    • Location of workers, factories, warehouses, sales, receipts, and payments

– Deductible Expenses and Tax Incentives for E-commerce Businesses: Knowing the expenses you can deduct and the tax incentives available can significantly impact your taxable income. Common deductible expenses include employee salaries, rental costs, and business-related expenses.

Companies operating multiple online stores but not headquartered in Singapore may be liable for taxes in more than one country. Singapore’s extensive network of tax treaties can help avoid double taxation.

3. Withholding Tax:

Tax treaties between countries can affect withholding tax rates and applicability. Compliance, proper documentation, and obtaining necessary vendor information are crucial for managing withholding e-commerce tax. 

– Understanding Withholding Tax and Its Relevance to E-commerce: Withholding tax applies to payments such as royalties, interest, and services made to non-resident entities. As an e-commerce business, you may encounter withholding tax obligations when making such payments to overseas vendors or service providers.

Here are several common types of payments that are subject to withholding tax in Singapore:

  • Payments related to loans or indebtedness
  • Payments for the use of movable property
  • Payments of management fees
  • Payments for the use of scientific, technical, industrial, or commercial knowledge or information

– Situations Where Withholding Tax May Apply to E-commerce Businesses: Identifying scenarios where you need to withhold tax on payments to non-resident entities is essential for compliance. For example, if you engage an overseas company to provide services to your e-commerce platform, you may need to withhold tax on the payment made to them.

– Rates and Exemptions for Withholding Tax: The withholding tax rates vary depending on the nature of the payment and the recipient’s tax residency status. Some payments may be exempt from withholding tax under certain conditions, such as under Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAs).

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Compliance and Record-Keeping Obligations:

Effective record-keeping is the cornerstone of sound tax compliance. E-commerce businesses must maintain accurate records and adhere to periodic reporting and filing requirements to fulfil their tax obligations. Maintaining clear and organised financial records can also help businesses identify eligible deductions and avail of applicable tax incentives.

It is important to note that non-compliance with tax regulations can lead to severe penalties and reputational damage. As such, businesses should take their tax obligations seriously and seek professional advice when necessary to navigate complex tax matters and avoid costly mistakes.

International Tax Considerations for E-Commerce Businesses:

As e-commerce businesses often engage in cross-border transactions, understanding international tax considerations is crucial. In this section, we will explore the tax implications of cross-border e-commerce, Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAs), transfer pricing, and the significance of seeking professional advice for international tax matters.

1. Cross-border Transactions and Tax Implications:

E-commerce businesses that engage in cross-border transactions may face various tax implications, depending on the countries involved and the nature of the transactions. These implications can include issues related to income tax, GST, customs duties, and transfer pricing.

2. Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAs):

Singapore has DTAs with many countries to avoid double taxation on income received in these countries. These agreements establish each country’s taxation rights and may grant tax credits or exemptions. DTAs affect cross-border activity and tax obligations; therefore, evaluate them.

3. Transfer Pricing and Its Relevance to E-commerce Businesses:

Transfer pricing refers to the setting of prices for goods and services between related entities within the same multinational enterprise. For e-commerce businesses with cross-border operations, transfer pricing rules must be carefully considered to ensure compliance with arm’s length principles.

4. Digital services tax

Some countries have introduced specific taxes on digital services provided by foreign businesses. These taxes may apply to e-commerce transactions, digital advertising, or online platforms. Stay informed about any digital services tax regulations in the countries you operate in to ensure compliance and proper tax reporting.

5. Seeking Professional Advice for International Tax Matters:

Given the complexities of international tax regulations, seeking professional advice from tax experts is advisable for e-commerce businesses with cross-border operations. A tax advisor can help navigate the intricacies of international taxation, assess tax risks, and ensure compliance with relevant tax laws in different jurisdictions.

Supercharge your e-commerce success with Sleek’s reliable and expert financial assistance.  


Singaporean e-commerce enterprises must understand and follow tax laws to avoid issues and reduce risks. Your e-commerce business can get strong by meeting registration standards, such as having a unique brand name and a Singaporean address. You must also fulfil your GST obligations. Cross-border transactions need an understanding of withholding tax, compliance, and record-keeping. Awareness and knowledge on DTAs is crucial in making informed decisions when entering the foreign market.

Adherence to tax regulations is essential for the sustained growth and success of e-commerce businesses in Singapore. By staying informed about registration requirements, understanding the various taxes applicable, and maintaining meticulous records, e-commerce businesses can fulfil their tax obligations and foster a favourable business environment in the competitive world of online commerce.

It is better to shoulder this crucial burden with an expert like Sleek. Sleek provides specialised bookkeeping and accounting services to e-commerce firms. Our experienced accountants guarantee that your records are always up to date, taxes are handled correctly, and reports are submitted on time.

Sleek can provide dependable and expert financial help for your e-commerce firm. Looking for hassle-free GST registration & timely filing? Allow Sleek to do that for you.

Yes, let’s talk! 


Yes, even if your e-commerce business hasn't reached the mandatory threshold of SGD 1 million in taxable turnover, you can voluntarily register for GST to claim input tax credits on business expenses.

E-commerce startups may benefit from tax incentives such as the Start-up Tax Exemption (SUTE) and the Partial Tax Exemption (PTE), which can reduce their corporate tax liability. 

To ensure compliance with withholding tax obligations, consider seeking professional advice from tax experts who can guide you on the appropriate withholding tax rates, exemptions, and reporting requirements for payments made to non-resident entities.

The tax implications of cross-border transactions can vary based on factors such as the countries involved, the nature of the transactions, and any relevant tax treaties. It is advisable to consult with tax experts to assess the specific tax implications of your cross-border operations.

Well, it depends.

  • If your e-commerce business exceeds S$1 million in taxable turnover yearly, you must register for GST.
  • Goods sold through the Internet and delivered locally are subject to 8% GST, and prices displayed online must include GST.
  • Exported goods are considered zero-rated items and you do not need to charge GST, but appropriate documentation is required for verification.
  • For overseas customers purchasing goods from your website, it is out of the scope of GST and GST does not need to be charged if the delivery is outside of Singapore.
  • However, if an overseas business entity or customer purchases over S$400 worth of goods, you must register and pay GST in Singapore.

GST F5 tax returns must be submitted to IRAS quarterly.. IRAS must receive your GST return within one month after the end of your accounting quarter. Electronic filing with the myTax portal requires a CorpPass account. GST F5 figures must be in Singapore dollars. You must also disclose foreign currency receipts in e-transactions. See foreign currency transactions for information.

You can save money on taxes by implementing specific strategies.

  • Keep track of income and expenses to calculate the e-commerce business taxes owed
  • Take advantage of e-commerce business tax deductions and allowances for expenses like internet access, web hosting, and advertising costs

Benefit from e-commerce GST exemption on exported goods if eligible

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