Banking Money and Taxes

As one of the world’s major financial centres, Singapore offers expats access to leading banking systems; to be more specific, approximately 700 local and foreign banking and financial institutions are present in the city-state.

Needless to say, expats will find a full spectrum of services, from consumer banking, asset management and foreign exchange to investment banking and dedicated insurance services, readily available.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) sets monetary policy and regulates the country’s banking and financial sector.

Money in Singapore

The unit of currency is the Singapore dollar, represented as S$ and abbreviated as SGD. Four different series of notes have been introduced into circulation over the years, but since 1999 the portrait series, designed to feature and commemorate the first president, the late Encik Yusof Bin Ishak, has remained. The Singapore dollar is divided into 100 cents. Notes: 2 SGD, 5 SGD, 10 SGD, 50 SGD, 1000 SGD, 10,000 SGD Coins: 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents and 1 SGD There is also a cashless payment system known as NETS, which offers a convenient way to make purchases and is well worth looking into. Most banks’ ATM cards have this facility activated automatically.

ATMs are located in most buildings, and credit cards are widely accepted; though, international cards will incur high transaction costs.

Banking in Singapore

With over 100 foreign banks and a handful of local banks in Singapore, expats will certainly not be at a loss for a reputable service provider.

It’s even possible that the bank you use in your home country has an established presence in Singapore, which could make opening an account abroad and managing overseas transfers all the simpler.

Otherwise, it’s important to consider the services offered, location and the ATM network available when choosing a bank. Furthermore, banks also charge different service fees and require different minimum account balances.

International Banks

  • Citibank
  • HSBC
  • Standard Chartered

Local Banks

  • United Overseas Bank (UOB)
  • OCBC
  • DBS

Opening a Bank Account in Singapore

It’s incredibly easy to open a bank account in Singapore, and the process can be completed in a single day. Accounts can be established at local bank branches, there’s no need to make a mission to the main city branch.

As English is the primary administrative and professional language in Singapore, there’s no need to worry about language barrier when it comes to managing your money.

Required Items to Open a Bank Account

  • Copy of your passport
  • Copy of your employment pass (or, some banks will accept a Confirmation Slip/Letter for Appointment at M.O.M from the company if you do not yet have the pass)
  • Minimum balance required (varies from bank to bank but must be paid in local currency)

Once you’ve opened your account you’ll be given an ATM card, a passbook, and in some cases, a security ring that facilitates safe Internet banking. The passbook works in accord with the ATMs and is a method for recording transactions and account updates. The security ring delivers secure login codes for accessing Internet banking, which most institutions provide for free.

Credit Cards in Singapore

Major credit cards, like Amex, Visa and Mastercard are available in Singapore; though, most banks require foreigners to have a minimum deposit in a linked bank account or a salary declaration and proof of salary payment in order to successfully apply. Ask your bank of choice about different cards, fees imposed and if there is a minimum spend or deposit required.

When you sign-up for your credit card of choice, make sure you can link to a KrisFlyer number to earn points on Singapore Airlines flights for future getaways.

Taxes in Singapore

All expatriates working in Singapore are liable to pay Singapore Income Tax. The country’s well-regulated tax system is overseen by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS), which assesses, collects and enforces taxes, duties and levies. It’s possible to file taxes either by submitting a paper tax return or by e-filing.

Singapore has a number of comprehensive and limited “Avoidance of Double Taxation Treaties” with a number of countries, including the UK, the US and Australia. Expats should investigate if their home country has such an agreement so that if they pay tax in Singapore, they do not have to pay tax to their home country.

Expats are considered tax residents in Singapore if their period of stay is equivalent to or more than 183 days in a year, or if they have Singapore Permanent Residency (SPR).

Non-residents are taxed only on income derived from or accrued in Singapore and do not have to pay taxes on foreign income received in Singapore.

Personal income tax rates are generally lower than in other developed countries, with residents taxed between 2 to 20 percent of their income; the rate of tax is determined by your income bracket.

Non-residents are taxed at a flat rate of 15 percent on income without personal benefits, or at the graduated rate applied to residents (whichever is higher).

Non-residents are also taxed a flat rate of 27 percent on non-employment income derived from within the country.

Tax returns are based on the calendar year and must usually be filed by 15 April, or if e-filing, by 18 April.

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