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Singapore Subsidiary Vs. Singapore Branch Office: Key Differences

By: Delphine Neo and Milo Qin, COGENCY GLOBAL on Thu, Jul 15, 2021


A foreign company keen to conduct business in Singapore may choose between two major types of legal entities, namely a Singapore branch office or a subsidiary company. Depending on the type of legal entity, key considerations such as annual compliance requirements and tax treatments may vary significantly. It is, therefore, crucial for foreign enterprises to choose the type of legal entity properly so as to avoid any undesired regulatory or cost issues. 

A Singapore Branch Office 

A branch office (BO) is considered an extension of its foreign parent company and hence would be regarded as a non-resident entity. As a result, a BO would be taxed at a higher rate and excluded from some tax exemptions that local companies may enjoy. Each BO must appoint one local resident authorized representative and would be required to lodge its financial statements together with its parent company’s financial statements with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), the local companies registrar. In practice, a BO is usually used by companies with strong brand reputation so they can easily use it as a business leverage. 

A Subsidiary Company 

A subsidiary company (SC) is usually formed as a local private limited company, wholly owned by the parent company as the sole shareholder (usually with its name ending with “Pte. Ltd.”). Subject to certain tax requirements, a local SC would qualify as a resident entity to be taxed at the corporate tax rate applicable to Singaporean companies. Needless to say, a subsidiary is a separate legal entity whose liabilities would not extend to its parent company, making it the ideal choice of entity for smaller businesses. 

Comparison of Singapore Branch Offices and Subsidiary Companies

The table below shows a comparison of some key features of the two types of entities:


Branch Office

Subsidiary Company


Considered to be an extension of the parent company

A separate legal entity distinct from its parent company

Extent of Liability

Liabilities extend to parent company

Liabilities are limited to subsidiary

Entity Name

Must be the same as the parent company

Can be different from the parent company

Business Activities of the Entity

Restricted to be the same as the parent company

Need not be the same as parent company

(i.e. Memorandum of Articles, Bylaws equivalent)

The shareholders, structure of company and its activities are directed by foreign company’s constitution. There is no separate constitution for the branch office.

The Company will adopt its own constitution.


Taxed as non-resident entity, local tax benefits are not available

May qualify as Singapore tax resident entity, local tax benefits may be available

Annual Return Filing Requirement

Both parent company and BO’s financial statements are required to be filed

Only financial statements of the SC required

Appointment of Local Officer

Must appoint at least one local resident authorized representative

Must appoint at least one local resident director

As you can see from this brief overview, when a foreign company wants to do business in Singapore, it’s important to be clear on which type of entity should be chosen before forming the company with ACRA. Understanding the compliance, tax ramifications and liability issues associated with a branch office vs. a subsidiary company will help you avoid undesired and costly surprises.

This content is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered, or relied upon, as legal or tax advice.

Topics: International Corporate Services