The Business

How to Register as a Self-Employed Person in Singapore

You'll need to declare your Net Trade Income to either IRAS or the CPF Board. Here's how.

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If you want to be eligible for self-employed government grants like the Self-Employed Income Relief Scheme (SIRS), then you’ll need to be registered with the Singapore government as a self-employed person.

There are 2 methods of doing so:

  1. Declare Net Trade Income to IRAS
  2. Declare Net Trade Income to the CPF Board

According to IRAS, your Net Trade Income is:

“Your gross trade income minus all allowable business expenses, capital allowances and trade losses as determined by IRAS”.

You’ll need to do either of the 2 methods above to “officially” be considered by the government as a self-employed person. Just registering a sole proprietorship or partnership with ACRA (if you’ve done so) isn’t good enough!

So in this post, I’ll walk you through both methods, step by step.

Let’s do this!

Need a copy of the registration instructions?

Just leave me your email address and I’ll send them (and other useful tips) to you!

1. Declare Net Trade Income to IRAS

During March to April of every year, you’ll need to file your personal income taxes with IRAS (Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, which is Singapore’s tax collector).

While doing so, you’ll need to declare your Net Trade Income to IRAS—and in the process, this will help get you registered as a self-employed person.

Here’s how to declare your Net Trade Income to IRAS:

a) Start filing your personal income taxes during March or April of each year

First, log into the IRAS myTax Portal. Hover over the “Individuals” option, then click on “File Income Tax Return”.

How to file personal income tax return in IRAS myTax portal

When filing your personal income taxes, there will be a section that you can fill in for income you’ve earned through your “Trade, Business, Profession or Vocation”. Click on that section.

The next step is to submit one of the following:

  • A 2-line statement (if you earned S$200,000 or less during your last accounting period); OR
  • A 4-line statement (if you earned more than S$200,000 during your last accounting period).

What is an accounting period?

An accounting period is usually the 12-month period that you’ll calculate your profits or losses for. You can choose any date to be the last date of your accounting period, but for convenience you might want to set your accounting period as 1 January to 31 December.

Your accounting period can also be shorter than 1 year. This is especially for your first year of business, where you started your business on some date that is not 1 January.

For example, if you started your business on 6 June 2019, your first accounting period can be 6 June 2019 to 31 December 2019—no problem.

b) Prepare your 2-line or 4-line statements

With accounting periods out of the way, let’s move on to the 2-line and 4-line statements!

As mentioned, you’ll need to prep a 2-line statement if you had earned S$200,000 or less during your last accounting period.

On the other hand, you’ll need to prep a 4-line statement if you had earned more than S$200,000 during your last accounting period.

Heads-up: For both the 2-line and 4-line statements, you’ll need to be able to provide the following figures for your last accounting period:

  • Total amount of revenue earned
  • Total amount of expenses incurred

Ideally, you should have kept proper records for all these over time so you don’t have to dig through all your past transactions now.

(In fact, IRAS actually requires you to keep full and accurate records of all your business transactions, supportable by documentary evidence. If you haven’t been doing so, there’s no time like the present to get started!)

Click on the applicable tab below to learn how to prepare the correct statement when declaring your Net Trade Income.

The 2-line statement will consist of your:

  1. Revenue
  2. Adjusted profit

Your revenue will be the total amount of income that you’ve made as a self-employed person over the last accounting period.

You can get your adjusted profit by subtracting your business expenses from your revenue.

Adjusted Profit = Revenue − Business Expenses

Fill both of these numbers into your 2-line statement. Your Net Trade Income will be the amount of adjusted profit you have declared as part of your 2-line statement.

The 4-line statement consists of your:

  1. Revenue
  2. Gross profit
  3. Allowable business expenses
  4. Adjusted profit

Your revenue will be the total amount of money that you’ve made as a self-employed person over the last accounting period.

To get your gross profit, subtract from your revenue the cost of goods you have sold over the last accounting period.

Gross Profit = Revenue − Cost Of Goods Sold

(If you run a service-based business e.g. you’re a freelancer and you don’t sell any goods, then your cost of goods sold will be zero.)

Your allowable business expenses are expenses that you’ve incurred solely for business purposes. Personal expenses are not counted. Check this IRAS webpage for more information on what will and will not be considered allowable business expenses.

As for your adjusted profit, subtract your allowable business expenses from your gross profit.

Adjusted Profit = Gross Profit − Allowable Business Expenses

Fill all 4 of these numbers into your 4-line statement. Your Net Trade Income will be the amount of adjusted profit that you have declared as part of your 4-line statement.

c) Submit your personal income tax form

After you’ve filled in your 2-line or 4-line statement—and provided your Net Trade Income in the form of your adjusted profit—go on to fill in the rest of your personal income tax form (e.g. deductions and personal reliefs, and rebates), then submit it.

And that’s it!

(Well of course later on you’ll receive your Notice of Assessment and be asked to pay your personal income taxes.

But for the purposes of declaring your Net Trade Income to IRAS, this is all you need to do.)

2. Declare Net Trade Income to the CPF Board

Personal income tax filing season happens only once a year, and lasts for only a certain period of time. If you miss it, does it mean you can’t register as a self-employed person in Singapore until the following year?

Of course not.

Instead of declaring your Net Trade Income to IRAS, you can also get yourself registered as a self-employed person by declaring your Net Trade Income to the CPF Board.

Before you can declare your Net Trade Income to the CPF Board, you’ll need to register as a self-employed person with the CPF Board.

(Assuming you aren’t already registered as one, that is. If you have, you can skip this step.)

Yes, I know this sounds really confusing—like, you need to register yourself as a self-employed person so you can declare your Net Trade Income to the CPF Board, so you can get yourself registered as a self-employed person? Whaaaat?

Just bear with me for a sec. Let’s get into this!

a) Register as a self-employed person with the CPF Board

First, log into the CPF Board’s my cpf online services portal and click on “My Requests” on the left.

On the “My Requests” page, click on the “Self-Employed Matters” section followed by “Register as Self-Employed”.

How to register as a self-employed person with the CPF Board

Fill in and submit the “Registration for CPF/Medisave Contributions by the Self-Employed” online application form that appears on the next screen.

Then, sit tight.

After your application has been processed, the CPF Board will notify you through email (in a few days) and post (in a few weeks) to confirm your successful registration as a self-employed person with it.

b) Declare your Net Trade Income to the CPF Board

Once you are registered as a self-employed person with the CPF Board, you can go ahead to declare your Net Trade Income to it.

To do so, log back into my cpf online services and click on “My Requests” on the left.

On the “My Requests” page, click on the “Self-Employed Matters” section followed by “Declare my income as a Self-Employed Person for computation of CPF Medisave liability”.

You’ll be brought to the “Income Declaration By Self-Employed Person for Computation of CPF Medisave Liability” online form. This form is also known as the Form IRAS 144.

Then, key in the Net Trade Income that you want to declare for the relevant work year.

How to declare Net Trade Income with the CPF Board

If you don’t know what your Net Trade Income is, prepare a 2-line or 4-line statement as per what you’d need to do in order to declare your Net Trade Income to IRAS. Click here for more information on this!

Finally, submit the form and you’re done!

Note: After you do this step, you’ll have to start contributing to your MediSave account as a self-employed person. Check out this separate guide to CPF contributions for more info on this.

Time to Get Registered!

To recap, if you want to get yourself registered as a self-employed person in Singapore, then you’ll need to declare your Net Trade Income to either IRAS or the CPF Board.

This is even if you’ve already registered a sole proprietorship or a partnership with ACRA.

Also, whichever method you use to get yourself registered as a self-employed person, you’ll realise that you’ll eventually need to do both.

In other words, you’ll eventually have to declare your Net Trade Income to both IRAS and the CPF Board.

That’s because:

  • You’ll need to declare your Net Trade Income to IRAS when tax season comes around.
  • Also, as a self-employed person, you are legally required to contribute to your MediSave account. The CPF Board will ask you to declare your Net Trade Income so it can calculate your MediSave contribution amount.

(But if you’ve already declared your Net Trade Income to IRAS, you won’t need to declare it a second time to the CPF Board. The CPF Board will use the Net Trade Income you declared to IRAS to calculate your MediSave contribution amount.)

I hope this guide has been helpful for you. If you want a copy of these instructions, just leave me your email address below and I’ll send it (and other useful tips!) to you:

One last thing—if you’re a self-employed freelancer (i.e. you provide services to others for a living), do consider joining our Facebook group where you can connect and get support from other like-minded freelancers in Singapore.

While you’ll need to “register” for the Facebook group by making a request to join, the process is much easier than declaring your Net Trade Income—I promise!

Hope to see you there!

Tan Siew Ann
Fuelled by a long-standing interest in media, Siew Ann ventured into digital marketing while in law school and has not looked back since. Being inspired by the struggles that she and others have faced while freelancing in Singapore, Siew Ann started lancerX to help freelancers turn their craft into sustainable and meaningful full-time businesses.

22 Comments

    1. I am providing accounting services to my clients under my Pte Ltd Co but I am sole shareholder and Director. However I declare my tax as Individual and not as Self Employed. Can I now register as Self Employed too for Year 31.12.2019 to qualify for SIRS? I have Pte Ltd Co to avoid personal legal suits in my Acct services.

      1. Hi Richard, in other words, do you declare your Net Trade Income as employment income instead of trade income? In this case, I believe there is an option in the SIRS application form to reclassify your income for the purposes of applying for SIRS. You can check the SIRS application website for more information on this! Do also check if you’ve met all the other requirements for submitting an application for SIRS.

  1. Hi I am a freelance and I do not have reg Co. I am stuck at the section where Co name has to be filled, which I do not hv one. As freelance is considered as self employed.

  2. What if I’m doing freelance works and going to register CPF for self-employed. Do I also must register sole proprietorship or partnership with ACRA in order to apply SIRS?

    1. No, registering a sole prop or partnership with ACRA is not a requirement for applying for SIRS!

      1. Many thanks for your swift reply! I appreciate it. But register with CPF is requirement for applying SIRS. Am I right?

        1. Technically, no. What the SIRS application requires is that you have declared your Net Trade Income, and you can do that with either CPF or IRAS. But if you are doing so through CPF, you will need to register with CPF beforehand.

  3. I have been paying Medisave in the past as self employed. Why do I still need to go SingPost to fill form 144 and declare zero net trade income for year 2018/2019? Confused.
    If such can do so online instead SingPost?

    1. Hi EL, I’m not too sure why you still have to declare zero NTI if you’ve been paying Medisave in the past as an SEP. But if you’ve been advised to fill in Form 144, it’s probably best to do so. You need not go down to SingPost to do it — you can file Form 144 via the CPF website.

  4. Hi Ms Tan, I am also a home baker am I considered a self employed? Becos I didn’t do well in property works for 2018 & 2019 hence is a zero trade income. So I did some home baking orders but I didn’t keep any records of my expenses & earnings becos is small . Am I still eligible for SIRS ? Thanks for your earlier advice!

    1. Hi Eileen, you have to check if you fulfil the SIRS eligibility requirements. Such as earning a Net Trade Income of up to $100k, and living in a property of annual value of up to $21k. You also need to be able to provide some supporting documents, such as the Acknowledgement for Form 144. The detailed requirements are on the SIRS website, I would encourage you to check them out!

  5. I am earning a small income from my overseas company. Do i still consider self employed?
    I have a investment pte company registered as shareholder of the overseas company. But as the overseas company still making losses, i do not have any returns.

    1. Hi Eric, generally you can be considered self-employed if you work for yourself instead of being hired by an employer as an employee. But if you’re looking to apply for SIRS, you’ll need to check if you meet the SIRS eligibility requirements.

  6. hi Siew Ann, i lost my job during covid-19. so i did sell online and did provided part time services without pay roll. Am I considered eligible for SIRS Grants? Thanks and waiting for your reply. Regards,

    1. Hi Amy, when did you start selling things online and providing part-time services? To be eligible for SIRS, you need to have started work as a self-employed person on or before 25 March 2020.

  7. Hi, I am enquiring for my hubby. He started freelancing as an instructor mid 2018. How do we go about applying for SIRS? He was not asked to file an income tax in 2019. I am clueless about it till Covid-19 is here and he was not entitled to any compensation then I am aware about SIRS existence.

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