Things to consider before moving to Singapore – Family Office Edition

Airplane in the sky


With the recent rise of wealth here in Asia, many affluent families are now starting to think about transitioning their nest eggs for the next generation. Effective family wealth management encompasses a range of issues related not only to business aims, but also personal and family goals and objectives. Wealthy families often consider establishing family offices to manage their many investments, philanthropic activities and financial responsibilities.

Singapore, being considered as one of Asia’s leading financial hubs, has devised a number attractive policies to promote the family office sector thereby attracting these families, especially in the management of their wealth. Well established as one of the leading private banking and wealth management hubs in Asia and globally, not only is Singapore the most preferred offshore wealth centres among industry professionals, according to Asian Private Banker survey, Singapore has also been ranked second as an International Wealth Management Centre globally in competitiveness and performance.

Singapore’s comprehensive financial regulations and laws, favourable tax incentives, along with its political and economic stability make the country an attractive jurisdiction for all types of organisations, ranging from multinational companies to family offices. In order to leverage on these policies, one has to be mindful of the tax implications applicable in the setting up of funds, coupled with the various tax incentives available.

Calculation of financial growth and investment
Calculation of financial growth and investment

Single Family Office (“SFO”)

SFO often refers to an entity that is set up to manage the assets of an Ultra High Net Worth (“UHNW”) individuals and their families. Most of these UHNW individuals and their families face the challenges of wealth transfer and succession planning, as the younger generation tend to be highly mobile and may wish to pursue their own career interests outside of their family business.

As such, the SFO manages assets for and on behalf of one’s family, and is owned and controlled by family members. The family’s trusted advisors such as bankers, asset managers, lawyers and tax advisors may also be hired by the SFO to manage their personal assets. SFO usually manages assets exceeding US$200 million and activities undertaken may include investments, philanthropy, succession planning, family governance, and tax reporting.

SFO may perform regulated activities, including the dealing in capital markets products, advising on corporate finance and fund management. Such activities would require one to hold a Capital Markets License (“CMS”). However, SFO may utilise the exemption provided in the Second Schedule to the Securities and Futures (Licensing and Conduct of Business) regulations, which allows for the management of such funds without the need for a CMS license. The applicability of the exemption is illustrated in the arrangement as follows:

Tax Incentive Schemes

There are tax incentive schemes allowing funds managed by Singapore fund managers to designate ‘‘specified income” derived from funds of ‘‘designated investments’’ to be exempted from tax. To qualify for such tax incentive schemes, the fund manager must be registered with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (‘‘MAS’’) or hold a capital markets services (‘‘CMS’’) license.

The three main tax exemption schemes for funds currently available until 31 March 2019 in Singapore are as follows:

  • The Offshore Fund Tax Exemption Scheme [Section13CA of the Income Tax Act (“ITA”)]
  • The Onshore Fund Tax Exemption Scheme [Section 13R of ITA]
  • The Enhanced Tier Fund Tax Exemption Scheme [Section 13X of ITA]
Section 13CASection 13RSection 13X
Fund’s residenceNon Singapore tax residentSingapore tax residentNo restriction
Fund managerCMS licence holderCMS licence holderCMS licence holder
InvestorsCannot be 100% owned by SingaporeanCannot be 100% owned by SingaporeanNo restriction
Asset under management (AUM)No restrictionNo restrictionMinimum of S$50 million
Fund expenditureNot applicableMinimum of S$200K business spending in a yearMinimum of S$200K local business spending in a year
Approving authorityNo approval requiredMonetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”)MAS
Reporting requirementNo reporting requiredAnnual reporting to investorsNo reporting required
Income tax filingNo filing requirementAnnual tax returnsNo filing requirement
Number of employment passesNot applicable13

Before deciding to move your family to Singapore or start a Family Office here, please do consult a professional such as Mr Chay to ensure that your objectives are met.