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Withholding tax (for payment to non-residents or non-resident companies)

1. Interest
2. Royalties
3. Services
4. Consultancy and Management fees
5. Rental on Letting of Furniture
6. Dividends

 

1. Interest

Q1. Singapore-resident company held in trust a sum of money for a non-resident company and it deposited the money with a bank.

(a) Is the interest payable to the non-resident subject to withholding tax?

A: Generally, withholding tax is applicable on interest paid to a non-resident company. However, if the money was placed in an approved bank in Singapore, there is no need to withhold tax if the interest is paid to a non-resident company which

  • Does not, by itself or in association with others, carry on a business in Singapore; and
  • Does not have a permanent establishment in Singapore.

A non-resident company is not considered as carrying on business by itself or in association with others in Singapore if it merely has associated companies / subsidiaries carrying on business in Singapore since they are separate legal entities.

(b) If the non-resident carries on business in Singapore and has a permanent establishment in Singapore, is withholding tax applicable on interest paid?

A: If the funds used by the non-resident to make the deposit in an approved bank in Singapore are not obtained from the operation in Singapore, withholding tax will not be applicable.  Otherwise, we will have to look at whether the recipient is a resident of a country with which Singapore has concluded an Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) or a non-DTA country:

Resident of a DTA country
The provisions in the relevant DTA [Interest Article] will apply.

Resident of a non-DTA country
The payer is required to withhold tax at 15% of the gross amount.

Q2. Singapore subsidiary paid guarantee fee to its non-resident holding company for acting as its guarantor.  Is the guarantee fee subject to withholding tax? New!

A: Generally, withholding tax is applicable on guarantee fee paid to a non-resident company.  However, guarantee fees paid to the non-resident holding company will not be deemed to be sourced in Singapore, and hence withholding tax will not be applicable, provided the non-resident company:

  • Is not incorporated, formed or registered in Singapore; and
  • In any event,
    • does not, by itself or in association with others, carry on a business in Singapore or has a permanent establishment in Singapore; or
    • carries on a business by itself, or in association with others, in Singapore or has a permanent establishment in Singapore, but the giving of the guarantee is not effectively connected with the business carried on in Singapore or with that permanent establishment.

The above is also subject to the conditions that the transactions are conducted at arm’s length and not with intent of siphoning off Singapore income.

Q3. Singapore branch paid guarantee fee to its non-resident Head Office for acting as its guarantor.  Revised on 07 May 2014!

(a) Is the guarantee fee subject to withholding tax?

A: Generally, withholding tax is applicable if the guarantee fees are borne by a person resident in Singapore or a permanent establishment in Singapore, except in respect of any business carried on outside Singapore through a permanent establishment outside Singapore or any immovable property situated outside Singapore; or deductible against any income accruing in or derived from Singapore.

If the guarantee is provided by the non-resident Head Office which is not incorporated in Singapore and the provision of the guarantee is not effectively connected with its permanent establishment in Singapore or a business carried on in Singapore by the Head Office (if any), the Head Office would not be deemed to derive the guarantee fee from Singapore. In such a case, the Singapore branch does not have to withhold tax on the guarantee fees paid to its non-resident Head Office.

The above is also subject to the conditions that the transactions are conducted at arm’s length and not with intent of siphoning off Singapore income.

(b) What if the non-resident Head Office is a resident of a DTA country?

A: If the guarantee fee paid to the non-resident is deemed to be sourced in Singapore, reference should be made to the relevant DTA to determine the appropriate tax treatment. It should be noted that guarantee fee generally does not fall within the meaning of interest as defined in most tax treaties. In such cases, taxpayers should refer to the Business Profits Article or the relevant article(s) in the DTA for guidance.

Q4. Company purchased goods from a US supplier which imposed interest on credit terms given. Is interest paid on trade financing subject to withholding tax?

A: Yes, withholding tax is applicable. This is notwithstanding that the interest charged on the goods sold on credit is incidental to the main activity of selling the products.

Q5. A non-resident company took up a loan from another non-resident company through a Singapore-resident company to acquire a vessel. Is the interest paid to the non-resident subject to withholding tax?

A: If there was only one loan agreement and the Singapore-resident company was not a party to the agreement, i.e., it merely acted as an intermediary, withholding tax is not applicable.

However, if there were two separate loan agreements, withholding tax is applicable on the interest payable to the non-resident company since it was borne by a person resident in Singapore.

Q6. Are interest rate and currency swap payments made to a non-resident subject to withholding tax?

A: Please refer to the guidelines for withholding tax on “Payments in respect of interest rate/ currency swap arrangements or structured products”.

Q7. Is interest rate or currency swap payment made by a bank in Singapore to its branches or another bank outside Singapore (i.e. inter-branch / inter-bank payments) subject to withholding tax?

A: Withholding tax is not applicable as the Minister has granted tax remission under Section 92(2) of the Income Tax Act.

Q8. Singapore resident company paid interest to a non-resident in respect of a loan obtained for its branch's business in Malaysia. Is the interest subject to withholding tax?

A: No, since it is in respect of a business carried on outside Singapore through a permanent establishment outside Singapore. This is provided that the interest is not deductible against any income accruing in or derived from Singapore.

Q9. Singapore resident company obtained a loan from outside Singapore for acquiring a property overseas for investment purposes. Is the interest subject to withholding tax?

A: No, since the loan is in respect of an immovable property situated outside Singapore.

Q10. I am paying interest to a Singapore branch of a non-resident bank. Do I need to withhold tax on such a payment? Revised on 07 May 2014!

A: For payment made to the Singapore branch on or after 21 Feb 2014, withholding tax is not applicable.  Notwithstanding that, the Singapore branch will still be taxed on such payments and it is required to declare such payments in its annual income tax return. 

Where the payment was made before 21 Feb 2014,  the payer need not withhold tax if the Singapore branch has been granted a waiver by IRAS. A list of such banks can be found here

2. Royalties

Q1. Is a payment made by a Singapore company to a non-resident for the use of software subject to withholding tax?

A: Under the rights-based approach, payments for the use of software characterised as a copyrighted article are not subject to withholding tax.  Payments to non-residents for the use of software chararacterised as a copyright right are subject to withholding tax.

If the software is used by the company for its business operations and the company is not allowed to commercially exploit the copyright of the software, the payment is for a copyrighted article.  Withholding tax is not applicable.

However, if the payment allows the company to commercially exploit the copyright of the software, the payment is for a copyright right and is a royalty.  Withholding tax is applicable for payments to non-residents.

For more information, you may refer to Software payments and payments for the use of or the right to use information and digitised goods.

Q2. What is the withholding tax rate if my company pays royalty to a non-resident company?

A: The withholding tax rate is 10% or such reduced rate as provided under a tax treaty.  This is a final tax.

The above rate will, however, not apply to royalties derived by a non-resident through operations carried in or from Singapore.  The chargeable income from such operations will continue to be taxed at the prevailing corporate tax rate.

Q3. Is a payment for the customisation of software subject to withholding tax?

A: Withholding tax is applicable if the services are performed in Singapore.  However, if the services are rendered outside Singapore, withholding tax is not applicable..

Q4. If the cost of hardware is included in the payments made to a non-resident vendor, is the portion attributable to the hardware subject to withholding tax?

A: Withholding tax is not required on the portion relating to the purchase of hardware and equipment.

Q5. Must a Singapore branch withhold tax on royalties paid to its head office, resident in, for example, Germany?

A: For tax purposes, the branch and head office are treated as separate entities.  The Singapore branch has to withhold tax at 8% in accordance with paragraph 1, 2 and 5 of Article 12 of the Singapore-Germany Avoidance of Double Tax Agreement.

3. Services

Q1. Is payment for the installation of equipment, technical support services and training services provided by a non-resident company subject to withholding tax?

A: Withholding tax is applicable on the service fees attributable to work done in Singapore. The withholding tax is at the prevailing corporate tax rate on the gross fees. This is not the final tax. If the company wishes to claim for the expenses incurred, they may forward the certified accounts and tax computation for IRAS' examination. When the net income and tax have been determined, any tax withheld in excess of the tax on the net income will be refunded.

If the company is a resident of country with which Singapore has concluded an Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement (DTA), the tax treaty may provide for relief from double taxation, depending on the provisions of the treaty.

Q2. What if the installation of equipment, technical support services and training services are performed in Singapore by employees of a company which is a resident of a DTA country, is the payment subject to withholding tax?

A: Generally, the payments would be subject to withholding tax only if the non-resident company has a permanent establishment (PE) in Singapore. Each DTA would have its own definition of PE.

In some of our DTAs, specifically those with Australia, Pakistan, South Korea, Sweden and Taiwan, payments for labour or personal services are excluded from the Business Profits Article because the definition of 'profits of an enterprise' does not include such payments. In such a case, the fees attributable to the services performed in Singapore would be subject to withholding tax regardless whether the non-resident has a PE in Singapore.

In the case of the Singapore-Malaysia DTA, fees derived by a company resident in Malaysia on technical services performed in Singapore are subject to withholding tax. This is regardless of whether the company has a PE in Singapore as such fees are covered under Article 13 – Technical Fees of the Singapore-Malaysia DTA.

Q3. If in addition to the installation and training service fees paid to the non-resident company, monthly allowance is paid to the personnel sent here, is the monthly allowance subject to withholding tax?

A: As the personnel are the employees of the non-resident company, the monthly allowance is actually additional service fees paid to the non-resident company. Withholding tax is applicable to the allowance.

Q4. Is reimbursement of accommodation, meals and transportation expenses to a non-resident company subject to withholding tax? Revised on 29 May 2014!

A: Withholding tax is applicable unless the payer can obtain a detailed breakdown of the expenses showing that the expenses were reimbursed at the actual costs incurred, without any mark-up or profit element. The payer does not need to submit the breakdown/ documents to IRAS but it has to retain them and submit to IRAS upon request. 

.Q5. A Singapore company engaged the services of a consultancy company from Hong Kong. As the gross fees paid to the non-resident have been subjected to withholding tax, how can the Hong Kong company make a claim for the expenses incurred? If the Singapore company bears the tax for the Hong Kong company, what are the tax implications?

A: The tax withheld at the prevailing corporate tax rate is not the final tax. If the Hong Kong company wishes to claim for the expenses incurred, they may forward the certified accounts and tax computation for our examination. Any tax withheld in excess of the tax on the net income will be refunded when the assessment is finalised.

If the tax is borne by the Singapore company, tax-on-tax is applicable and the computation of withholding tax is as follows:

Example:

Gross fees paid to HK company $10,000
Tax borne by Singapore company $1,700 (10,000 @ 17%*)
Tax allowance (tax-on-tax) $1,700 X 17/(100-17)
= $348.19

Singapore company is required to remit the total tax of $2,048.19 ($1,700 + $348.19) to IRAS.

*Corporate tax rate of 17% is applicable to payments made on or after 1 Jan 2009.

Q6. A Singapore company purchased a software system which was developed outside Singapore from a Canadian company. The Canadian company sent its personnel to Singapore to oversee system installation and onsite testing of the system for a period of less than 183 days. Is withholding tax applicable?

A: Based on Article 5 of the Singapore-Canada DTA, the mere installation and onsite testing services performed in Singapore would not be construed as a PE if the Canadian company has no fixed place of business in Singapore. Hence, income attributable to such services is not subject to withholding tax.

Q7. Is withholding tax applicable to consultancy fees for services provided by a non-resident via Internet presentation, email and telephone?

A: Services provided by a non-resident company via electronic means overseas without sending staff to Singapore are considered as services rendered outside Singapore. As such, withholding tax is not applicable.

Q8. The professional services are rendered in Singapore by a non-resident individual who is a resident of a DTA country. Do I have to withhold tax since the individual does not have a PE in Singapore?

A: Professional services provided by a non-resident individual does not fall under the Business Profits Article but is covered under the Independent Personal Services Article. Please click here for more details of the tax treatment.

Q9. Singapore Company A (Singapore tax resident) makes payment for technical services rendered in India, to an Indian Branch of Singapore Company B (Singapore tax resident). Is the income subject to tax in Singapore?

A: Section 12(6A) and 12(7A) will not apply to any payment made by a person resident in Singapore or permanent establishment in Singapore to a foreign branch of a Singapore resident company in respect of specified services, notwithstanding that such services are performed outside Singapore.

The technical service fee received by the foreign branch (India branch) of a Singapore resident company (Singapore Company B) is deemed to be Singapore sourced income derived by a Singapore tax resident under Section 12(7). Hence, it will be assessed to tax in Singapore on an arising basis whether or not the income is remitted. However, withholding tax is not applicable since the payments is made to a Singapore resident company.

Q10. Is payment for web-hosting services provided by a non-resident company subject to withholding tax? New!

A: Withholding tax is applicable if the payment for web-hosting services is made to a non-resident company for the work done in Singapore.  The payer is required to withhold tax at the rate of 17% (prevailing corporate tax rate).

If there is payment for rental of equipment such as the leasing of a server, such payment is also subject to withholding tax.  This is regardless of the location of the equipment.  The payer is required to withhold tax at the rate of 15% or at a reduced rate as specified in the relevant Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement (DTA)

 

4. Consultancy and Management fees

Q1. Is withholding tax applicable to advisory fee paid by a Singapore company to an unrelated US consultancy firm for a project carried out in China?

A: If the services provided by the US consultancy firm were rendered in Singapore, the fee is subject to withholding tax. On the other hand, if the services were rendered wholly or partly outside Singapore, only the payment attributable to the services rendered in Singapore is subject to withholding tax.

There is no comprehensive Avoidance of Double Tax Agreement (DTA) concluded between Singapore and the US and the Singapore-China DTA is not applicable in this case.

Q2. Is withholding tax applicable to payments made to a non-resident Head Office for management, administration, human resource and financial services if the amount paid is an allocation or reimbursement of expenses?

A: No. Withholding tax is not applicable to reimbursement/allocation of management fees (without profit element) between a head office and branches under a cost-pooling arrangement. For more information on cost-pooling, please refer to Paragraph 3.3.14 on Page 9 of the e-Tax Guide “Transfer Pricing Guidelines for Related Party Loans and Related Party Services (492KB)”.

Q3. Is withholding tax applicable if the management services were rendered on a cost-plus basis?

A: No. Withholding tax will generally not be applicable to any payments for management services performed by non-residents outside Singapore, whether or not the payments are made to related persons. For payments made to related parties, the arm’s length requirement must be met.

For services performed in Singapore, the withholding tax is imposed at the prevailing corporate tax rate on the gross payment. Please note, the tax is not a final tax. If the company wishes to claim for the expenses incurred in the process of earning the income, it can forward the certified accounts and tax computation for IRAS’ examination. When the net income and tax have been determined, any tax withheld in excess of the net income will be refunded.

Please refer to this flowchart that illustrates the applicability of withholding tax on management fees from 29 December 2009 (36KB).

As an administrative concession, IRAS will allow the payers to apply a lower withholding tax on related party services performed in Singapore under Section 12(7)(b) & (c) if certain conditions are met.

 

5. Rental on Letting of Furniture

 

Q1. A non-resident derived rental from the letting of his furniture and fittings (not arising from the letting of property) from Singapore. Is the rental income subject to withholding tax?

A: The rental from letting of furniture and fittings is considered as rental for the use of movable property thus, the payer is required to withhold tax at the rate of 15%.

 

6. Dividends

Q1. Should withholding tax in respect of dividend income be in accordance with the rates as specified in the relevant tax treaty or the corporate tax rate?

A: Singapore currently does not have withholding tax on dividend although withholding tax rates on dividends are provided under the tax treaties.


 

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Last Updated on 18 July 2014


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