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Sunday November 19th 2017

Foreign talent sets up company using EP visa but receives no salary

I set up a private limited company and hired myself through the company on an EP visa. This visa was approved with a monthly salary I would pay myself.

In order to help establish the company however I have not paid myself a wage. I am now being asked as an EP holder to file my income tax return.

Am I likely to lose my EP or face any legal penalties for not paying myself a wage?

Has anyone else been in this situation themselves?

Expat879

*****

PNGMK has provided the essential answer. You need to be on an accrual accounting basis and have a “Salaries Payable” liability item. You debit salary expense, credit salaries payable, and the net is that you generate a paper loss each month. At the very least, your accounting tells the authorities that you acknowledge that you have salary debts that must be paid.

How much are you supposed to be paying yourself? It should not be a penny more than the minimum necessary to sustain your EP, otherwise one might question your business acumen.

You are not out of the woods, though. You need to demonstrate that you’re not a scammer, one of those folks that started a company for the express purpose of finding a back door way to stay in Singapore. Things that you should consider:

  1. How much cash does your company have in the bank? If you had to, could you pay yourself at least some of the salary owed to you? If you have cash and are accruing your salary as payable, you have a solid argument that you are investing in company growth.
  2. Leaving your salary aside for the moment, was your net cash flow positive or negative, ie, did you earn a profit on the sales transactions you undertook? What did you do with the profit? You are attempting to prove that you are running a viable company that needs time to grow, as opposed to a money pit that will never make a profit.
  3. When is your pro forma projected break even point where the company will be able to pay you a salary? Is the real growth in your business matching your pro forma projections? If you can’t prove up that you will eventually be able to pay yourself, I see doom on the horizon.
  4. You are obviously living on something, even though you are not paying yourself. Is it personal savings? Consider making loans to the company and paying yourself, rather than just living off your savings or other income. Be sure to do it as loans and not an equity investment so you can pay yourself back when profitable.

My sense, but I don’t know (I’ve been away from Singapore for four years now), is that filing little or no income with IRAS probably won’t trigger anything with MOM… you never know, though; hence the need to be prepared. And for sure, by the time your EP is up for renewal, you really ought to be paying yourself a salary or at the very least, have hard evidence of when you will.

Strong Eagle

Editor’s note: This article is retrieved from a forum posted up on Singapore Expats.

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