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Assocham for adoption of Singapore's low-tax scheme
November, 09th 2006
Industry chamber Assocham has asked the government to adopt the Singapore headquarters initiative, which, launched by the island nation in 1986, provides many tax incentives, including allowing group companies to offset losses through profits made by their subsidiaries and levy of a low corporation tax burden of 20 per cent. 
The finance ministry has sought inputs from the corporate sector on the initiative. The proposal was made by Assocham at a recent meeting with revenue department officials. 
D S Rawat, secretary general, Assocham, said, The government has told us that the proposal is being considered by the revenue department in order to attract investments from multinational corporations. 
Of the 3,600 foreign companies located in Singapore, nearly a quarter use the country as their headquarters on account of the sops provided to them under the initiative. 
In fact, several top names in the Indian telecom and information technology sectors, among others, have their regional headquarters in Singapore. 
The country has reduced the corporation tax rate to 20 per cent from the 2005 assessment year. A company in Singapore is taxed at a flat rate of 20 per cent on its chargeable income. 
This is far less than India's corporate tax rate of 33 per cent. Similarly, the individual top marginal tax rate in Singapore has been reduced to 22 per cent since the 2003 assessment year and personal income tax rates for all income bands have been correspondingly reduced. 
Under the model, group relief is provided to companies since 2003. Group relief recognises group companies as a single economic entity and allows the entity to offset losses through profits made by its subsidiaries. 
A loss-making company can choose to transfer its current year losses to another group company. This lowers the tax burden for the group. 
However, foreign losses cannot be transferred for the purpose of group relief. This is because foreign income is not taxed in Singapore unless it is remitted to the country. 
Also, the initiative provides unilateral tax credit, which is extended to cover all services income remitted from other countries. Companies are encouraged to use Singapore as a base from which services are provided to network companies and customers in the region. 
Singapore also has a Not Ordinarily Resident (NOR) taxpayer scheme, under which a qualifying individual is only taxed on the portion of employment income based on the actual number of days spent in the country. 
This is meant to benefit headquarters staff, who are usually required to travel extensively to provide management support to businesses in the region.
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