Last updated November 2023
What is ACRA?
ACRA, or the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, serves as the regulatory body overseeing companies and public accountants. Any business, be it locally owned by Singapore citizens or foreign-owned, must undergo the ACRA registration process to establish and operate in the country by the Companies Act. You can check out our guide on how to register a company in Singapore to learn more about the process and requirements.
On April 1, 2023, ACRA, the Singapore Accountancy Commission (SAC), and the Accounting Standards Council (ASC) consolidated into a single entity, retaining the name ACRA. This merger aimed to enhance regulatory efficiency, standard-setting, and sector development by leveraging synergies among various accountancy-related functions.
Under the Singapore Companies Act, this regulatory body issues a Unique Entity Number (UEN) to registered business entities. The 9-10 digit UEN streamlines identification for transactions with various government agencies. Previously, businesses used different numbers for different governmental agencies, but UENs provide a singular and universal ID, simplifying and unifying the identification process across all transactions and agencies.
If you make changes to your company, such as address, hierarchy, directors, or changing the company name, you must report these changes to ACRA as required by the Companies Act. Non-compliance may lead to the company being struck off the regulatory authority’s register. This impacts both the company and its directors, potentially disqualifying them from future directorships or management roles.
The regulatory body is also responsible for helping businesses close properly. Suppose a corporation would cease its operations in the country or would have to shut down due to various issues. In that case, ACRA will ensure that the company in question would file the necessary paperwork to close the business to get it stricken from its register.
The requirements ACRA needs from businesses wanting to incorporate can seem daunting at first and could make you question if it is worth it. But there are three signals that you should proceed with business incorporation, which you can quickly read to see for yourself if you should pursue it.
What is BizFile?
BizFile is an online portal made by ACRA in 2004 for businesses to upload, store, and download business data for companies in Singapore. Before BizFile, corporate secretaries and business owners would have to personally go to the office to submit various forms like company registration and approvals on corporate actions. With the portal, companies can process documents online without leaving the office, making things a lot easier.
It not only made things easy for companies but also for ACRA as they are using the system to expedite its application processing. The portal allows them to view applications easily and even automate internal operations to speed up application processing.
Because of the increased use, ACRA revamped the portal in 2016 and released BizFile+. The revamp made application processing faster, smoother, and more reliable than ever before.
Once you can access BizFile+, you’ll be able to do the following essential activities through the portal:
- Register your business online.
- Closing or dissolution of the company.
- Filling your business’ annual returns.
- Filing financial statements.
- Company address change.
- Updating the change of company hierarchy.
- Change in personal details of officers and members of the company.
- Use the ACRA central directory to look up Unique Entity Numbers (UEN)
- Access to other key systems like the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.
- Getting industry data and reports.
- Purchasing ACRA business profiles.
- Performing online investigations about Medisave partners and Central Provident Fund owner status.
- Do online investigations for approval, along with referral professionals.
How is BizFile+ Better?
ACRA’s primary goal is to simplify business registrations for everyone, whether you’re an individual launching a startup or a corporation aiming to expand. BizFile+ achieves this by streamlining the processing of all required documents. The enhanced user experience is an additional benefit, making navigation more user-friendly for corporations and business owners. The platform includes a customized dashboard, displaying only pertinent information and services tailored to each specific user, ensuring a smoother and more efficient operation.
BizFile+ also makes compliance filings easier because they can all be done online. Singapore companies usually hire a corporate secretary to process all the documents and file them physically at the ACRA office. But with the BizFile+ portal being online, corporate secretaries can upload all the required documentation right there and then.
Another significant upgrade of the portal is that it allowed BizFile+ to be mobile-friendly. Individuals can view vital information and upload essential documents through their smartphones – which is perfect for business owners who are always on the go.
Business owners may also allow email or SMS notifications to be turned on so that they would receive regular notifications whenever a transaction is accomplished. This notification feature is a great addition, especially to businesses with a corporate secretary doing the paperwork on behalf of the business owners. It lets them know that all uploaded documents have successfully been transmitted, giving owners peace of mind.
Starting from October 27, 2023, customers buying ACRA information products can download them from the designated platform. These changes are made to improve accessibility and simplify the process for business owners and business entities.
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