Moving from the UK to Singapore is an exciting opportunity. The Singapore government has actively implemented policies and initiatives to foster a business-friendly environment along with incentives and support for companies establishing there, creating promising career prospects for many British expats. If you’re making the move, there are lots of ways to embrace the lifestyle in Singapore, but it’s vital to get your financial planning in order so you can make the most of your expat status.

Moving from the UK to Singapore?

Singapore is a sophisticated, multicultural island nation where East meets West. As well as enjoying a thriving economy, Singapore is a major trade and financial hub in Asia with modern working practices which appeal to British expats. With a high standard of living, Singapore can be expensive, but offers a safe, clean and secure location and some impressive education options – although fees for international schools should be factored into your plans if you have children. There’s also plenty of scope for outdoor activities with many green spaces, including MacRitchie reservoir, the wetland reserves and Botanic Gardens, and travel opportunities to the local beaches and islands and easy access to other countries in the wider region.

Consider your finances

The complex financial admin involved with an overseas move can be daunting. Before you move you should update the UK tax authorities about your plans, and work with an expert adviser to help you successfully step away from the UK tax system and discuss the other financial implications of your move. Income Tax in Singapore is lower than in the UK – ranging from 0% to 22% – and local reliefs may also help.

This may mean your salary can go a lot further, but it’s worth noting that the cost of living can be high especially when it comes to food, alcohol, healthcare, rent, education and the necessities of aircon given the climate. However, public transport is good, inexpensive and reliable, so depending on where you decide to live and your own priorities, you may not need to factor in the cost of a car. In order to make the most of your new financial circumstances, it’s important to budget well, and consider your income and spending, as well as ensuring that you continue to save and invest at least at the same rate as you were managing before your move. Your advantageous tax status may even allow you to increase your savings and help build significant reserves for your future.

FAQ questions about moving to Singapore

  • Is Singapore tax free? Singapore isn’t tax free, but income tax is lower than the UK. You may also benefit from there being very limited capital gains tax though you should consult experts for accurate, up-to-date information.
  • Does Singapore have inheritance tax? Inheritance tax was abolished in Singapore in 2008, but please do bear in mind it is likely that you would still remain within the UK inheritance tax (IHT) net, even though you are now living overseas.

Local Singapore tax

When relocating to Singapore, one of the first adjustments to consider is the variance in local tax laws and systems. If you are moving from the UK, a significant change to adapt to will be the method of tax payment. In Singapore, taxes on earnings are generally paid as a lump sum on an annual basis or can be paid monthly in arrears, unlike in the UK where they are deducted from your salary on a PAYE basis. It is crucial to note that if you switch jobs within Singapore or leave the country entirely, you must settle all outstanding taxes. Additionally, if you hold any existing stock options or awards that have not yet been exercised or vested when you decide to leave Singapore, you may be required to pay tax on them as well.

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Housing when relocating to Singapore

Although accommodation can be expensive, and most modern apartments/condominiums are small, they do tend to provide great shared amenities including gyms, BBQ areas and pools. British expats usually consider a wide range of areas in the city as a base including Holland Village, Tanglin, Orchard, River Valley and the East Coast. When you’re looking for property it’s worth remembering that the suburbs are cheaper than the city centre – just like anywhere!

Secure your employment pass

If you’re moving to Singapore to work, the first step is securing a suitable work pass.  There are a number of work pass types that can apply, however the majority of expats in executive and managerial roles require an employment pass. You should apply through your employer before moving; applications are reviewed based on your salary, qualifications, and national diversity within the firm employing you. If you’re approved, you’ll receive a single-entry visa which will allow you to make the move. Once you’re in Singapore, the second part of the application will be to issue your Employment Pass which is often initially valid for two years and can then be renewed for up to three years at a time. An employment pass covers you, and depending on your salary, you can apply for a dependants pass to cover your spouse and children under 21 and in full time education.

Healthcare in Singapore

Healthcare in Singapore is of a very high standard with a network of public and private hospitals; however, it can be costly and expats must pay for their medical treatment themselves, which can get expensive. While some companies offer medical insurance as an employee benefit, it’s important to recognise that this is not mandatory and may not extend to cover dependants, so it’s important to factor these costs into your monthly finances.

Other considerations when moving to Singapore

When moving to Singapore there are a number of financial considerations which need to be well managed. The first is your pension – you can continue to save into your UK scheme in the year you move and for up to five years after but may need to consider other options such as a QROPS (Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme). Continuing to make National Insurance payments in the UK also ensures that, when the time comes, you can access the State Pension, which can be a useful top-up to your own retirement funds.

If you have a property in the UK and want to keep hold of it as a rental opportunity, or somewhere to return to in the future, you’ll need to consider the tax implications – again talking to a UK tax expert can help here. One key point to note is that, if you choose to sell your home, you’ll generally face capital gains tax in the UK – wherever you live in the world. And don’t forget to consider your estate planning too; whenever there’s a major change in your life it makes sense to review your Will, especially if you have children. Also bear in mind that your worldwide assets will always fall into the UK inheritance tax net if you’re UK domiciled. You may need to consider local Wills too, especially if you put down roots in Singapore, or stay longer than you first planned.

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