A non-profit entity is an organisation that does not distribute or share its profits or surplus income to its shareholders. Instead, the surplus is re-invested to expand and grow the organisation. The primary goal of a non-profit entity is to carry out projects and render services that benefit society at large. There are more than 200 registered non-profit entities in Singapore operating in the main cities such as Tampines and Choa Chu Kang.
The three most common legal structures for non-profit entities in Singapore are:
Public Company Limited by Guarantee
Registering a company in Singapore as a public limited company gives it the ability to operate just like any other registered organisation. It can enter into contracts and deals with other organisations in the country without contravening any governing laws. Individual liability is relatively small, but the members are required to commit a certain amount of money to cater for the liabilities of the organisations if things go south.
A non-profit entity that is registered with the Registrar of companies as a society is less formal than an incorporated public company limited by guarantee. It is easier to establish, but there are some challenges that you should be aware of from the word go. One of the drawbacks is that you are not permitted to operate as an independent legal entity, and this means that the members of the society can be held liable for the liabilities of the society.
It is also important to note that at least ten people are required for a society to be successfully registered in Singapore. The President, Treasurer, and Secretary of the society must be Singaporeans.
According to the current Singapore laws, a charitable trust is set up by a single individual but managed by a group of trustees whose roles in the entity are clearly defined. Their roles are articulated in a deed that all the trustees are required to abide by at all times. One of the soles of the trustees is to manage the funds of the charitable trust.
If you are planning to register a company in Singapore as a non-profit entity, consider the pros and cons associated with each of these three options to make an informed decision.