For business owners, the idea of running your own home office in Singapore can be pretty attractive.
For starters, you don’t have to wake up early and squeeze with the madding crowd during the morning rush hour. Plus, you don’t have to dress up and can work in whatever you’re comfortable in. And the best thing about running a home office from your flat? You can save on office rental.
While most of us can relate due to having worked from home for a while, applying for HDB’s Home Office Scheme and running business operations from your HDB flat is a little different.
Essentially, the Home Office Scheme allows you to run a small-scale registered business from your HDB flat. Do take note that there are some guidelines and criteria that you’ll need to fulfil as well, before you can get a Home Office License. Read on to find out more.
Home Office Scheme for HDB Flats: What Are the Criteria and Guidelines?
Before applying for a license under the Home Office Scheme to run your business in your flat, be sure that you meet the following eligibility criteria and guidelines summarised here.
You must be either the flat owner, registered occupier or tenant and continue to use the flat as a place of residence
Up to two non-residents (e.g. employees, partners and directors) are allowed to work at the home office
Type of business
The business should not be on the list of non-permitted businesses under the Home Office scheme. It must not be illegal, unlawful or immoral (e.g. gambling or pornography-related activities)
Impact on neighbours
You must not generate noise, smoke, odour, waste, dust, human or vehicular traffic, or otherwise be a nuisance to your neighbours. Do not solicit business in a way that causes disturbance. No selling of physical goods in or around your flat
Take all necessary safety precautions and comply with all regulations around electricity, structural load, fire safety requirements and so on
Comply with all other regulations and obtain necessary licenses/approvals before commencement of business
The above table is only a summary and is non-exhaustive. You can find the complete list of guidelines for the Home Office Scheme here.
What Businesses Are Eligible for HDB’s Home Office Scheme?
According to HDB’s guidelines, all home office business activities must be administrative in nature. Any non-administrative activities must be conducted elsewhere.
Examples of businesses permissible under the Home Office Scheme by HDB are:
- Accountancy services
- Architectural services
- Consultancy services (business, engineering, IT, management or education)
- Design/Advertising services
- Insurance/Financial planning services
- Real estate agencies
- Technology-based and knowledge-intensive businesses
- Trading office (excluding car trading office)
The following are examples of non-permitted businesses under the Home Office Scheme by HDB:
- Beauty, hairdressing or massage therapy services
- Contractors Business
- Car trading business
- Card reading/palm reading or fortune-telling in any form
- Commercial school (e.g. dance, music, language, tuition centre, etc.)
- Courier business
- Classes on dress-making/embroidery
- Clinics and pharmacies (e.g. dental, medical, veterinary, ophthamology, etc.)
- Food catering/restaurants
- Funeral chapels or homes
- Maid/employment agency
- Manufacturing, preparation of processing of ANY products and goods
- Money lending business
- Repair activities (e.g. household appliances, electrical products, footwear, etc.)
- Sales/marketing that involves conducting seminars and talks for large number of customers
- Shops and any form of retail activity, including pet shops
If your business falls under the non-permitted businesses category, you can still use your HDB flat as an administrative office, or as the business address when you register with accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).
However, you can’t have other activities taking place inside the flat. Also, clients or customers are not allowed to visit your flat.
Let’s say you’re running a baking business. Under the Home Office Scheme by HDB, you can only do the administrative work, such as running your baking website, in your flat. You’ll have to find somewhere else to actually bake and sell your cakes and cookies.
3 Things to Do Before You Apply for a Home Office License
1. Ensure Your Business Activities Are Compliant
As your HDB flat is still technically a residential property, it should primarily remain as a place to live, and not solely used for business. The business you’re running in your flat under the Home Office Scheme should not cause any disturbance to your neighbours and the surrounding areas.
In general, any business activity under the Home Office Scheme in Singapore must comply with the following rules:
- Maximum of two non-residents are allowed to be engaged in the business at the Home Office unit. These include employees, directors, or partners.
- Business activities must not be illegal, unlawful or immoral (e.g. gambling or pornography-related activities)
- Do not generate noise, smoke, odour, chemical waste, liquid waste, or dust
- Do not introduce human or vehicular traffic to the surroundings or neighbourhood
- Do not be a nuisance to your neighbours or affect the character, ambience, and environment of the residential estate
- No solicitation of business that may cause disturbance to other residents or members of the public (e.g. distribution of brochures and flyers, or door-to-door visitations)
- No selling of physical goods in or around your flat
- There must be no advertisements, signages or posters displayed at your flat
2. Register Your Business With ACRA
If your business is not exempted under the Business Registration Act, you’ll need to have it registered with Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) before you can start any activity.
Your business has to be registered as one of the following business structures:
- Limited Liability Partnership
- Company (Private Limited)
Should you apply for the home office license before registering with ACRA, you’ll have to select your profile as “Individual” in the application.
After registering with ACRA, you can then register it as a business under the Home Office Scheme and obtain a home office license.
3. Safety Requirements
Since office items such as papers, files, and office equipment in a home office are more likely to cause a fire than those found in normal residential areas, it’s a must that you have a fire extinguisher and smoke detector installed in your flat.
Read more here.
Under the requirements set by the Fire Safety and Shelter Department (FSSD), you’ll need to install:
- Minimally an 8A/34B ABC Dry Chemical Powder fire extinguisher (available at DIY shops)
- A single-station smoke detector (battery operated; no wiring needed; available at DIY shops)
You may also email SCDF_qp_consultant@scdf.gov.sg for any fire safety requirements.
In addition to installing a fire extinguisher and smoke detector, you should also ensure that your business adheres to the following:
- All necessary safety precautions are taken, ensuring that the business activities do not pose any danger to human lives or damage to property
- The structural load and consumption of electricity does not exceed the normal residential limit
- Dangerous chemicals and/or hazardous substances are not stored and/or used
- Regulations of other government authorities are complied with and relevant licences/ approvals are obtained before commencement of operations
- No part of the flat should comprise unauthorised works under the Housing & Development Act
How Do I Apply for the HDB Home Office License?
You may either apply for the HDB home office license on your own or authorise someone else to do it for you.
If You’re Applying on Your Own
You can apply via the GoBusiness license portal by searching for "HDB Home Office Scheme".
Log in via SingPass to start the application process. If you are the owner, tenant, or authorised occupier of the HDB flat and applying for your own company, you do not need to furnish any additional documents.
To complete the application, you’ll need to pay an administrative fee of $20 via Visa or MasterCard on the GoBusiness website. Once you’ve made payment, your license will be instantly approved.
If a Third Party is Applying
You can also have a third party apply on your behalf via the GoBusiness license portal. The procedure is the same, but he will need to submit a Letter of Authorisation from you while applying for the home office license.
How Can I Renew the Home Office License?
According to the URA, the home office license is a one-time license valid throughout the duration of your business. Thus, it does not need to be renewed.
If you’ve decided to change the nature of your home business, though, you’ll need to file a notice with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) of these changes and notify HDB as well. You do not need to apply for the license a second time.
Do also ensure that your new business still meets all the Home Office Scheme requirements.
How Do I Terminate the Home Office License?
If you decide not to use your flat as a home office anymore, you can terminate your HDB home office license via HDB’s e-feedback form. Select ‘Living in an HDB Flat > Other Lease Matters > Starting a Home Office’.
Once your license is terminated, you’ll need to file a notice of change of business or company address with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).
You must also stop using your flat as a home office.
Do I Need to Pay Income Tax for My HDB Home Office?
As long as you or any other co-owner live in the flat, it’s subject to the owner-occupied concessionary tax rate.
But keep in mind that besides property tax, you’ll need to pay income tax for any income earned or received from your business.
For more information on income tax, be sure to check the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) website.
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