Registering a Society in Singapore

Last updated on January 16, 2024

group of people waving hands

Are you considering establishing and registering a society in Singapore? This article intends to guide you through the process of registering a society in Singapore as well as provide a clearer roadmap to better understand the key considerations when doing so.

This article will cover:

What is a Society?

Under the Societies Act, a society is defined as a club, company, partnership or association of 10 or more persons, whatever its nature or object, and not already registered under any other law.

Some examples of societies that are registered in Singapore include:

  • Harvard University Association of Alumni in Singapore
  • Lion City Sports Club
  • Guzheng Association (Singapore)
  • Tampines Green Meadows Residents’ Network
  • Pharmacological Society (Singapore)

Can a charity also be a society?

Charity status is granted to an organisation based on the nature of its activities and purpose, rather than its legal structure. Therefore, as long as your organisation is established as a society, company limited by guarantee, or charitable trust, and fulfils the criteria below, it can qualify for charity status.

A society can attain charity status by fulfilling the following criteria outlined in the Charities (Registration of Charities) Regulations:

  • The governing instruments provide for the purposes of your organisation and the purposes must be exclusively charitable (e.g. Relief of poverty, advancement of education and advancement of religion)
  • Your organisation has at least three governing board members, of whom two must be Singaporeans or permanent residents; and
  • Purposes of your organisation must be beneficial wholly or substantially to the community in Singapore.

A society is one of the more prevalent legal structures for non-profit entities in Singapore. These entities operate autonomously and are governed by their own constitution – a private contractual agreement outlining the rights and obligations of their members.

The management of a society is delegated to a committee which must comprise at least a President, Secretary and Treasurer, and all individuals holding office must secure election by the society’s members. However, for a society to be eligible for registration under the Societies Act, it must have a minimum of 10 individuals.

The majority of the committee members are required to hold Singaporean Citizenship. In particular, the President, Secretary, Treasurer and their deputies are required to be Singapore Citizens or Singapore Permanent Residents. Do note that foreign diplomats are not allowed to serve as committee members.

Other common structures include charitable trusts and public companies limited by guarantee. However, do take note that these structures are subject to different governance processes and registration requirements.

Why Might You Choose to Register as a Society Over the Other Structures? 

Regulatory differences 

Registering as a society is preferred over other structures because of its relatively relaxed regulatory requirements, as will be elaborated on later.

For example, charities are subject to stricter regulatory scrutiny due to their charitable status which necessitates adherence to specific guidelines to preserve their tax-exempt status.

Likewise, companies limited by guarantee must comply with a greater number of laws and regulations such as the Companies Act as well as Securities and Futures Act. This makes the registration process even more complicated for charities and companies limited by guarantee.

Why Might You Choose to Register Other Structures Over a Society? 

Tax exemptions  

Charities benefit from the most favourable tax exemptions, receiving automatic income tax exemption pursuant to section 13(1)(zm) of the Income Tax Act. This means that charities are not required to make any income tax payments.

However, societies qualify for income tax exemptions only when 50 percent or less of their gross revenue is derived from their Singapore members eligible for tax deduction.

In cases where the revenue exceeds this threshold, only the income generated by Singapore members is liable for the 17 percent corporate income tax. Income generated by non-members remains subject to income tax, regardless of the aforementioned regulations.

Limited liability 

The structure of a public company limited by guarantee is commonly favoured primarily because of its limited liability feature. This means the company has the ability to initiate or be part of legal actions in its own name, safeguarding its members from potential liabilities.

In contrast, members of societies are more susceptible to liability issues. This is because a registered society lacks a legal entity status of its own and is solely formed by its members. Consequently, members will have to bear full responsibility for any liabilities incurred by the society.

What is the Process for Registering a Society in Singapore? 

In Singapore, the Registry of Societies, a unit under the Ministry of Home Affairs, oversees the registration of societies. There are two types of registration processes – Automatic and Normal.

Automatic Registration process Normal Registration process
Process of registration Under the Automatic Registration process, a society is registered immediately upon the submission of its application cum declaration and payment of the registration fee. Once registered, the society can start its activities immediately. Under the Normal Registration process, a society has to wait for an in-principle approval from the Registry of Societies after the society has submitted its application. The society is registered only upon payment of the registration fee after receiving Registry of Societies’ in-principle approval. Thereafter, the society can only start its activities after its registration has been published in the Gazette.
Average processing time Two months Immediate
Registration Fee $300 payable $400 payable
Supporting information and documents to be submitted for Registration Information on the Society

  • Name of the society (and 2 more alternative names for Normal Registration process)
  • Place of Business (defined as the place where the books and records of the society will be kept)
  • Telephone and/or Fax Nos.

Information on the Members

  • Names of 10 Members
  • Title of Office (e.g. President, Secretary, Treasurer, Ordinary Member, etc)
  • Residential Address
  • Contact Information (e.g. email, mobile no., etc)
  • Nationality, Resident Status in Singapore, NRIC/FIN No., Date of Birth
  • Gender, Marital Status, Race, Dialect Group, Religion
  • Educational Qualifications, Present Employment Status
  • Membership in other societies, if any.

Documents in English

  • Constitution of the society (A template with accompanying guidelines can be found here)
  • Letters of affiliation (where necessary)
  • Letters of approval or support from relevant government agencies, schools, organisations, personalities, etc (where necessary)


  • SingPasses of the President, Secretary and Treasurer of the society.
  • Email addresses of the President, Secretary and Treasurer of the society.
  • Name, address and telephone/fax no. of a Contact Person for the application (optional)

The Automatic Registration process applies to any society so long as the society is not included in The Schedule of the Societies Act 1966.

However, there remains an option to register your society through the Automatic Registration process by submitting a registration application to the Registry of Societies for consideration under the Normal Registration procedure.

In 2024, new revisions to the Societies Act will be implemented. These will grant the Registrar the authority to decline applications submitted through the Automatic Registration process if they are deemed to be potentially associated with unlawful activities or pose a threat to Singapore’s security. These amendments also empower the Registry of Societies to request additional information from applicants during the Automatic Registration process, making it more difficult for applicants to register their society.

Are Societies Subject to Governance Requirements?

Registered societies generally operate autonomously. While conducting their activities, these societies must adhere not only to the regulations outlined in their respective constitutions but also comply with the laws prevailing in Singapore, more particularly to those outlined in the Societies Act.

Under the Societies Act, registered societies are obligated to:

  • Maintain proper accounts and records of the transactions and affairs of the society and get its accounts audited annually;
  • Submit an Annual Return and its audited statement of accounts to the ROS annually;
  • Submit to the ROS an audited statement of accounts of any fundraising appeal 60 days after its completion;
  • Apply to change its name, place of business and rules; and
  • Apply to use any flag, symbol, emblem, badge or other insignia.

Additionally, societies are obligated to conduct their Annual General Meeting (AGM) as stipulated in their constitution. Following this meeting, they are mandated to submit their Annual Returns within one month of the AGM, or if no meeting is held, once in every calendar year within a month after the close of its financial year. The Annual Return should include the most recent updates concerning the society and its office bearers.

In conclusion, there are two pathways available for registering your society in Singapore – either through the Automatic Registration process, or Normal Registration process. It is crucial to thoroughly understand and adhere to the specific guidelines. Otherwise, your application may become invalid. In doing so, do also pay close attention to governance requirements when conducting activities as a society in order to avoid any penalty.

Should you need further guidance or advice from a lawyer, you may consider contacting our Call a Lawyer service. A lawyer can provide support in navigating the legal administrative procedures involved in registering your society. They can also clarify whether your society qualifies for specific considerations, such as determining the applicable registration process.

We also offer corporate secretarial services to aid and facilitate the application and registration process for establishing a society in Singapore.

Lastly, you may consider exploring the Ministry of Home Affairs’ FAQ page for responses to additional questions that you may have about registering a society in Singapore.

Getting Started
  1. Guide to Finding Investors For Your Singapore Start-Up
  2. Starting an E-Sports Business in Singapore: 6 Things To Note
  3. A Guide to Starting a Business in Singapore
  4. Event Planning Business in Singapore: How to Handle Licensing, Etc.
  5. Developing a Business App? Here are 5 Things to Note
  6. Starting a Telemedicine Practice: Legal Considerations
  7. How to Start Your Own Law Firm in Singapore
  8. How to Start a Business With a Co-Founder in Singapore
  9. High-Tech Farming Business in Singapore: How to Get Started
  10. Using AI For Your Singapore Business: 4 Things to Note
  11. 8 Checks to Conduct on Registered Companies in Singapore
  12. How to Get a UEN Number in Singapore: Step-by-Step Guide
  13. Startup Incubator or Accelerator: Why & How to Join in Singapore
  14. Social Enterprise and B Corp: Are They Any Different?
  15. Registering a Business in Singapore: Do I Need to and How?
  16. Deciding Your Business Structure: A Sole Proprietorship, Partnership or a Company?
  17. How to Choose an ACRA-Approved Name for Your Business
  18. 7 Start-Up Government Grants in Singapore (and How to Apply)
  19. How to Open a Corporate Bank Account in Singapore (2024)
  20. Guide to Corporate Secretarial Services & Hiring a Suitable Firm
  21. Financial Year End (FYE) Singapore: How to Decide/Change
  22. 8 Tips on Choosing the Best Virtual Office in Singapore for Your Business
  23. Company Seals vs Rubber Stamps in Singapore: When to Use What
Incorporation and Company Formation
  1. Multinational Company (MNC): How to Set Up One in Singapore
  2. How to Set Up a Holding Company in Singapore (With FAQs)
  3. How to Register a Company in Singapore: Documents, Fees, Etc.
  4. Guide to Limited Liability Companies in Singapore
  5. Starting an Exempt Private Company in Singapore: Benefits and Process
  6. Registration and Compliance Fees for Singapore Companies
  7. Setting Up a Company Limited by Guarantee in Singapore
  8. Why and How to Set Up a Subsidiary in Singapore (with FAQs)
  9. Why and How to Set Up a Branch Office in Singapore (with FAQs)
  10. Offshore Company: What is It & How to Set Up One in Singapore
  11. Trading Company in Singapore: Why and How to Set Up One
  12. Shelf Company: What It Is and How to Buy One in Singapore
  13. Special Purpose Vehicle: Does Your Start-Up Need One?
Setting Up Other Business Structures
  1. Registering a Society in Singapore
  2. When Should a Small Business Change Its Legal Structure?
  3. Sole Proprietorship vs Pte Ltd: Pros and Cons in Singapore
  4. Forming a Sole Proprietorship in Singapore
  5. Forming a Partnership in Singapore
  6. Guide to Registering a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) in Singapore
  7. Why and How to Convert Your Singapore Sole Proprietorship into a Pte Ltd Company
Setting up a Business for Foreigners and Foreign Companies
  1. Singapore GST Registration Guide for Foreign Businesses
  2. Applying for Tech.Pass in Singapore: Eligibility and Benefits
  3. How Can Foreigners Start a Business in Singapore?
  4. Foreign Companies Setting up in Singapore
  5. Singapore Representative Office: How Can a Foreign Company Set Up?
  6. Redomiciliation: Why and How to Convert Your Foreign Company into a Singapore-Registered Company
  7. Singapore Entrepreneur Pass: Who Is It For? How Do I Obtain One?
  8. Setting Up a Company in Malaysia: A Foreigner’s Guide
Applying for Business Licences
  1. Do You Need a Licence to Sell Home Bakes in Singapore?
  2. Legal Checklist for Setting Up a Restaurant in Singapore
  3. How Businesses Can Import Food into Singapore
  4. How to Apply for Halal Certification for Your Singapore Restaurant
  5. How to Apply for a Liquor Licence to Sell Alcohol in Singapore
  6. Public Entertainment Licence: Guide for Business Owners
  7. Want to Busk in Singapore? Here's How to Get Your Busking Licence
Legal Documents
  1. Guide to Writing Website Terms and Conditions in Singapore
  2. Using Smart Contracts in Singapore: Benefits and Risks
  3. Your Guide to Joint Venture Agreements in Singapore
  4. Key Legal Documents Every Startup Should Consider
  5. Legal Pitfalls of Using Generative AI to Draft Business Documents
  6. Do You Need a Partnership Agreement When Setting Up?
  7. Do You Need a Shareholder Agreement When Setting Up?
  8. Memorandum of Understanding (MOU): Does Your Business Need One?
  9. Guide to VIMA in Singapore (Venture Capital Investment Model Agreements)
Office Rental
  1. How to Apply for Change of Use of Property (URA and HDB)
  2. Moving to a New Office: A Legal Checklist for Singapore Businesses
  3. How to Change the Registered Address of a Singapore Company
  4. Guide to Common Commercial Lease Terms in Singapore
  5. How to Resolve Commercial Lease Disputes in Singapore
Industry Tips
  1. Legal Tips: Starting an Online Business in Singapore