How to pay international contractors in Singapore [2024]


Aug 17, 2023

With many international companies leveraging skilled workers around the world, one country that's especially attractive to business owners is Singapore—known for its strong economy, high-tech infrastructure, and thriving freelancer scene. This bustling city-state is a hub for independent contractors in sectors such as information technology, finance, and creative services. 

If you're considering hiring contractors in Singapore, it's essential to understand the local laws on worker classification and payment. This article provides a step-by-step guide on paying international contractors in Singapore compliantly and efficiently.

Step #1: Classify your workers in Singapore

Before you can hire and pay a contractor in Singapore, you must accurately classify them. Misclassification of workers can have serious consequences. In Singapore, if a worker is incorrectly classified as an independent contractor, the company may be in breach of the Employment Act. This could lead to:

  • Financial penalties, including paying CPF (Central Provident Fund) contributions, back wages, and entitlements such as public holidays and medical leave
  • Fines, penalties, and surcharges on unpaid taxes and benefits
  • Fines for unpaid social security contributions
  • Imprisonment

To determine worker classification in Singapore, the courts assess a variety of factors, including the distinctions below:



Exhibit a high level of worker control.
Contractors have autonomy to determine how to do their work and when to do it.

More direction from the employer. Employers provide more direction to employees, often guiding them on how to perform their work and setting specific work hours.

Contractors own their own equipment and tools.

Company provides equipment, tools, and uniforms.

Work should not be an integral part of the company's business. Contractors should perform services that are not a core part of the business.

Can perform any work, integral or not. Employees can do any type of job the company requires.

Paid on a per-project basis. Contractors should invoice for their work and be paid only once a project is completed.

Paid at regular intervals. Employees receive pay at regular intervals, often for hourly, weekly, or monthly wages. They get paid whether they complete their work or not.

Time-bound agreement. Contractors are typically hired for a specific task or project, with an end date.

Indefinite engagement. Employees are generally hired for an indefinite period of time.

Non-exclusive agreements. Contractors can (and often do) work for many clients at any given time.

Exclusive agreements. Employees generally only work for one company, and may even have non-compete agreements.

Step #2: Determine the best way to pay your contractors in Singapore

Once you've correctly classified your contractors, the next step is to determine how to pay them. The payment method you choose can have implications for your business and your contractors. Here are some common payment methods used in Singapore:

  • Bank transfers: This is one of the most common methods of payment in Singapore. It's secure and efficient, with the funds transferred directly into the contractor's bank account.
  • Wire transfers: For international contractors, wire transfers can be an effective way of making payments, though they may come with higher transfer fees.
  • Payment apps: Some companies may opt to use international payment apps to facilitate transactions, particularly for small businesses or freelance arrangements.
  • Global payroll services. Contractors generally aren't included in payroll. They invoice for their services, which goes through accounts payable at many companies. But with Rippling, you can pay Singaporean employees and contractors wherever they are in one system.

Each payment method has pros and cons, such as transaction fees, exchange rates, and processing times. Selecting the right method is crucial to ensure smooth and timely payment, which can significantly affect your relationship with your contractors.

Step #3: Use global payroll software to process payments for Singaporean contractors 

Using global payroll software like Rippling can greatly streamline your payment process in Singapore. Rippling offers an integrated system that manages HR, IT, and operations in one platform. This means you can automate payments, ensure compliance with local tax laws, and even manage benefits for contractors in multiple countries, including Singapore.

With Rippling, you can pay employees and contractors across the world in a single place. Here’s a preview of how Rippling’s global payroll system works:

Step #4: Ensure your Singaporean contractors have the right tax information 

As with all countries, Singapore has unique tax information that both businesses and contractors should be aware of. Here are some key points:

  • Contractors in Singapore are considered self-employed and are responsible for their own taxes. They are required to declare their income and make necessary payments to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS).
  • They need to keep all records of income and expenses for at least five years.
  • Unlike employees, contractors aren't subject to withholding tax. However, some exceptions might require the payer to withhold a percentage of the payment.
  • Businesses don't need to contribute to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) for contractors. However, contractors may make voluntary contributions to their CPF accounts to secure their retirement, housing, and healthcare needs.

Remember, providing contractors with accurate and up-to-date tax information can help prevent future legal and financial complications.

Effortlessly manage contractors around the world

Expanding your global workforce is a breeze with Rippling. Use Rippling to pay international contractors in Singapore and around the world in one place.

Frequently asked questions about running payroll for contractors in Singapore

Do you need to withhold taxes when paying contractors in Singapore?

No, in general, you don't need to withhold taxes when paying independent contractors in Singapore. Contractors are considered self-employed individuals and are responsible for their own tax obligations under the Income Tax Act. However, it's always advisable to consult with a tax professional or the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) to ensure compliance.

Does the Singaporean minimum wage apply to independent contractors in Singapore?

Singapore doesn't have a statutory minimum wage. Instead, specific wage guidelines are provided for certain sectors. Therefore, the concept of a minimum wage doesn't usually apply to independent contractors.

Do Singaporean contractors get benefits?

Independent contractors in Singapore do not receive the same employee benefits as Singaporean employees under the Employment Act. These benefits may include paid annual leave, medical leave, and contributions to the CPF. Contractors are generally responsible for their own social security contributions. However, they may negotiate for certain benefits within their contract. It's important for businesses to clearly define these terms to avoid potential disputes.

Can you pay contractors in Singapore in your home currency?

It's typical to pay contractors in their local currency, which is the Singapore dollar (SGD). Paying in your home currency could result in exchange rate fluctuations and additional bank charges for the contractor. However, if you do choose to pay a contractor in your currency, it must be written in your contract with them.

Many international payment providers, like Rippling, support contractor payments in either Singapore dollars or your currency.

Can you manually pay contractors in Singapore?

Yes, you can manually pay contractors in Singapore. However, using a global payroll software like Rippling can simplify this process, reduce human error, and ensure timely and compliant payments.

How do you turn a contractor into an employee in Singapore?

To turn a contractor into an employee in Singapore, a new employment contract has to be drawn up to reflect the change in the working relationship, and you must follow all legal and compliance requirements. The terms of the contract must comply with the Employment Act and should include details on hours of work, remuneration, and employee benefits. Keep in mind that employers in Singapore are obligated to make contributions to the CPF for their employees.

Companies are more likely to employ through their own entity if they already have one in Singapore. However, you can still hire employees in Singapore without a Singaporean entity through an employer of record service.

Are CPF contributions required for contractors in Singapore?

No, businesses are not required to make CPF contributions for contractors in Singapore. Contractors are considered self-employed individuals and are responsible for making their own CPF contributions.

Can a contractor in Singapore be hired under a contract of service?

A contractor in Singapore typically operates under a contract for service, which is different from a contract of service. The former defines the contractor as self-employed, while the latter typically applies to an employer-employee relationship. Misclassification can lead to legal and financial consequences, so it's crucial to understand the difference.

Do Singapore's public holiday laws apply to contractors?

Singapore's public holiday laws, which provide for paid time off on public holidays, apply only to employees. Independent contractors aren’t protected by these laws, as they are self-employed and set their own work hours.

What are the considerations for making lump-sum payments to contractors in Singapore?

While lump-sum payments can be an efficient way to compensate contractors for large projects, keep in mind that contractors in Singapore are responsible for managing their own tax obligations. It's important to communicate this clearly to avoid any misunderstanding. Additionally, lump-sum payments might be affected by exchange rates if you're paying from a foreign bank account.

With Rippling, you can effortlessly manage contractors. And if you decide to transition them to a full-time role, we’ll take care of the paperwork, benefits administration, payroll, and more. Rippling handles it all, ensuring you stay compliant from onboarding to offboarding.

Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.

last edited: May 8, 2024

The Author

Carissa Tham

A British Columbia-based tech content strategist and writer, Carissa has lived and worked in Singapore, Taiwan, and Canada. Carissa lends her unique global perspectives to growing Rippling’s brand in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.