On 8 October 2014, the Business Names Registration Bill 2014 (the “Bill”) was passed in Parliament. The Bill is not yet in force.
The provisions of the Bill will repeal the Business Registration Act and re-enact it with amendments as the Business Names Registration Act 2014 (the “Act”). The changes are intended to enable the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (the “ACRA”) to implement its recommendations to simplify the process for the registration of persons and their business names, and reduce regulatory burden on business owners. The new name of the Act will also better reflect the objective of the Act.
The key changes arising from the Bill are as follows:
- Exemption from registration of individuals carrying on business in Singapore under only their full names: Subject to the provisions of the Bill, all persons intending to carry on business in Singapore need to register with the ACRA. In particular, individuals who carry on business in Singapore under only their full names will be exempt from this requirement as they are already identifiable as the persons carrying on the business. Individuals who are currently exempted from registration under the First Schedule of the Business Registration Act (including licensed hawkers and taxi drivers) will continue to be exempt from registering with the ACRA so long as they carry on the same businesses. However, the exemption for businesses listed under the First Schedule of the Business Registration Act will not apply to individuals who commence such businesses after the Bill comes into force. Like any other business owner, they will be exempted from registration if they carry on these businesses in Singapore under only their full names.
- Option to register or renew business names for either one year or three years: Currently, all registrations and renewals under the Business Registration Act are valid for only one year. When the Bill comes into force, individuals who have fully paid their contributions to their Central Provident Fund Medisave account, or stay on a regular instalment plan with good Medisave contribution records, will have the option to register or renew their business name registration for either one year or three years. This change will convenience business owners and at the same time encourage prompt contributions to their Medisave accounts.
- Extending civil and criminal consequences for conducting businesses without registration to other situations: Currently, it is a criminal offence under the Business Registration Act to conduct business without registration or to fail to update the ACRA on certain changes in particulars. The offence is punishable with a fine of up to S$5,000, or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both. In addition, an offender may not be able to enforce contractual rights arising from his business unless he is granted relief from the court. The Bill now extends the same civil and criminal consequences to those who carry on business after their registrations have ceased or have been cancelled.
- Enhanced maximum penalties: The maximum penalties for certain criminal offences will be increased to a fine of up to S$10,000 (currently S$5,000), or a jail-term of up to two years (currently 12 months), or both. This aligns the penalties with those imposed for similar offences in other ACRA-administered legislation such as the Companies Act.