Guide to Registering a Charity

This guide will provide you with an overview of the key aspects involved in registering a charity.

Charities are designed as organisations which:

  • Operate on a not-for-profit basis;
  • Are set up exclusively for charitable purposes; and
  • Carry out activities to achieve these purposes which benefit the public.

For an organization to be registered as a charity, they must either be recognized as a Society, Company Limited by Guarantee, or a Charitable Trust.

Charities can also be recognised as Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) by the Commissioner of Charities. Organizations looking to apply for IPC status must be a registered charity or an exempt charity or other charity that is not required to be registered by virtue of section 5(4) of the Charities Act. This status would allow them toissue tax deductible receipts for qualifying donations to donors. In other words, donors can claim tax relief from their assessable income based on the amount donated, at the prevailing deduction rate of 250%.

All organizations set up for charitable purposes are required to register their charity status within 3 months of its establishment. All registered charities will enjoy automatic income tax exemption. The Charities (Registration of Charities) Regulations require companies to comply with the following conditions to be eligible for registering as a charity:

  • Purposes or objects of the organisation must be exclusively charitable.
  • The organisation must have at least 3 governing board members, of whom at least two must be Singapore citizens or permanent residents.
  • Purposes or objects of the organisation must be beneficial wholly or substantially to the community in Singapore.

Organizations who identify as Grantmakers* and are unable to meet the above-mentioned registration conditions can choose to register as a charity  under the Grantmakers Scheme. 

Grantmakers can qualify for the scheme if they meet the following requirements:

  • Be a non-profit and non-governmental organization.
  • Be solely funded by an individual, family or institution (whether corporate or not).
  • Be established to aid exclusively charitable purposes through the provision of grants.
  • Not be a registered Institution of a Public Character (IPC).

When registering an organization as a charity:

  1. The following legal structures can register as a Charity:
  • A society under the Registry of Societies (ROS): A society is defined in the Societies Act 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.
  • A company limited by guarantee (CLG) under the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA): A CLG is usually formed to carry out non-profit making activities which consists of members instead of shareholders.
  • A charitable trust: Defined under Section 13(O) of the Income Tax Act to refer to a trust created in writing for providing public benefit, solely for one or more of the following charitable purposes:
  • Prevention and relief of poverty;
  • Advancement of education;
  • Advancement of religion;
  • Advancement of health;
  • Advancement of citizenship or community development;
  • Advancement of arts, heritage or science;
  • Advancement of environmental protection or improvement;
  • Relief of those in need by reason of youth, age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage;
  • Advancement of animal welfare;
  • Advancement of sport (“sport” means sport which involves physical skill and exertion);
  • Any other purpose beneficial to the community.
  1. Organizations are required to ensure compliance with established naming criteria set under the Charities Act to ensure a smooth registration process. Restrictions on the use of specific words in the names for new setups have been made to tighten the registration of charities and IPCs.  For more information, click here.
  2. Organizations are required to have the following governing instruments to meet the requirements under the Charities Act.
  • Constitutions (for charities set up as Societies),
  • Company Constitution – formerly known as Memorandum and Articles of Association (for charities registered as Companies Limited by Guarantee),
  • Trust instrument (for charities set up as Trusts)

To qualify for the status of IPC, the organization has to be a registered charity or an exempt charity or other charity that is not required to be registered by virtue of section 5(4) of the Charities Act. Other requirements include:

  • The activities of an IPC must be beneficial to the community in Singapore as a whole, and not confined to sectional interests or group of persons based on race, creed, belief, or religion, unless otherwise approved by the Minister.
  • The activities must meet the IPC’s objectives under its governing instruments and the objectives of its Sector Administrator.
  • IPC must also be administered by governing board members, at least half of whom are independent and citizens of Singapore.

Applications for charity or IPC status are done through the Charity Portal, using a valid Singpass/CorpPass Account. 

The following documents are required when application online for registration purposes:

  • Signed copy of the Governing Instrument.
  • Certified Statements of Accounts for the last 3 financial years (if applicable);
  • 2-year activities and fund disbursement plan.

Click here for a full guide.

For more information on setting up a NPO in Singapore, click here.

*Grantmakers are identified as non-profit entities such as private foundations, community foundations, and businesses’ giving programs that only give out grant monies to specific charitable causes

All materials have been prepared for general information purposes only. The information presented in this document is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice. Professional advisory should be sought before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.