What is a Unique Entity Number (UEN) and Why Your Business Should Have One

By
Writers@Aspire
Published
May 27, 2022

Being an individual in Singapore, you may be familiar with the Tax Identification Number (TIN). A TIN number is used to file income taxes and carry out various activities with the government. As a Singaporean business, trade union, non-profit or any other business entity interacting with Singapore government agencies, you will be assigned a Unique Entity Number (UEN). Think of UEN as a TIN issued specifically for businesses, trade unions or other entities operating within Singapore. All organizations operating within Singaporean borders must have a UEN. 

Unique Entity Number (UEN) Meaning

Before 2009, you may have been using a myriad of different identification numbers as a Singaporean entity to interact with government agencies for tax filings, import/export procedures, information updating, etc. In 2009, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) in Singapore and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) of Singapore launched the initiative to assign Unique Entity Numbers or UENs to companies. This makes business identification easy for various government agencies while making the process smoother for you as a business.

The UEN is a unique alphanumeric combination that allows businesses and other entities to interact with governments smoothly and in a hassle-free manner. For all practical purposes, it is your business’s ID to interact with the government. 

Why Does Your Business Need a UEN in Singapore? 

1.      For Identification 

The number one use of a UEN number in Singapore is for identification purposes. Government agencies will identify your entity with the help of your UEN Singapore number. This makes it easier for government systems to pinpoint the exact entities they interact with. If your business has a name that is similar to another registered business in Singapore, the government will differentiate between the two with your UEN. As a business owner, you may have to deal with multiple government agencies for various purposes. Instead of having different identification numbers, you can use your UEN to identify your business. You know how you can use your Gmail credentials to access a number of websites online? A UEN gives you the same benefit with different government agencies. 

2.      To File Taxes 

Every entity in Singapore, be it a local business or a society generating profit, needs to pay taxes. This is usually done online. Government systems ask for a UEN to process tax filings. The UEN Singapore was introduced in 2009 to streamline the tax process in the country.

3.      Import and Export Permits 

If your company intends to export or import products or services, you will need to furnish your UEN to proceed. This will assist the government to identify the international trade you are engaging in and will enable the government to levy taxes accordingly.

4.      Updating Information 

Let’s suppose you want to update your information on the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority of Singapore's Bizfile system. In that case, you will need to furnish your UEN to access the portal and make any changes to the information.

UEN Formats

As an entity in Singapore, you will be assigned a UEN that is usually nine or 10 characters long. It will be an alphanumeric set that identifies various aspects of your entity, such as its nature, the year of incorporation, whether it is a local or foreign business, etc.

Given below are the different kinds of UENs you may encounter:

Who is the UEN issued to in Singapore? 

Since the UEN's introduction in 2009, it has become mandatory for Singaporean entities such as businesses, societies, local companies, limited liability partnerships, trade unions, healthcare institutions and representative offices to have a UEN and use them for various interactions with government organizations.

UEN is meant only for the entities mentioned above. If you are an individual, you will not be assigned a UEN unless your business is registered as a sole proprietorship. As an individual, you will need to apply for a Tax Identification Number instead. You can use your National Registration Identity Card or Foreign Identification Number to get a TIN as an individual. 

Additionally, if your business happens to be a sub-entity of Singaporean companies that have been identified as a branch of a business, you will not require a separate UEN. Even as a foreign-based company that does not interact with local government agencies, you will not require a UEN. 

Who issues a UEN? 

The list below details different agencies that issue UENs to specific entities: 

UEN Issuing Agency: Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA)

Entities they issue UEN to:

Limited Partnership

Limited Liability Partnerships

Public Accounting Firms

Foreign Companies

UEN Issuing Agency: Enterprise Singapore (ESG)

Entities they issue UEN to:

Offices representing Foreign Companies, Foreign Government Agencies, Foreign Trade and Associations, Chambers and Non-Profit Organisations

UEN Issuing Agency: Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI)

Entities they issue UEN to:

News Bureaus

UEN Issuing Agency: Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth - Charities Unit

Entities they issue UEN to:

Public character Charities and Institutions

UEN Issuing Agency: Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth - Registry of Co-operative Societies

Entities they issue UEN to:

Cooperative Societies

UEN Issuing Agency: Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth - Registry of Mutual Benefit Organisation

Entities they issue UEN to:

Mutual Benefit Organisations

UEN Issuing Agency: Ministry of Education (MOE)

Entities they issue UEN to:

Government and government-aided schools

UEN Issuing Agency: Ministry of Defence (Mindef)

Entities they issue UEN to:

Foreign Military Units

UEN Issuing Agency: Ministry of Health (MOH)

Entities they issue UEN to:

Healthcare Institutions and Clinics, Healthcare Service Providers

UEN Issuing Agency: Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)

Entities they issue UEN to:

High Commissions, Embassies

Consulate, International Organisations (registered with MFA)

UEN Issuing Agency: Ministry of Law (MLAW)

Entities they issue UEN to:

Foreign Law Practice Representative Offices

UEN Issuing Agency: Ministry of Manpower (MOM)

Entities they issue UEN to:

Trade Unions

UEN Issuing Agency: Ministry of National Development (MND)

Entities they issue UEN to:

Town Councils

UEN Issuing Agency: Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)

Entities they issue UEN to:

Financial Representative Offices including Insurance Representative Offices

UEN Issuing Agency: Islamic Religious Council of Singapore

Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (Muis)

Entities they issue UEN to:

Mosques

Madrasahs

UEN Issuing Agency: People's Association (PA)

Entities they issue UEN to:

PA Services

Grassroot Units

UEN Issuing Agency: Registry of Societies (ROS)

Entities they issue UEN to:

Societies

UEN Issuing Agency: Singapore Land Authority ( SLA)

Entities they issue UEN to:

Management Corporations

Subsidiary Management Corporations

UEN Issuing Agency: Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO)

Entities they issue UEN to:

Government Agencies and bodies performing public duties


How to Get a UEN for a Business?

If you are an existing business in Singapore that is already registered, you should have your UEN. The Tax Reference Number from before 2009 will serve as your UEN. You can also confirm what your UEN is by checking your business profile or conducting a UEN search on this link.

However, if your business isn't registered yet, or you are a new business that is just being incorporated, follow these steps to get you UEN:

1.      Determine Your Business Structure

Start with deciding what your business structure will be. You can incorporate a sole proprietorship, a business, a limited partnership or a limited liability partnership. You could also be running a non-profit or charitable organization, in which case you will need to register it accordingly with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. Even societies and trade unions need a UEN.

2.      Register Your Business

You then have to register your business in Singapore on the BizFile website. In case you have any hiccups with the process or want someone else to handle it end-to-end for you, Aspire can help you incorporate and register your business. It will be seamless and hassle-free to receive your UEN number in the quickest time possible.

3.      Decide Whether You Want a Special UEN

If you want a special UEN or a SUN, you have to pay an additional cost. You usually need to apply for a SUN while registering your business. You need to decide whether you want a SUN or a regular UEN right at the start.

4.      Complete the Checks

After registration, you will be assigned a business profile that will contain all details about your business. This will also have your UEN. Ensure the facts are correct and the UEN Singapore has been issued accordingly. You can also search UEN on the BizFile website or on UEN.gov.sg.

 

How to Get A Special UEN? 

Usually, when you apply for a UEN, it is automatically generated by the government system. This can be a random set of numbers and alphabets without coherence. If you want a UEN that is easier to remember, you can choose from a list of reserved UENs. This comes at an additional cost.

What's the use of a SUN? Well, you may have seen cars with fancy number plates like 007. Their value is the prestige that comes with it and makes it easier to remember. Many businesses and entities choose to get a SUN to make it easier to conduct their interactions with government agencies.

Note that once you have been assigned a UEN, you cannot change it unless you are changing the structure of your company or establishing it as a new business. That's why you need to decide whether you want a SUN when registering your company or applying for a UEN for the first time.

How to Use a UEN ? 

As a Singaporean entity, you must use your UEN for communicating with any government agency such as the ACRA, Department of Statistics, CPF Board, IRAS, etc. In addition, you must also display your UEN on all business letters, invoices, statements of account, official notices, and publications.

Understanding How a UEN is Different from TIN and a GST Number

A Tax Identification Number is issued to individuals and businesses in Singapore to conduct an array of activities with the government. A Unique Entity Number or a UEN is a type of TIN explicitly assigned to local businesses, corporations, societies, trade unions, non-profit organizations, etc., to interact with government agencies. UENs are not issued to individuals or foreign companies that do not have to interact with the Singapore government.

You may also be wondering what the difference between a UEN number and a GST number is. While a UEN is a multipurpose number that can help with your business’s identification with various government agencies, a Goods and Services Tax number is provided specifically for filing consumption and production tax. 

Local companies and other registered entities with ACRA will have the same UEN and GST numbers. However, for foreign companies, a separate GST number will be allotted by the government.

Can a UEN be changed? 

Once a UEN number Singapore has been assigned, it cannot be changed. It is a unique identification number provided to a business. As long as the business continues its operations, the UEN will be the same. Company UENs do not have to be renewed either. Companies are assumed to have perpetual succession after incorporation. As long as the company continues its operations and remains on the list of the register of companies, its UEN will be valid.

However, do note that sole proprietorships and partnerships are registered on a term basis. When that term expires, the registration usually needs to be renewed for the business to continue and the UEN to be valid. If you renew the company's registration, the UEN number will automatically be renewed.

How to Find Another Entity's UEN? 

If you are looking to find another entity's UEN, first find out whether it is registered with ACRA or another agency. You can search the UEN of another company for companies registered with ACRA. When you search, you will get information apart from the UEN, such as the company's name, UEN status, UEN issuance agency, entity type, and partial address.

If the company is not registered with ACRA but with some other government agency, you can conduct a UEN search on this link.

Need Help with Obtaining a UEN? 

If you are a business looking to go in for incorporation, you can use Aspire's top-notch services to incorporate your business. The whole process will be hassle-free, and you will also get your UEN Singapore without any trouble. Contact us for more information.

Takeaway

All Singaporean businesses and entities interacting with the government require a UEN. As you must have understood by now, every entity is issued a unique UEN for identification and carrying out several activities. If you want a UEN that is easy to remember and has some prestige value, you can pay an extra sum and get a special UEN. Also, note that it cannot be changed once you have received a UEN.

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