What is the SSIC Code, And How Do You Choose One For Your Singapore Business?

Written by
Daniel Ling
Last Modified on
December 19, 2023

With its business-friendly environment and policies, Singapore draws global businesses like few other countries. One of the most important steps to setting up a business in Singapore is to pick the right SSIC code at the time of incorporating your company. This article walks you through the process of choosing an SSIC code for your business, what this code stands for and why you need it.

What is the SSIC code?

Short for Singapore Standard Industrial Classification code, an SSIC code is a numeric code of up to five digits (examples below). It classifies the business activity your company is involved in and must be selected at the time of registering your business with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), Singapore’s regulatory authority for companies. The SSIC is based on the International Standard Industrial Classification and is monitored and updated at regular intervals by Singapore’s Department of Statistics. The latest version – the Singapore Standard Industrial Classification (SSIC) 2020 – was released in November 2021 with fresh updates and the removal of obsolete codes.

Why do you need an SSIC code for your business?

An SSIC code for business activities in Singapore benefits companies in the following ways:

  • Applying for licences: Some businesses require industry-specific licences or permits from relevant Singapore government agencies. For example, if you wish to run a real estate agency, you will need a licence from the Council of Estate Agencies. Your SSIC code in Singapore serves as a guide to help you understand what licences you need to operate your business. Once you submit your SSIC code, ACRA will notify you if you need a licence and may refer your application to the relevant licensing authority.
  • Receiving government grants and tax incentives: With its reputation for supporting start-ups, Singapore offers government aid in the form of grants and tax incentives. Because your SSIC code reflects your business activity, it is an indicator of whether you are entitled to a particular grant/initiative. By checking your SSIC code, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) will decide on your eligibility for a government incentive (a tax rebate, for example) and notify you of the same.
  • Receiving loans: At times, banks and other lenders take the intended industry into consideration when extending business loans. This means your loan application approval might depend on your SSIC code.
  • Identifying competitors: You can identify your competitors by searching for their SSIC codes.

Apart from the importance it holds for businesses, the SSIC code serves an administrative function for the government. Singapore collects SSIC data to analyse economic activity – to understand the growth or decline of certain industries or to identify emerging trends, for example – and use the insights to guide policy decisions. For example, it uses SSIC data to identify business activities that require greater government support. The government also uses SSIC codes to make sure businesses are regulated through ACRA and to determine if they are eligible for tax incentives and support schemes through the IRAS.

Choosing an SSIC code for business activities? Here’s what to consider

The first and most important step in selecting an SSIC code is to be clear about your ‘principal activity’. Here’s how to go about it.

‘Economic activity’ lies at the heart of SSIC classifications and companies need to understand this in order to select the right SSIC code. According to SSIC 2020, “An economic activity takes place when resources such as labour, capital, goods and services are used in a production process to produce goods and services.” It goes on to state that there are three types of economic activity:

  • Principal activity, or “the activity that contributes the most to the value added (VA) of the goods and services produced by the economic unit, or the activity with the highest VA among the activities of the unit”. Simply put, principal activity makes up the products or services produced by a company that bring in the highest revenue.
  • Secondary activity covers any activity that is not the company’s principal activity.
  • Ancillary activity is any business activity that supports the company’s production activities. 

To put this into perspective, if your principal activity is the retail sale of mobile phones, then a secondary activity could be repair of mobile phones while ancillary activities would cover anything from HR and accounting activities to sales and promotions.

When a company selects an SSIC code in Singapore, it ideally reflects its principal activity. However, businesses are free to pick up to two SSIC codes for two activities that generate the most revenue.

Although the SSIC code list is regularly updated to keep up with the latest economic activities, there is a chance that your business activity is so unique that it doesn’t have a matching SSIC code. In such a case, you can include a customised description of your business in your registration application on BizFile+, ACRA’s business filing portal.

How to check your company SSIC code

If you’re still unsure about what SSIC code to select, you can do a keyword search on the BizFile+ SSIC Search page. Or, you can go through the full list of SSIC codes for various business activities in the latest SSIC 2020 report.

Be careful to select the most relevant code as a wrong decision could delay your incorporation process by anywhere from two weeks to two months.

Can you change your SSIC code?

Yes, companies are constantly evolving and the business activity you started off with might not be what you’re still doing five years later. If your business activity has changed, then it is important to change your SSIC code to comply with licensing and other regulatory requirements, and to receive grants and tax incentives you are entitled to. Furthermore, your SSIC code might also change when fresh updates are made to the SSIC code list periodically.

You can change one or both of your SSIC codes by logging on to the ACRA website and simply changing your business activity.

Structure of the SSIC classification

The latest SSIC classification broadly comprises 21 economic activity categories called ‘sections’. Each section is distinguished by a single alphabet. Each section is further broken down into one or more ‘divisions’: 

Source: SSIC 2020

Within each section, there are one or more divisions. A division is further divided into ‘groups’, a group into ‘classes’, and each class into ‘sub-classes’. Here is an example of how the SSIC hierarchy works:

The way to read an SSIC code is to understand that the first two digits stand for the major business division while each digit that follows further refines the classification of the business activity. 

When the digit 0 appears at the end of an SSIC code, it is usually an addition  because there is no further classification. So, the SSIC code for ‘manufacture of basic iron and steel’ is 2410 because it is the only class within the group ‘manufacture of basic iron and steel’ with the classification code 241. Similarly, ‘construction of buildings’ is assigned the SSIC code 410 as it is the sole group within the division ‘manufacture of basic iron and steel’ with the classification code 24.

When 9 appears at the end of your SSIC code, it is an indication of residual activities that are not significant enough to warrant their own SSIC code. For business activities with SSIC codes ending in 9, the description of the activity ends with the acronym N.E.C, which means ‘not elsewhere classified’.

SSIC Code List

Source: SSIC 2020

What to do after choosing an SSIC code

Incorporating and selecting the right SSIC code for your company is an important first step, but there’s plenty more to do after that. You can get a smooth start in Singapore with Aspire’s multi-currency business account, with its market-leading foreign exchange rates and unlimited corporate cards. Join today to streamline your accounts payables and accounts receivables, set budgets, and implement a multi-level approval system to stay in control of your expenses.

For more episodes of CFO Talks, check us out on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or add our RSS feed to your favorite podcast player!

Frequently Asked Questions

No items found.
About the author
Daniel Ling
is a seasoned writer specialising in business finance, market trends, and industry best practices. Daniel has led thought leadership initiatives at Meta and other reputable companies for more than a decade. Daniel leverages his consumer insights and a data-driven approach to help businesses grow.
Supercharge your finance operations with Aspire
Find out how Aspire can help you speed up your end-to-end finance processes from payments to expense management.
Talk to Sales