SME Loans

Singapore Budget 2021: 3 Things Startups Need To Know

Singapore Budget 2021 offers grants, loans, and other initiatives to support small businesses and startups. Below, we summarise three main initiatives that will impact decision making this year.

Every year, entrepreneurs anticipate how the budget announcements will directly impact their business. The budget announcements this year are especially important to startups, as many of them are still recovering from the financial instability caused by the pandemic. Below, we explore three ways that startups and small businesses can make better informed decisions based on Singapore Budget 2021.

Key Highlights

  • S$5.2B allocated to create up to 20,000 jobs & 35,000 traineeships
  • GST extended to low value imported goods & services from 2023
  • S$60M announced for Agri-Food Cluster Transformation Fund

1. Extended Support For Hiring New Employees

Recruitment was at a standstill for many companies during the Pandemic. This resulted in a rising unemployment rate as well as delayed growth within small businesses. The Job Support Scheme will support partial employee wage for the next few months, in an attempt to encourage startups to resume hiring activities. The expansion and innovation among newer businesses will translate into a more vibrant startup community.

Job Support Scheme

TierApril – June 2021July – September 2021
Tier 1 (Aerospace, Aviation, Tourism)30% Wage Support10% Wage Support
Tier 2 (Retail, Arts & Culture, Food Services, Environment)10% Wage SupportNot Applicable
Up to first S$4,600 of gross monthly wages.

This Jobs Growth Incentive Scheme seeks to create more opportunities for long-term employment for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents. For example, the tourism industry laid off experienced staff members during the past year and with financial assistance from the Jobs Growth Incentive Scheme, businesses can gradually begin expanding their staff count in anticipation of the increasing demand in local tourism.

In addition, business owners who hire new employees within the eligible time period below will receive wage support for 12 - 18 months. More specifically, the Government will compensate businesses up to 50% of the first S$6,000 salary until September 2021, to further incentivise entrepreneurs to hire mature employees above the age of 40 years, persons with disabilities, or ex-offenders.

Jobs Growth Incentive Scheme

Type of HirePhase 1: September 2020 – February 2021Phase 2: March – September 2021
Non-Mature Hires (Under 40)Up to 25% of first S$5,000 Wage Support for 12 monthsUp to 25% of first S$5,000 Wage Support for 12 months
Mature Hires(40 & Above), Person with Disabilities & Ex-Offenders)
  • Up to 50% of first S$5,000 Wage Support (for Sept 2020 – Feb 2021)
  • Up to 50% of first S$6,000 Wage Support (from Mar 2021 onwards)
  • Support provided up to 18 months
Up to 50% of first S$6,000 Wage Support for 18 months

Employer eligibility requirements between March 2021 and September 2021 include:

  • Made timely mandatory CPF contributions
  • Increased overall workforce, compared to February 2021
  • Increase in local employees earning gross wages ≥ S$1,400, compared to February 2021

Business owners can also receive monetary benefits of up to 50% wage subsidy for the next 18 months. Depending on your business needs, the Jobs Growth Incentive Scheme makes it affordable to employ college graduates or experienced professionals who are making a transition in their career.

Supplementary Scheme for SMEs & Startups

Supplementary SchemesDetails
Wage Credit Scheme15% co-funding from the Government for monthly gross salary up to S$5,000 Gross monthly wage increases (≥ S$50) previously given by the same employer continue to be co-funded if sustained in 2020 and 2021
Loss Carry-Back ReliefCarry-back Underutilised Capital Allowances (CA) / Trade Losses for up to 3 Years of Assessment (Up to S$100,000)
SGUnited Jobs and Skills PackageExtended till March 2022 Up to 80% subsidy for traineeship allowance Mid-career Pathways Program Up to 80% subsidy for under 40 (S$1,600 - S$3,000 monthly) Up to 90% subsidy for 40 & above (S$1,800 - S$3,800 monthly)

2. More Loans & New Funds For Business Transformation

Singapore Budget 2021 aims to equip businesses to ride the digital wave. With the slowdown in economic activity, traditional businesses in food and beverage as well as retail startups can redesign existing jobs and build digital capabilities with the new initiatives in the Budget. For example, retailers that are considering expanding their offering through eCommerce or hawker stalls can partner with food delivery services to increase revenue.

Besides small businesses in the retail or food and beverage industries, startups offering services in the arts and sports sectors can also enhance their operational competencies with the S$45m Arts and Culture and Sports Resilience Package. Steps that small businesses can take include offering their arts services in smaller in-person groups or enhancing digital capabilities to offer online alternatives.

Another business area that will receive an increasing amount of financial support from the Government includes the sustainability sector. As Singapore increases its commitment to sustainability efforts, small businesses that provide innovative solutions that are environmentally friendly will receive additional assistance in the coming years. Examples include businesses which are making solar power more accessible to the public, companies selling electric vehicles, and a mobile app that helps Singaporeans capture their carbon footprint.

Other Initiatives for SMEs & Startups

Venture Debt ProgramLoan quantum increased from S$5M to S$8M
Scale-Up SG ProgramExtended till March 2022, 80% co-funding for program participation costs
Productivity Solutions GrantCo-funding for Job Redesign increased from 70% to 80% till March 2022
Open Innovation PlatformCo-Funding support for prototyping and deployment, Link up companies and government agencies with relevant tech solutions to resolve business challenges
Transformation of Mature EnterprisesS$1B budgeted for adopting new technologies into business operations; costs covered include:
  • Trial and adoption costs for new tech
  • Engage IT Consultancies to make the transition
  • Hire tech-related talent and resources to develop tech competencies in the company
Large Local Enterprises Funding PlatformS$1B Equity Investments budgeted for LLEs (with annual revenue up to S$100m) for growth

3. Increase in Operating Expenses

From 2023 onwards, low-value imported goods will be subjected to GST and small businesses with vehicles can anticipate a GST hike up to 9%. One way to plan ahead would be to consider stocking up on necessary operating equipment before the implementation. There will also be a 10-15% increase in petrol prices, which means that businesses should account for this cost if they are in the delivery business or other business that relies heavily on transporting goods islandwide.

Increase in Tax/Duties

Tax IncrementsDetails
GSTRemain at 7% (2021) Expected increase to 9% (2022 - 2025) All imported low-value goods subject to GST from 1 Jan 2023
Petrol DutyPremium Petrol (Increased by S$0.15 per litre) Intermediate Petrol (Increased by S$0.10 per litre)

On a more positive note, all commercial vehicles are entitled to a 100% Road Tax Rebate for 1 year to cushion the increase in petrol duty. Businesses that acquire new machinery will be able to expense acquisition costs from taxable income for both YA 2021 & 2022.

Reliefs Available for Businesses

Road Tax Relief
  • Taxis & Private Hires: 15% Road Tax Rebate (1 Year) + S$360
  • Private Cars: 15% Road Tax Rebate (1 Year)
  • Motorcycles: 60% Road Tax Rebate (1 Year) + S$80 ≤ 200cc; +S$50 ≤ 201cc to 400cc
  • Commercial Vehicles/Buses:100% Road Tax Rebate (1 Year)
Loss Carry-Back ReliefCarry-back Underutilised Capital Allowances (CA) / Trade Losses for up to 3 Year of Assessment (Up to S$100,000)
Tax treatment of Business ExpensesOption to claim for Renovation & Refurbishment expenditure extended to YA 2022
Write off for Plant & Machinery acquiredWrite off the acquisition cost for Plant & Machinery extended to YA 2022


While change is inevitable, there are several resources in Singapore including grants, loans, and other initiatives to assist businesses across sectors to transform and thrive in the coming year. Continue Learning how to make smarter financial decisions by reading our Small-Medium Business Blog.

Pooja Khandelwal

Pooja is a Content Marketing Lead at ValueChampion Singapore. She is responsible for planning and executing sponsored content projects and building relationships with media partners. In addition, she evaluates financial products for consumers based on quantitative and qualitative analysis. Pooja holds degrees in Economics and Psychology from Rutgers University. Her prior work experience includes founding and leading a content marketing consultancy and working at eCommerce, AI, and B2B SaaS startups in Singapore. Pooja has contributed insights to Tech in Asia, Yahoo!, and many other publications. Connect with her on LinkedIn to collaborate on content.