Going global: The business incorporation checklist

Global Employment and Mobility
Leanna Seah

By Leanna Seah
July 17, 2023

July 17, 2023

0 min read

Source: Visual Generation/Shutterstock

Incorporating a business offshore can be both exciting and intimidating. The journey towards international expansion is a momentous stride, filled with potential rewards, yet it also carries the propensity to disrupt regular business operations. Hence, it's paramount for business leaders and key decision-makers to thoroughly comprehend the implications and potential hazards involved.

Determining target markets, acquainting oneself with registration and tax regulations, and cost computations are merely a fraction of what constitutes the groundwork of your expansion strategy.

What is Business Incorporation?

Business incorporation refers to the legal process of forming a corporate entity or a company. When a business becomes incorporated, it is considered a separate legal entity from its owners. This means it has its own rights, privileges, and liabilities distinct from the individuals who created it.

Incorporation provides several advantages:

Limited Liability: As an incorporated business is a separate legal entity, the owners (shareholders) have limited liability for the company's debts. This means that if the company goes bankrupt or is sued, the personal assets of the owners are protected, and they are only liable for the amount they have invested in the company.

Perpetual Existence: Incorporated businesses have an indefinite lifespan and continue to exist even if the owner(s) die or decide to sell their interest.

Easier Access to Capital: Incorporated businesses often have an easier time raising capital through the sale of stock.

Credibility: Incorporation can add credibility to a business, as it shows that the company is committed to its long-term success.

The process of business incorporation varies by country and can involve a number of steps including choosing a unique business name, drafting articles of incorporation, paying filing fees, and fulfilling any other specific requirements of the jurisdiction where the business is being incorporated.

The process has started, now what?

Let's delve into various critical considerations when incorporating a business internationally.

1 - Tax and compliance requirements

Taxation and compliance are crucial considerations in your business incorporation strategy. Establish a clear understanding of the corporate tax rate, VAT rate, and other relevant information in advance. This ensures that you are fully aware of your liabilities upon incorporating the business.

Tax laws can be intricate, particularly if they're in a non-English speaking country. Enlisting a local tax expert to assist you can prevent many sleepless nights spent navigating these complexities.

Certain tax laws may necessitate that your company's management and operations be based in the new country. Is this something you're willing to consider? If not, you may need to employ or nominate a local director to operate within the prospective country.

2 - Business registration regulations

Business registration rules can differ significantly from one location to another.

It's highly recommended to conduct detailed research or collaborate with a local expert to comprehend the regulations before incorporating your business. For instance, if you're establishing a business in a sector that's partially closed to foreign investment in Indonesia, one of your partners must be an Indonesian citizen. Conversely, Denmark doesn't stipulate a Danish resident to be part of your board of directors or management team.

Gaining a deep understanding of a country's business incorporation regulations can help you avert potential legal penalties and delays in your venture's commencement.

Numerous companies choose to delegate this task to a corporate advisory firm to streamline the process.

businesses man sketching on a map
Source: sdecoret/Shutterstock

3 - Economic state of your targeted country

While a new environment can offer abundant rewards, it's equally laden with risks. Emerging economies may provide opportunities for first-mover advantages and impressive GDP growth rates, but these can be offset by income disparity and political instability.

Long-term shifts in societal and cultural beliefs also warrant consideration. You may be promoting a product or career path that may lose its appeal with the demographic over time.

Socio-economic fluctuations can disrupt even the most meticulously planned business strategies. Safeguard your interests by conducting an in-depth analysis of your target country's economic landscape and evaluate the potential challenges.

Investopedia recommends using a country’s Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) to gauge its potential. The GPI considers variables such as income distribution, personal consumption, dependence on foreign assets, and education rates to measure a nation's economic and social wellbeing.

4 - Cultural differences and potential language barriers

For businesses considering incorporating in an entirely unfamiliar country, an array of belief systems, behaviours, and nuances could impact their success. The importance of cultural awareness in your international expansion plans should not be underestimated.

Even seemingly insignificant details, such as greetings, can carry great weight. Consulting a local expert in your targeted country could prove beneficial. At the very least, make it your duty to research local customs and practices to anticipate how business may be conducted.

Furthermore, language barriers also warrant attention. History is rife with examples of communication being lost in translation. A notable instance involves a Pepsi advertising campaign in Taiwan. The company's slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi generation" was regrettably translated to "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave".

While some translation blunders may provoke laughter, they can also spell disaster if they lead to confusion around crucial information and procedures.

5 - Availability of skills and employment

The last entry on your international business expansion checklist should be access to skilled labour. This can significantly differ between countries, making it essential to research the availability of required talent in your chosen location.

Skill scarcities in certain sectors might necessitate the import of foreign expertise or investment in comprehensive training programmes. Additionally, be mindful of local content restrictions that may compel you to employ a specified quota of domestic workers.

Experts advise engaging with local recruitment consultants to appraise the local talent pool. This can also assist you in becoming acquainted with local salary expectations, benefits requirements, employment legislation, and more.

Reasons for incorporating your business abroad

Expand brand recognition

One of the primary motives for companies to venture beyond their borders is the prospect of accessing new markets and expanding their footprint. This is particularly relevant if the product or service you offer is entirely unique in your target country.

Promoting your unique selling proposition (USP) amid local competition can be a challenging and expensive task. Therefore, incorporating your business in a foreign location can present a fresh avenue for engaging with new audiences.

More affordable production and manufacturing costs

By gaining easier access to more cost-effective production and manufacturing services, companies can reduce their overall expenditure. It also affords them greater flexibility when determining how to allocate their resources.

technical talent

Access to technology and technical talent

Another driving force behind international expansion is the opportunity to access a broader pool of technical talent. For many businesses, having an international footprint means they can reach individuals with a diverse array of skills, encompassing educational backgrounds, technical competencies, language abilities and more.

Many firms also choose to venture into developed economies to capitalise on the technological expertise and advancements found in these nations. The degree of absorption of these capabilities often hinges on the technological gap between the firm and the existing infrastructure of the target country. In the long term, technology spillover can present numerous opportunities for economic growth and productivity, especially for businesses hailing from developing economies.

Economic growth through free trade

Free trade stimulates innovation. It enables businesses to adjust to the escalating expectations and demands of a global marketplace. This persistent push for evolution keeps businesses competitive, fostering growth.

Over time, this results in more dynamic businesses that contribute to a growing economy, capable of creating opportunities and providing higher-quality products and services at lower costs. International business incorporation also creates avenues for companies to access new technologies and industry knowledge, which can be channelled back into their internal ecosystem, enhancing operations and revenue streams in the long term.

Government incentives

Many governments worldwide offer incentives to foreign companies intending to invest in their region. From lower tax rates to specific business grants, the ability to capitalise on these unique investment opportunities presents an enticing prospect for businesses.

Singapore exemplifies a country providing such incentives. Despite having stringent rules regulating the entry of foreign businesses, the nation also offers numerous initiatives for foreign companies that align with its ambition to establish Singapore as a digital innovation hub.

Food for thought : Have an exit strategy

While contemplating an exit strategy might seem premature when preparing for international business incorporation, it is, in fact, a vital aspect. This provides you and your employees a sense of reassurance and security while embarking on a venture inherently laden with risks.

Having an exit strategy in place early on can assist businesses in monitoring their progression and making strategic daily decisions. It shields businesses from making impulsive, last-minute decisions and offers a flexible blueprint that can be remodelled in light of changing circumstances and unforeseen events.

If closure of a foreign incorporated business becomes a necessity as part of an exit plan, here are some of the procedures to be considered:

  • Closure of business bank accounts set up in the foreign country
  • Notify employees and perform final payroll procedures
  • Terminate your commercial lease in the foreign country
  • File final income tax returns
  • Close out all regulatory documents
  • Fulfill all outstanding orders
  • Cancel your VAT registration and other tax registrations for your company

Break into new markets with Global Employment Outsourcing

global employment outsourcing solutions


Business incorporation in new markets can often be a daunting process for companies, especially those unsure about establishing a physical entity. However, collaborating with an Employer of Record (EOR) can offer a more manageable solution.

An EOR allows businesses to incorporate themselves within new markets, accessing the necessary talent with minimal hassle. In addition, they handle all legal compliance, HR duties, talent induction procedures and more. This approach allows businesses to economise on time and resources, reducing the inherent risks of establishing an incorporated business overseas. It empowers them to gauge the viability of their goods and services across various markets.

A credible EOR can assist companies in hiring and deploying teams in new markets within a short span of one to two months, aiding in prompt revenue generation and servicing of the new target audiences. This convenience facilitates business incorporation, allowing them to remain agile and receptive to both risks and opportunities in the market.

Find customised support with Airswift solutions

For enterprises contemplating international expansion, aligning with Airswift carries the advantage of our presence in over 60 countries worldwide. Whether we're facilitating your business incorporation in Taiwan, or offering counsel on immigration regulations in Singapore and tax compliance in the UK, we're committed to providing tailored solutions for each client.

Every situation is meticulously assessed, and we ensure transparency through each phase of the process. If you're interested in discovering more about our global employment outsourcing solutions, we invite you to reach out to us. We look forward to hearing from you.

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