Yes, trading Forex is legal in Singapore.
The foreign exchange, or Forex, market has recently been starting to move globally and becoming less centralized in trading hubs such as London, New York, and Tokyo. One area that has specifically seen an increase in financial trade is Singapore. You can read our in depth guide on the best trading platforms in Singapore.
In this article, PFI will explore Singapore’s local laws and regulations around Forex trading.
What is Forex?
Forex trading is essentially the buying and/or selling of currency with the intention of making a profit. Traders usually trade in currency pairs – for example, USD/SGD or USD/EUR. Fluctuations in exchange rates is the reason that people can make profit from Forex trading, as they enable traders to “buy low and sell high” – however, this does carry notable risk, and can also result in financial losses. When a trade is made, the trader must pay the “spread” – the difference between the bidding price and asking price.
The easiest and most common way to trade Forex is with the use of a licensed broker. Buying and selling Forex is usually much faster-paced than other trades such as stocks. The Forex market is open 24/5, unlike other markets, which means that investors do not need to worry about time zones or trading hours! A profit – or a loss – can happen at any time of day or night. Trading in Singapore is no different than anywhere else in this regard.
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What Are The Singapore Laws On Forex?
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) acts as Singapore’s Central Bank, and regulates the entire finance industry, from stocks and options to insurance. MAS was founded in 1971 by parliament to regulate the financial actions of various government departments and agencies. MAS regulates over 600 financial institutions – including Forex brokers.
Singapore’s government, although notably encouraging and welcoming of trade, is also strict in its rules designed to prevent corruption and financial malpractice. In Singapore, MAS exists to make sure that all traders and other participants in the financial market are protected from scams or unfair business practices. Because of this, all brokers must be licensed by the MAS before being permitted to trade in Singapore.
To obtain a license, a broker must pass a series of examinations, such as determining that the broker has enough capital to cover potential losses and prevent bankruptcy. Bankruptcy among brokers has caused clients to lose investments, such as in the Black Thursday event of 2015 when major broker FXCM went bust. The requirement for brokers to obtain a trading license is to prevent more events like this!
Another requirement for each broker is the possession of an account for their clients which is separate from the account of the company itself. This prevents company staff from proliferating clients’ funds, and offers an extra layer of security in the case of hacks or breaches. Brokers must provide MAS with regular audit reports to prove that they have been following these requirements, or face immediate disciplinary measures from the monetary authority.
At time of writing, these are MAS-regulated brokers in Singapore – some local and some international. The licensed brokers within Singapore are CMC Markets Singapore Pte. Ltd, IG Markets Singapore, OANDA Singapore, Phillip Futures Singapore, and Saxo Capital Markets Singapore. The international brokers that are licensed by MAS are KGI World, Maybank Kim Eng Securities Pte. Ltd, OCBC Securities Private Limited, Plus500 and UTRADE FX.
Traders in Singapore can trade in Forex using any of these brokers. International brokers are usually larger institutions, but local brokers can sometimes provide more specialized services.
However, it is not quite as simple as these 9 brokers being the only ones legally available to Singaporeans! The Monetary Authority of Singapore does not actually prohibit traders from trading Forex via unregulated companies – it is legal to sign up and use any Forex broker around the world, as long as that broker is sufficiently regulated and licensed within the country that they are based in.
For Singaporeans, trading with brokers that are not regulated by MAS can carry some risks – in case of being scammed, MAS will be unable to help as their authority cannot cross borders! Using MAS-regulated brokers tends to provide better trading conditions for brokers and investors.
Taxing on Forex in Singapore
Most brokers do not have their own tax agencies, so make zero tax deductions. Unfortunately, this means that the legal responsibility to pay the correct amount of tax on gains rests solely with the trader.
In Singapore, if you trade Forex as a hobby rather than as your main source of income, any profit will be tax-free! This is not the case, however, if your job is as a Forex trader – in this situation you will be legally required to declare this income and pay sufficient taxes on it.
Your tax rate may also be dependent on your method of withdrawing funds: using international electronic payment systems such as PayPal or Webmoney does not require you to report that money to be taxed – although if that money is transferred into your Singapore bank account, it will be subject to tax.
If this all sounds confusing, you can use professional tax advice, or contact the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) at the following link: https://www.iras.gov.sg/irashome/Contact-us/
Why is Forex Becoming Popular in Singapore?
There are multiple reasons why Singapore is becoming an economic powerhouse that is extremely popular with Forex brokers and traders who seek to invest in an economy with strong stability and growth potential. Firstly, Singapore is one of the few states to maintain a triple-A credit rating from financial services company Moody’s.
The skilled workforce and high quality living conditions of Singapore are also reasons for brokers deciding to locate their operations there. Singapore also joined the GFCI (Global Financial Centres Index in 2018, becoming the 24th state to do so. Singapore took Hong Kong’s spot as third-place in the GFCI’s ranking of the most attractive global financial centers, behind New York and London! Singapore’s index rose sharply while the rest of the nations only rose slightly.
It is not just the financial markets that make Singapore attractive to Forex brokers – the state’s booming technology and infrastructure have led to it being regarded as the most “tech-ready” nation. For any Forex broker deciding where to set up stable servers for advanced ECN networks capable of processing millions of trades each day, Singapore is the ideal location. The proximity to a plethora of financial institutions, meaning a variety of liquidity providers and connections to financial markets, also makes Singapore a draw for Forex brokers.
It is not just Forex brokers that are on the rise in Singapore – individual traders are also benefiting from the state’s role as an emerging financial hub. Singapore’s combination of trade-friendly laws and protective regulations against corruption makes its economy uniquely appealing on the world stage.
A wealth of Forex events and expositions are also held in Singapore – such as the extremely popular FX Asia (which had previously been held in Hong Kong), and the Traders Fair and Gala Night. There are also a great many smaller, independent events held across the state to promote and enliven trading in Singapore.
How To Start Trading Forex in Singapore
All you need to start trading Forex is a bank account, and access to a service provided by a Forex broker. Once you have a bank account, you will need to register an account on a platform before using a broker.
You should always make sure that you have researched Forex and how to succeed in its trade before you begin trading. Thankfully, there are many resources that can help you with this, from books to websites. Many online platforms also feature demo accounts, which enable users to practice trading with virtual “money” without risking real money! It is also highly recommended, once you begin trading, to enable risk management tools such as risk warnings and stop loss orders to avoid making significant financial losses.
Although you can make Forex trades at any time, the best time of day for Singaporeans to trade Forex is considered to be during the time period that the London markets are most active – which is 3pm to 12am in the October – March period, and 4pm to 1am in the March – October period. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are considered the most profitable days, as this is when volatility is highest.
Not only is Forex trading legal in Singapore, it is well-regulated yet also has the potential to be highly profitable. The variety of options of Forex brokers that you can choose from is extensive, and opting for an MAS-regulated Forex broker especially gives you the chance to make money on the markets in the safest possible way. However, it is important to remember that financial trading always carries risk, which you should always mitigate by carrying out the proper research, using a regulated broker, and using risk management tools!