ISCA-SAC Advisory: Safe Management Measures for Accounting Practices in the Post Covid-19 Circuit Breaker Period
The Multi-Ministry Taskforce for Covid-19 announced on 19 May 2020 that Circuit Breaker measures will be gradually eased and businesses will resume in three phases starting from 2 June 2020. To keep our workplaces safe, safe management measures need to be put in place ahead of time and implemented from 2 June 2020.
Last Updated 26 May 2020
FAQ 1 - As Singapore exits the circuit breaker after 1 June 2020, can accounting practices resume business activities at work premises?
Accounting practices will be allowed to resume operations in Phase 1, i.e. from 2 June 2020.
Accounting practices do not need to apply for an exemption before resuming operations. MTI will grant accounting practices a class exemption to resume operations with effect from 2 June 2020, subject to the implementation of safe management measures (see FAQ 4 for details). However, existing measures (e.g. applying for time-limited exemptions or general exemptions) will continue to be in place until these measures are lifted on 2 June 2020.
FAQ 3 - Are there any requirements that accounting practices need to fulfil before accounting practices can resume operations?
Accounting practices need to fulfil the following to resume operations:
a. Submission of manpower details via the GoBusiness portal
Accounting practices must submit their manpower details such as (i) the total number of employees / workers working on-site and (ii) the proportion of these employees/ workers who are working part-time and shifts via the GoBusiness portal (https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg) within two weeks of the date of resumption of operations. They may do so by using the “Permissions and Manpower Declaration” button on the GoBusiness portal from 26 May 2020 onwards.
b. Comply with Safe Management Measures
Accounting practices must comply with the requirements for Safe Management Measures seen on https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg/safemanagement/general/ (“Safe Management Requirements”) and any sector-specific requirements as indicated under FAQ 5. Strict checks will be conducted, and accounting practices that do not abide by the measures will have their operations suspended until they are able to do so.
c. Adopt Telecommuting (work from home) to the maximum extent
Accounting practices that are able to continue to operate their business with their employees working from home should continue to do so. Employees should only come into the office when demonstrably needed, e.g. to perform work procedures or access specialised systems/equipment that cannot be accessed from home or to complete a contract or transaction that is legally required to be completed in person and on-site.
We encourage accounting practices to continuously review work processes and leverage on technology to support their employees to work from home. Accounting practices that require more information and support in this area can visit the SMP Centre. Accounting practices keen to find out more about subsidised solutions to support working from home (e.g. online collaboration, virtual meetings) can refer to the websites of Enterprise Singapore and the Infocomm Media Development Authority.
Special attention should be paid to vulnerable staff, e.g. older, pregnant or those with underlying medical conditions, to enable them to work from home. Internal and external meetings should also be conducted online, where possible.
All events and activities that involve close and prolonged contact, and social gatherings at workplace should be cancelled or deferred.
 As part of the Resilience Budget announced by DPM Heng on 26 March 2020, the Productivity Solutions Grant was enhanced to increase the maximum support level from 70% to 80% till 31 December 2020. The scope of the pre-approved digital solutions under PSG was expanded to include COVID-19 relevant solutions, such as online collaboration, virtual meetings, queue management and temperature screening.
Mandatory Safe Management Measures
All accounting practices must put in place safe management measures before resuming workplace activities. This includes retaining telecommuting (work from home) arrangements. Accounting practices can access more information on the requirements for Safe Management Measures at the workplace, as well as any sector-specific requirements, at https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg/safemanagement/general.
These measures include, but not limited to the following:
- Implement a detailed monitoring plan to ensure compliance with the measures, and appoint a Safe Management Officer to assist in the implementation, coordination and monitoring of the Safe Management Measures;
- Telecommute (work from home), where possible;
- Conduct online meetings, where possible;
- Allow only authorised essential visitors to enter your workplace;
- Implement SafeEntry to log the check-in and check-out of employees and visitors. Unwell employees and visitors should be refused entry;
- Encourage all personnel, including suppliers/contractors whom you are meeting offsite, to download and activate the TraceTogether app;
- Onsite employees are to wear masks at all times. Employers should ensure sufficient masks are available (including replacement masks);
- Implement onsite regular temperature screening and checks for respiratory symptoms twice daily;
- Implement protocols for employees and visitors to make declarations on the following and to maintain these records:
- Travel history
- Quarantine or isolation orders, stay-home notices or MC for respiratory symptoms
- Any close contact of a COVID confirmed case
- Unwell employees should consult a doctor soonest and should not report to work;
- Stagger work and break hours to reduce possible congregation of employees at common work spaces. Where possible, reporting and ending times should not coincide with peak-hour travel;
- Implement split team arrangements. There must be no cross-deployment or interaction between employees in different teams or worksites, even outside of work;
- Minimise need for physical touchpoints (e.g. by deploying contactless access controls);
- Avoid socialising with colleagues (e.g. interacting at staff canteens or having meals in groups);
- Ensure clear physical spacing of at least 1 metre between persons at all times using visual indicators or physical demarcations (e.g. high barriers between workstations, relocation of workstations, meeting room seats);
- Regular disinfection of common touchpoints and equipment;
- Provide cleaning and disinfecting agents such as hand soap and toilet paper at washrooms, and hand sanitisers at places such as entrances and lift lobbies;
- Set in place protocols to manage potential cases and confirmed infected cases;
- Have an evacuation plan for unwell / suspected cases and others at the workplace. In the event of a confirmed case at workplace, the affected area should be vacated, cordoned off and all exposed surfaces to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
The above measures must be in place, communicated and explained to employees prior to resuming work at work premise.
If the Safe Management Measures are not well implemented, MOM, MOH and sector agencies can take action against errant employers, including the cessation of operations and enforcement.
Employees also have a part to play to keep their co-workers, customers and families safe. They should practice safe distancing, maintain good hygiene practices such as washing their hands frequently and wearing a mask, avoid going to work if they are unwell, and avoid social gatherings at and outside the workplace.
Those who wish to report breaches or poor practices can do so via SnapSAFE (www.mom.gov.sg/eservices/snapsafe) – an app that allows the reporting of workplace safety and health issues to MOM.
Accounting practices should only perform work at clients’ premises only if work procedures cannot be performed from home / work premises and if such work require employees to be at client’s premise, e.g. observation of physical inventory count, fixed asset sighting and sighting of original documents (when assessed to be necessary by the auditor, e.g. for higher risk areas). Refer to ISCA COVID-19 Technical FAQs.
In addition, accounting practices should ensure the following are in place, prior to allowing employees to perform field work at client’s premise:
- Meetings at the clients’ premises should be conducted only if online meetings are not possible. Meetings at the clients’ premises should be strictly on appointment basis;
- Accounting practices should confirm with the client that they do not have workers who are suspected and/or confirmed cases in the last 14 days before allowing employees to go to the clients’ premises;
- Understand and ensure that the client has put in place Safe Management Measures;
- Require all employees that have to perform work at clients’ premises to use the TraceTogether App throughout the entire duration of the journey to/from the workplace/premise;
- Always require employees to wear masks at client’s’ premise;
- Physical meetings and interactions should be avoided unless necessary. If such meetings / interactions are required, safe distancing measures must be observed;
- Limit the number of employees at each client’s premise to the extent required to perform the necessary tasks;
- Implement team arrangements and avoid cross-deployment or interaction between employees in different teams or worksites;
- Limit the time employees spend at client’s premise and accounting practice employees are to leave client’s premises immediately upon completion of the work procedures;
- Ensure employees comply with the Safe Management Measures that are in place at the premises;
- Do not allow employees who are unwell to visit client’s premise; and
- Keep a log on the location of all employees at all times.
ISCA-SAC Advisory for Accounting Practices on Elevated Safe Distancing Measures [Circuit Breaker]
(Issued 14 April 2020, Updated 27 April 2020)
On 3 April 2020, the Prime Minister and the Multi-Ministry Taskforce announced the implementation of an elevated set of safe distancing measures to pre-empt the trend of increasing local transmission of COVID-19. These measures, including the suspension of business activities, except for those providing essential services and selected economic sectors which are critical for our local and the global supply chains, are intended to significantly reduce movements and interactions in public and private places. Work and business activities that can be carried out via telecommuting from home should continue.
On 21 April 2020, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce announced that it would extend the circuit breaker period until 1 Jun 2020 (inclusive).
The heightened safe distancing measures will be in place for eight weeks from 7 April 2020 until 1 June 2020 (inclusive).
FAQ 1 - How will the enhanced safe distancing measures affect accounting practices?
During the period of the heightened safe distancing measures (7 April 2020 to 1 June 2020), all in-person activities and activities at your business location should be suspended.
Essential services and their related supply chains and service providers are exempted from the suspension. All other business, social, or other activities that cannot be conducted through telecommuting or other means from home shall be suspended from 7 April 2020 to 1 June 2020. The list of activities that will be allowed to continue to operate will be updated at https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg/essentialservices.
Accounting services are not essential services
We have clarified with the relevant authorities that accounting services, which include accounting, bookkeeping, auditing and tax consultancy, are not among the essential services listed by the authorities.
While we recognise the accounting sector remains a key pillar of our economy, we appreciate the cooperation of accounting practices to suspend all in-person activities and activities at your business location and play our part to help overcome this pandemic.
Entities that are able to continue to operate their business with their employees working from home should continue to do so. Where possible, we encourage practices to adopt audio conferencing and other IT tools to support their employees to work from home.
FAQ 2 - Is my practice required to suspend all business activities if my operations cannot continue via telecommuting?
Where possible, businesses are encouraged to adopt video and audio conferencing and other IT tools to support their workers to work from home.
Firms with selected functions that: (i) need to continue but (ii) cannot be performed via telecommuting due to sensitivity (e.g. payroll processing), are encouraged to apply for a TIME-LIMITED EXEMPTION, to obtain permission to activate a small number of employees to work at the business premises and/or designated locations for short periods of time (i.e. less than a day). The total number of employees activated should not exceed 10, or 25% of the total number of employees in your company, whichever is lower.
Please note that each company is only allowed to submit applications only twice per week (each week starting from Sunday 12:00am to Saturday 11:59pm) during the circuit-breaker period. <Updated 27 April>
Accounting practices can write in to the Singapore Accountancy Commission (SAC) at firstname.lastname@example.org if they require additional applications for time-limited exemptions to perform key activities that cannot be done remotely (e.g. payroll processing). SAC will assess and appeal to MTI on a case-by-case basis.
Firms that need to maintain a small workforce for IT support and maintenance, to enable telecommuting, are encouraged to apply for a GENERAL EXEMPTION. Businesses are strongly encouraged to consult the SAC at email@example.com before seeking exemption for IT support staff. Employers should ensure that non-essential IT activities should be done offsite as much as possible.
If you own a business with multiple entities, please note that you will need to submit separate applications for each registered business.
Entities that wish to apply for time-limited or general exemptions should make an application at https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg.
FAQ 3 - Can I go to my workplace to perform maintenance work, receive deliveries or perform other necessary tasks?
Business owners who ish to visit the business premises alone to take care of crucial tasks that cannot be done remotely or to retrieve necessary materials or documents can do so. They need not submit a request for exemption. However, this should be done only when necessary.
If you need to activate your employees to work on-site for short periods of time (i.e. less than a day), you will need to apply for a TIME-LIMITED EXEMPTION.
Entities which wish to apply for exemptions should make an application at https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg
FAQ 4 - What are the relevant measures for companies and accounting practices?
ACRA: Extension of deadline for holding Annual General Meetings and filing of Annual Returns
The relevant authorities have also announced new measures to support and address the concerns of companies and accounting practices. The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) has announced on 7 April 2020 that it will grant a 60-day extension of time for all listed and non-listed companies whose AGMs are due during the period 16 April 2020 to 31 July 2020. Companies that had been granted extension of time to hold their AGMs within this period will also be given a further 60 days of extension from the last date of extension. The due dates for filing Annual Returns for the period 1 May 2020 to 31 August 2020 for all listed and non-listed companies have also been extended for 60 days. There is no need for these companies to apply to ACRA for the extension of time.
Please refer to ACRA’s website for more information.
IRAS: Extension of Tax Filing Deadlines <Updated 27 April>
As part of support measures to help taxpayers in light of the COVID-19 situation, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) is providing an automatic extension of deadlines for tax filing for individuals and businesses:
Original Filing Deadline
Extended Filing Deadline
Income Tax for Individuals (including sole proprietors and partnerships)
18 Apr 2020
31 May 2020
Income Tax for Trusts, Clubs and Associations
15 Apr 2020
30 Jun 2020 (Updated)
Estimated Chargeable Income (ECI) for companies with Financial Year ending Jan 2020
30 Apr 2020
30 Jun 2020 (Updated)
Estimated Chargeable Income (ECI) for companies with Financial Year ending Feb 2020
31 May 2020
30 Jun 2020 (Updated)
GST Returns for accounting period ending Mar 2020 
30 Apr 2020
11 May 2020
S45 Withholding Tax Forms due in Apr 2020
15 Apr 2020
15 May 2020
Tax Clearances for foreign employee in Apr 2020
30 Jun 2020 (Updated)
Tax Clearances for foreign employees due in May 2020
30 Jun 2020 (Updated)
 GST-registered businesses making GST payments to IRAS will be allowed to file their tax returns based on information available.
Please refer to IRAS’ website for more information.
Solidarity Budget 2020: Further support for businesses though the circuit breaker period <Updated 27 April>
During this circuit breaker period, many accounting practices may not be able to operate or can only operate at a much reduced level. To help businesses, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat announced additional support on 6 April 2020. Businesses will receive additional help with labour and rental costs, as well as financing support during the circuit breaker period. You may find more information at the following link: https://www.gov.sg/article/solidarity-budget-2020-further-support-for-businesses-through-the-circuit-breaker-period
In addition, the Government has also announced on 21 April 2020 that it will continue to support our people and businesses through the extended circuit breaker period, building on the measures introduced in the Unity, Resilience, and Solidarity Budgets since 18 February 2020. You can find more information at the following link: https://www.mof.gov.sg/Newsroom/press-releases/government-to-continue-support-measures-to-protect-livelihoods-and-stabilise-businesses-during-extended-circuit-breaker-period.
ISCA: COVID-19 Centre
To address the various challenges faced by companies and accounting practices, ISCA has collated a series of resources to help members deal with the accounting and auditing issues arising from the COVID-19 crisis and relevant news to better understand the economic and social impact of COVID-19.
ISCA has also put together a comprehensive summary guide covering the relevant schemes announced through the Government’s Support Packages, Industry Transformation and Development programmes as well as ISCA’s initiatives. This guide will help accounting practices understand how the various schemes can be relevant to them, and how they can access help for themselves and/or their organisations. The ISCA’s COVID-19 Navigator – A Guide for Singapore Chartered Accountants can be found at https://isca.org.sg/covid-19-series/resources/business-support/.
In addition to the resources, ISCA’s COVID-19 centre offers an eLearning space and a series of Digital Conferences specially curated for the accounting community to take care of the professional development needs.
You can find more information at https://isca.org.sg/covid-19-series/
Virtual Small and Medium-sized Practices (SMP) Centre
Launched on 22 August 2019, the virtual SMP Centre is a dedicated, one-stop platform of information, tools and services that help accounting practices, particularly the SMPs, to build productive and competitive businesses.
Accounting practices that are keen to adopt technology can visit the virtual centre to:
- Explore the list of digital solutions curated by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), ISCA and SAC;
- Explore the list of relevant training on digital skills to upskill themselves or their employees;
- Access a dedicated channel for SMPs to seek consultation on the digitalisation of their firms or other SMP related enquiries via a consultation form.
In addition, accounting practices can receive funding support of up to 70% of the cost of adopting some of the digital solutions listed on this portal.
Please visit https://www.smpcentre.org.sg for more details.
FAQ 5 - What are the penalties for companies that continue operations when they are not supposed to do so?
As of 7 April, companies which provide essential operations or have received approval for exemptions can continue operations. Companies providing non-essential services and have not received approval for exemptions must suspend operations at their workplaces.
Enforcement agencies will be conducting spot checks during this period and companies in non-essential sectors that remain open without approval are liable to be charged under applicable laws, including the Infectious Diseases Act, and COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020.
Companies that have been allowed to continue operations or have received exemptions must continue to implement safe distancing measures by:
- Ensuring all activities that can take place through telecommuting must be done from home
- Reducing the need for and duration of physical interactions
- Staggering work hours
- Postponing all group events
- Implementing shift work and/or split team arrangements
If not, they are also liable to be charged under the Infectious Diseases Act.
We encourage accounting practices to keep in mind the spirit and intent of the Government’s circuit breaker strategy and measures to play our part to curb the spread of the infection.
|1||MTI’s FAQs on Circuit Breaker||MTI’s FAQs on Circuit Breaker Cover essential services, suspension of activities and sector-specific queries|
|2||MOM’s FAQs for Business Owners||Cover precautionary measures, flexible work arrangements, entry approvals and LOA/SHN matters|
If you wish to find out the latest information and updates on COVID-19, we have also appended some links to relevant government agencies below which you will find useful.
- Singapore Government’s Updates on COVID-19 Situation
- MOH’s Updates on COVID-19 Local Situation
- ESG’s Advisory on COVID-19 for Businesses
- MTI’s COVID-19 Updates for Businesses