Singapore Expats Forum

Big four accounting firm expat compensation

Discuss about getting a well paid job or career advancement. Ask about salaries, expat packages, CPF & taxes for expatriate.

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JR8
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Postby JR8 » Fri, 08 Mar 2013 8:50 pm

Well I thought using '''hater''' and ;-D would make it clear that I was being a little tongue in cheek.

If I were to be literal, perhaps 'occasionally feel somewhat jaundiced, but inured' would about sum it up.

After all, there is no point in hating, it'll change nothing, but it will eat you up inside.

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Postby Hidy Ho » Fri, 08 Mar 2013 8:55 pm

I was in Big whatever when there were 10 or 'em and then down 8 and then down to 6 and I guess now 4.

In my opinion, you can't do gross salary comparison, you should do net since there should be big difference in personal income tax rates. Also, at that quoted salary, you won't have be forking over any US tax ... although you do have to file US tax.

Now with the net amount, you can do some living expense calculation (on this board and on google) and figure out how much play money is left and whether it's doable for you. If you want to live alone, the rent is going to cost you BIG here .. probably around 3K or more. That ain't gonna leave you too much play money. If you drink or smoke, it's going to cost you BIG here. You wanna go to air conditioned restaurants or drink Starbucks coffee, it's gonna cost you BIG here. Or, you can choose to live cheaper with shared accommodation and eating hawker food.

Regarding salary, I think you can google Kelly Singapore Salary Survey to get some idea. I don't know if Big 4 is mostly local or expat but it might be very different work culture. I know that my company's finance folks work LONG hours whereas us cool folks in IT work more reasonable hours (at least in the office). I work for a USA company that has big office in SG and transferred here.

About being an Asian American, I am one also. Not always plus as they will habla whatever dialect at you and give you a funny look when you look back dumbfounded. And this Singlish stuff, it ain't always understandable (although I understand the people in the office much better than on the street).

Now, I'm one of the idiot who actually took a pay cut to come here and arrived here Jan 2012. But I did a lot of research and calculation to make sure the cut was acceptable to me after tax and living expense (aka play money). I haven't paid my SG or US tax yet (that's a hint that I make enough money to have to pay US tax) ... I am hoping that my taxes are somewhat close to my estimate or I'm not going to be happy. I did have one additional unknown variable (at the time I accepted the transfer) that kinda screwed me over - major difference in healthcare coverage. My company has vastly different healthcare coverage in California vs Singapore and as a result, I said goodbye to one medicine that would cost around 20k USD/year (covered in US but not here where my healthcare coverage has a cap amount per year).

There are many factors but, hey, you only live once (in this life cycle) so do whatever will make you happy. You can try it out for a year or two and if you don't like it, go back home!

P.S. You might want to search the board about changing/finding jobs here which is apparently not fun or easy. But if I recall my former life, many of us in Big whatever usually ended up going to work for a client or another Big whatever.

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Postby caliexpat » Sat, 09 Mar 2013 2:41 pm

Hidy Ho,

Thank you for your post. I know the big four work pretty insane hours, but thankfully, I'm also not part of the core financial audit team.

I am pretty used to living on the cheap. I plan to do a shared HDB flat, eat mainly hawker food, and I don't drink or smoke. I plan to have the occasion night out clubbing, but I don't intend to pay much more than the entrance fee. I did run a few calculations, and other than rent, I expect my biggest expense to be regular trips that I plan to take to other near by countries.

I did browse the forum with regards to searching for a new jobs, but I think I intend to stay with this firm for at least 2 years or until I hit my next promotion. The salary increases appear to be about 10-15+% a year, so it should be okay. If not, typically upon leaving the big four you can expect about a 30% increase in compensation and normal working hours in private industry. It sounds to be pretty similar in Singapore as it is in the US. I figure living will be pretty rough to start but it will get a little better over time as my income increases if I decide to stick it out longer term. Also, as you've implicitly mentioned, I figure that working a big four job is, as always, an easy way to expose yourself to the top people at various major companies, which might help in the job search.

Otherwise, like you said, it would probably be pretty easy to go back to the US with great work experience on the resume and making a US income again. In addition, I am considering MBA programs, and I know that this work experience abroad would pretty much make me a shoe in for a good program in addition to other credentials. I figure, not much to lose really, except time, but you only live once.

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Postby bioshock » Mon, 11 Mar 2013 12:32 am

Dear caliexpat,


As a senior role in assurance in a Big 4, S$6K to seriously being uderpaid, you should at least ask for twice that amount, without CPF, if you really want to move to Singapore.

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Postby caliexpat » Mon, 11 Mar 2013 7:42 am

bioshock wrote:Dear caliexpat,


As a senior role in assurance in a Big 4, S$6K to seriously being uderpaid, you should at least ask for twice that amount, without CPF, if you really want to move to Singapore.


I'm going to have to call you out on that one and ask you to cite your source for that figure. I'm not sure whether you are trying to say that you need twice that much to, in your opinion, "live well" in Singapore or whether you are saying that I am getting short changed by my potential employer. But I am assuming that you implied the latter given that you specifically mention a senior assurance role in a Big Four, and to that I have to say please stop with the nonsense already. Even in the US an audit senior would not make EVEN CLOSE to double S$6K, as the most experienced seniors in the US *might* make around S$8.5K (the average is probably closer to less than S$7.5) IN THE US. In addition, as I've mentioned multiple times already, keep in mind that I am not doing a temporary rotation through one of the firms' 1.5 year GDP programs (in case that is where you are getting the outrageous figure from, but even then I highly doubt an assurance senior would make close to the figure you cited), but applying as a local.

In conclusion, it is really not helpful for me, or other readers that might consider these responses in making decisions, when you cite ridiculous figures out of nowhere when you really don't know what you're talking about, as the figure you cited would be a completely ridiculous ask even in the big four in the US, much less Singapore.

So I ask again, is anyone aware of what kind of figures that a US citizen might get for working in the big four in Singapore? For the big four, not a MNC. On a permanent basis, not temporary (e.g., 2 year) assignment. For an engagement staff role, not a manager or partner/principal/director role. At this point, and based on some other information I've gathered, I'm inclined to believe that the offer that I received was fair. That is, US citizens will be receiving minimal special treatment in the Big Four in Singapore when compared with locals working there. They put me at the top of the salary range for the position that I applied for and that was about it. But if anyone KNOWS for certain (and is not simply throwing a wild guess or what they think "should be" the figure) that the majority, or at least a good percentage of foreigners receive far greater benefits when applying for a position at the Big Four, then I would certainly appreciate hearing more about it.

Thanks!

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Postby Mi Amigo » Mon, 11 Mar 2013 8:35 am

Dear bioshock,

I notice that you joined the forum last night and within the space of one and a half hours you posted 21 replies on various subjects, mostly one-liners of the type quoted above. I'm curious about your motivation for doing this and the source of your information. Are you living in Singapore? Are you Singaporean? Are you an agent by any chance?
Be careful what you wish for

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Mon, 11 Mar 2013 8:39 am

Our new member, bioshock, just joined the forum last night and has been posting silly figures all over the board. I think our newbie is a local who is just trying to get potential jobseekers to overprice themselves so as to cause them to either not be interviewed or to price themselves out of the local market. You would be better off relying on our regulars as they have track records here and are pretty much reliable and while they might disagree occasionally, they usually try to back up their claims. Always look at a posters join date and post count (also neither are a firm guideline) and you will be better off.

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Postby bioshock » Mon, 11 Mar 2013 12:43 pm

Hi all,

Firstly, I would like to apologize for any misunderstandings, i am just giving out advice based on what I hear on anecdotal evidence.

Feel free to disagree with me, it is good to have open discussions.

I am currently on leave and have just been surfing this forum; been recently suffering from a case of insomnia.

I used to work in a local trade association for businesses, and I have a bit of exposure to salary figures. If my postings are unhelpful, then I will stop doing so.

Thanks!

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Postby Mi Amigo » Mon, 11 Mar 2013 3:54 pm

bioshock wrote:Hi all,

Firstly, I would like to apologize for any misunderstandings, i am just giving out advice based on what I hear on anecdotal evidence.

Feel free to disagree with me, it is good to have open discussions.

I am currently on leave and have just been surfing this forum; been recently suffering from a case of insomnia.

I used to work in a local trade association for businesses, and I have a bit of exposure to salary figures. If my postings are unhelpful, then I will stop doing so.

Thanks!

Well I think your contributions would be more (>0) valuable if you gave hard data that is backed up by a reliable source, rather than what you "hear on anecdotal evidence," as that seems to be wide of the mark and may be misleading for people who need accurate info.

And just telling someone to contact the ICA, MOM, Comfort Taxi, etc. doesn't add to the pool of knowledge. People can figure that out for themselves, so it just makes you look like a spammer who's trying to get their post count up for some nefarious purpose.

i.e. quality not quantity is what works best here.
Be careful what you wish for

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Postby bioshock » Tue, 12 Mar 2013 11:43 pm

Dear Mi Amigo,


Thank you very much for your advice, I really appreciate it.

I will most definitely take note of it when I make any more postings in the future.

Thank you!

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Postby Anthony249 » Wed, 13 Mar 2013 5:31 pm

Caliexpat

A hong kong expat I know in the position you mentioned makes S$9k per month. Also in the Big 4 and has been with the company for nearly a decade (was initially in the HK branch). Typical hours are 12 hours a day on weekdays and usually 8 hours of additional work (both at home or at the office) over the weekend.

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Postby caliexpat » Wed, 13 Mar 2013 7:06 pm

Anthony249 wrote:Caliexpat

A hong kong expat I know in the position you mentioned makes S$9k per month. Also in the Big 4 and has been with the company for nearly a decade (was initially in the HK branch). Typical hours are 12 hours a day on weekdays and usually 8 hours of additional work (both at home or at the office) over the weekend.


Thanks for the information Anthony. Your friend makes a pretty good amount for a senior--he must be in financial advisory or management consulting, as opposed to the assurance group, unless salaries are much higher in HK than in the US. Those are some pretty brutal hours though!!

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Postby zzm9980 » Wed, 13 Mar 2013 7:33 pm

i just came here to say what Hidy ho already said; If you compare net pay (after taxes), you'll find 8.5k SGD in the US is about the same as 6k SGD in Singapore due to the much lower tax rate, and that you'll be under the the earned income exemption limit for your salary, so you won't owe anything. Note if you report investment income, stock grants, etc, you'll have to pay full tax on that, based on a bracket which would include your payroll. It's complicated, talk to an accountant. If all you have is that $6k, you won't have to worry.

Minnie's rent numbers sound a bit high, I'd say you can get away with $000-3500/month for a small condo if you look around. All areas are roughly comparably "nice", unless you must live within a few km of the rich expat banker areas.

You'll find your Singapore income tax rate on that income is likely lower than what you paid for state income tax. I only glanced at what you said about CPF, but if your company is giving you that straight up, it should be another $900 or so a month.

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Postby caliexpat » Wed, 13 Mar 2013 8:27 pm

I was going to post this on one of the other forums, but since we seem to be on the topic, I'm actually looking to get as cheap accommodations as possible. I'm not looking for anything fancy or that includes facilities, etc.

The most important factors for me are close to work (in commute time, so close to subway would be fine), pricing, and that it's in moderately good condition (i.e., not falling apart and clean). I will be working in the Tanjong Pagar area in the Central Business District. I am looking to just rent a room in an HDB, and am looking to spend less than S$2k in rent per month. Would this be possible?

Also, would anyone happen to have any suggestions as to good general areas to start looking, just so I might narrow down my search to a few targetted areas?

Thanks!

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Postby caliexpat » Thu, 14 Mar 2013 2:04 am

zzm9980 wrote: I only glanced at what you said about CPF, but if your company is giving you that straight up, it should be another $900 or so a month.


Also, I was just wondering if someone could clarify what is meant by this?


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