In certain jurisdictions such as Singapore, sole proprietorships must be registered. In these jurisdictions, can a private individual issue receipts?

Perhaps a more specific legal question is: where does the authority to issue receipts come from? Does it rest exclusively with the recipient? If governmental authorities are permitted, by law, to regulate (1) the form and substance of receipts, (2) who is authorized to issue receipts - to what extent may they do so?

All this is assuming the individual makes a sufficiently low turnover that we can ignore VAT/GST.

  • 2
    You need to clarify whether this is exclusively within the context of commercial transactions (including retail and wholesale goods and services) or includes private party contracts. Of course a government can make laws about who is able to do what - those laws rarely lack some kind of focus or apply to absolutely every possible circumstance where someone trades something to someone else. – Nij Dec 26 '19 at 5:05
  • If Alice loans Bob $20, Bob can write on a piece of paper "received $20 from Alice as a loan, signed Bob," and give it to Alice. That's a receipt. Why would the government of Singapore want to forbid that, or require people to have a license or some other grant of authority to do it? – phoog Dec 26 '19 at 19:57
  • @phoog The document you describe, while styled as a receipt, is probably a promissory note for legal purposes. – ohwilleke Dec 26 '19 at 23:39
  • @ohwilleke fair enough. If Alice subsequently writes on a piece of paper "received $20 from Bob in repayment of a loan, signed Alice," is that a receipt? – phoog Dec 27 '19 at 4:07
  • @phoog Yes. It is a receipt. – ohwilleke Dec 28 '19 at 1:50

A receipt is just a written proof that money was taken. It is hard to imagine a place on Earth where the legality of giving such a proof would be questionable at all so that you would need to talk about an "authority to issue receipts". Only if you find a place where money itself is illegal.

Now, the real question here is whether such receipts (issued by private persons not registered as businesses) can be used for accounting purposes, e.g. to claim that your business, which transacted with those persons, incurred expenses.

The mere fact that sole traders need to be registered to do business does not outlaw the use of receipts issued by non-registered persons. For example, your business could be buying old stuff from the public (used cars, electronics etc.) and refurbishing it. Provided that this activity itself is not illegal, receiving receipts from those one-off private sellers, and using them in your bookkeeping would be perfectly legal too.

  • 2
    Minor nitpick: A receipt can also be written proof that property was taken. For example, when I deliver original legal documents to a client, I generally get a receipt. So do many delivery services where the cost of delivery and the cost of the item are prepaid. This doesn't detract from the substance of the answer at all, however. – ohwilleke Dec 26 '19 at 19:09
  • I agree, but the question would seem more one of whether an unregistered private individual remains a "legal entity", who possesses capacity to contract. It is difficult to believe that a state like Singapore which takes its Common Law inheritance from the UK, could possibly have removed legal capacity from private individuals. If that were the case presumably no unregistered person could open a bank account, nor hold a credit card. If a person can contract, they must surely be able to issue an instrument pursuant to a contract - namely a receipt. – WS2 Dec 28 '19 at 10:53

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