We thank Mr Trent Ng Yong En for his letter ("Review GST rule on goods bought overseas"; Monday), where he questioned the effectiveness of enforcing the goods and services tax (GST) rule on goods brought in by travellers and suggested that the Government review the rule.
GST is a tax on consumption in a country. Similar to goods purchased in Singapore, goods imported or brought into Singapore for consumption are also subject to GST.
It is inconsistent to exempt an individual from paying GST on goods that he personally brings into Singapore, when GST is payable on goods imported via other modes (for example, by postal parcels) or purchased locally. Our GST practice is the same as other countries' in this regard.
Nonetheless, we recognise that it is common for travellers to bring into Singapore souvenirs and gifts purchased overseas.
To facilitate the flow of travellers at the checkpoints and tax administration, GST relief is granted for goods valued up to $600.
Travellers are required to comply with the GST rule and violations are subject to penalties.
The rule is displayed on prominent signboards before the customs clearance points in the arrival halls of our major checkpoints.
Brochures in different languages are also available.
To complement the self-declaration system for GST payment, routine checks are conducted at the checkpoints.
We assure Mr Ng that our officers are trained to assess the specifics of each case, such as the condition of the goods presented, to ascertain whether the goods are liable for GST payment.
Travellers are advised to consult Singapore Customs officers at the Tax Payment Office if they are unsure about the GST relief they are entitled to, or whether the items that they are carrying are liable for GST payment.
People who are transferring their residence to Singapore after staying overseas for more than six months, like Mr Ng, are granted GST relief for the importation of their used household articles and personal effects, subject to certain conditions.
In addition, reasonable quantities of personal belongings hand-carried by travellers or in their luggage are not subject to GST.
More information on this is available on the Singapore Customs website (www.customs.gov.sg).
Edgar Lee, Head, Corporate Communications, Singapore Customs
This article was first published on June 7, 2014.
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