All goods brought into Singapore (other than exempt imports) are subject to Goods and Services Tax (GST) at the prevailing rate of 7% on the value of goods, which includes the cost, insurance and freight (CIF) plus other chargeable costs and the duty payable (if applicable). However, bona fide travellers can enjoy GST relief on goods meant for their personal use depending on the time spent away from Singapore.

GST Table

There is no GST relief for liquor, tobacco products, petroleum and goods imported for commercial purposes. Please refer to our website here for more information on duty-free concession and GST relief.

Who does not qualify for GST relief?

GST import relief for bona fide travellers is not extended to holders of a work permit, employment pass, student’s pass, dependant’s pass or long term pass.

But why do I pay GST on things I bought while on overseas trips?

That's because GST is a tax on the taxable supply of goods and services in Singapore and on the importation of goods into Singapore (other than an exempt import). That means that GST is levied on goods brought into Singapore or purchased locally.

The imposition of GST on goods imported into Singapore has been in force since 1 April 1994 when GST was implemented in Singapore. The practice is consistent with countries that levy GST (also known as Value-Added Tax in some countries).

So, all goods, whether from commercial shipments (i.e. shipping of goods) or hand-carried by travellers, are subject to 7% GST. Travellers are granted GST relief on goods imported for their own personal use and the amount is based on the value of goods they bring in and the period that they are away from Singapore. Travellers are required to pay GST on the value of the goods which is in excess of the GST relief granted to them.

For example, if you have been away from Singapore for a week and purchased S$500 worth of goods, you would not need to pay GST since you are eligible for GST relief of up to S$600 in purchases. However, if you purchased S$800 worth of goods on that week-long trip, you would be required to pay GST on the excess S$200 (i.e. S$800 minus the S$600 for which you are eligible for GST relief).

What about goods I import by post or air (e.g. goods ordered via online shopping)?

For goods imported by post or air, you can get GST relief for amounts up to S$400 per shipment. However, unlike goods purchased while you are overseas, if the value exceeds S$400, there is no GST relief, and GST is payable on the total value of the shipment.

If I buy a $2,000 bag in Changi Airport’s duty free while leaving for my holiday, will I have to pay tax on that bag when I return to Singapore?

GST is a tax on the taxable supply of goods and services in Singapore and on the importation of goods into Singapore (other than an exempt import). You will be taxed on the newly purchased bag as it exceeds the GST relief amount. GST is levied on the value of the goods, which includes the cost, insurance and freight (CIF) plus other chargeable costs and the duty payable (if applicable).

And if I pay sales tax while shopping overseas but forget to claim my tax rebate, do I still pay GST?

GST is payable whether or not foreign sales taxes were paid.

What if there is no price tag or receipt? What if I say that my overseas friend gave me the item?

All new items, including gifts and items that have been purchased overseas, are subject to GST. If receipts for the items are unavailable, their value will be calculated by assessing the values of identical or similar goods.

How are purchases in foreign currencies converted into SGD for tax purposes?

The foreign currencies are converted into Singapore dollars based on the Customs exchange rate available on the Customs website. The Customs exchange rate is computed by averaging the prevailing exchange rates from various local banks in Singapore and hence is reflective of the current market exchange rate. The use of the Customs exchange rate ensures fairness and consistency for both travellers and traders in the conversion of foreign currency into Singapore dollars for the purpose of duty and/or GST collection on goods imported into Singapore during the same period of time.

When do I have to declare and pay GST?

Travellers should declare and pay the GST for their goods at the Singapore Customs Tax Payment office at the checkpoints. An advance declaration through the Customs@SG mobile app is also available for travellers who wish to declare and pay taxes before arriving in Singapore. You are encouraged to download and use the Customs@SG mobile app to declare and pay duty and/or GST on your overseas purchases without having to make a stop at our Tax Payment office upon arrival. The app will generate an e-receipt that can be stored in the traveller’s mobile phone as a proof of your declaration and tax payment.

Travellers who have nothing to declare can exit via the Green Channel, where Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore officers may conduct checks. Failure to make a declaration is an offence under the Customs Act and the GST Act. In general, offenders may settle the customs offence via a composition sum of up to S$5,000 or prosecution in court, depending on the severity of the offence.


This article is accurate as of Sep 2014.