Is it true that I have to pay GST on items purchased overseas?

Yes, but only if the total value of what you’ve purchased is more than a certain amount. Singaporeans love to travel and shop online...


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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, GST import relief is granted, as a concession, for travellers to bring new articles, souvenirs, gifts and food preparations into Singapore for personal use.

[Updated] With effect from 19 February 2019, travellers who spend less than 48 hours outside Singapore and travellers who spend at least 48 hours outside Singapore will respectively get GST import relief for the first S$100 and $500 of the value of goods brought in from overseas.

GST import relief for travellers arriving in Singapore (with effect from 19 February 2019)

GST payable for items purchased overseas as at Feb 2019
*GST is applicable on the value of goods in excess of the respective relief limits.

The relief does not apply to intoxicating liquor and tobacco, as well as goods imported for commercial purposes. Please refer to Customs's website here for more information on the GST import relief for travellers

Who qualifies for the GST import relief for travellers?

The relief is applicable to Singapore Citizens, Singapore Permanent Residents and tourists, but is not applicable to crew members and holders of a work permit, employment pass, student's pass, dependant's pass, or long term pass issued by the Singapore Government.

Why do I have to pay GST on goods that I bring into Singapore from overseas?

GST is a tax on the domestic consumption. Therefore, goods that are purchased locally as well as those imported into Singapore are subject to GST.

However, to facilitate customs clearance, GST import relief is given for travellers who bring in goods such that they only need to pay GST on the value of the goods which is in excess of the GST import relief applicable to them.

For example, if you have been away from Singapore for a week and brought in S$300 worth of new goods, you would not need to pay GST since you are eligible for GST import relief of up to S$500 in purchases. However, if you brought in S$800 worth of new goods on that week-long trip, you would be required to pay GST on the excess S$300 (i.e. S$800 minus the S$500 for which you are eligible for GST import 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 need not pay GST if the CIF value of your goods does not exceed S$400. GST is payable on the full value of the goods if the CIF value exceeds S$400.

If I buy a S$2,000 bag in Changi Airport's duty free while leaving for my holiday, will I have to pay GST when I bring it back upon return to Singapore?

As the value of the bag brought into Singapore exceeds the GST import relief, you are required to pay GST on the value that is in excess of the import relief.

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.

For returning travellers, what should they do to prove that their goods did not exceed the stipulated limits for GST import relief? What if they fail to produce receipts for the goods purchased?

All travellers are advised to keep and produce invoices or receipts of their purchases for computation and verification of the tax payable.

If the invoices or receipts are not available, the traveller will be requested to provide the commercial values for the goods. Customs officers will then assess if the values provided are reasonable or acceptable.

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 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?

An advance declaration and payment of GST can be made using the Customs@SG mobile application or web portal. The app will auto-tabulate the GST payable, and generate an e-receipt that can be stored in your mobile phone as a proof of your declaration and tax payment.

Alternatively, you may proceed directly to the Customs Tax Payment Office or the Red Channel upon arrival after immigration clearance to declare your items. Our officer on duty will assist you accordingly before you exit the Red/Green Channels.

It is the responsibility of all arriving travellers to make an accurate and complete declaration of taxable items in their possession for GST payment.

Failure to declare or making an incorrect declaration of goods constitutes an offence under the Customs Act and GST Act.  Upon conviction, the offender will be liable to a fine up to $10,000 or the equivalent of the amount of tax payable, whichever is greater, and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months. Any person found guilty of fraudulent evasion of GST will be liable to a fine up to 20 times the amount of tax evaded and/or imprisonment for up to 2 years.

Source: Singapore Customs

This article is accurate as of 18 February 2019.


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Unless otherwise indicated, the articles here are generally accurate as of their publication dates. Please visit the relevant Goverment agency website for the latest updates.