Visitors to Singapore who fail to repay wrongly-claimed GST tourist refunds might face travel restrictions

People using the escalator at Changi Airport on Aug 10, 2015.
People using the escalator at Changi Airport on Aug 10, 2015. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Travel restrictions might soon be imposed on people who fail to repay wrongly-claimed tourist refunds, as part of a series of suggested changes to the draft Goods and Services Tax (GST) (Amendment) Bill.

The Ministry of Finance (MOF) conducted a public consultation on the draft Bill - which has yet to be passed in Parliament - between Jul 13 and Jul 31.

A total of 11 suggestions were received during the consultation exercise and seven will be accepted and incorporated, MOF said on Wednesday (Sept 30).

The remaining suggestions were not accepted as "they were inconsistent with the policy objectives of the proposed changes".

One of the accepted suggestions was to allow the Comptroller of GST to impose a travel restriction order on a person who fails to repay a tourist refund wrongly claimed under the Tourist Refund Scheme.

This is because a wrongful tourist refund owed is no different from a tax due to the Government, MOF said.

On comments from the public that the proposed measure might discourage tourism when visitors to Singapore who are not aware of the GST rules unintentionally make a wrongful claim, MOF said that it does not expect this to happen as the amendment is not targeted at bona fide tourists.

It is aimed persons who do not meet the conditions for refunds but claim the tourist refunds wrongly and fail to repay them when notified, said the ministry.

The conditions for tourist refunds include that the claimant not have been employed in Singapore in the past 6 months before the date of purchase, and that the goods not be exported for business or commercial purposes.

The list of conditions can be found on Iras' website and in brochures available at the airport and retail stores.

chiaym@sph.com.sg