Targeted eligibility criteria for GST Voucher

Mr Stewart Christopher Bernard ("Exclude home value from GST Voucher criteria"; Wednesday) asked whether overseas Singaporeans are eligible for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Voucher and also suggested removing the Annual Value (AV) component as a criterion to determine eligibility for the scheme.

The GST Voucher scheme is aimed at benefiting less well-off Singaporeans who incur GST on their living expenses in Singapore. To identify those permanently residing overseas, we have used the place of residence registered with the Government.

If we discover that an individual appears to be living overseas permanently but continues to have his registered place of residence in Singapore, we conduct further inquiries to reassess his eligibility for the GST Voucher.

The use of both income and the AV of one's residence as criteria for a person's eligibility for the GST Voucher is not perfect, and does not capture every individual's situation accurately.

But it provides us with a fair and practical basis to administer a large national scheme, reaching 1.6 million beneficiaries.

Among Singaporeans with the same income, those who live in private homes are generally better off than those who live in HDB homes. Likewise, those with no income (such as retirees and housewives) living in higher-end homes are generally better off than the same group living in lower-value homes.

The current AV threshold of $21,000 covers 80 per cent of homes in Singapore, including all HDB flats and some private properties. Nonetheless, we recognise that not all Singaporeans living in homes in the top 20 per cent of the AV range are well-off, and some may experience instances of financial hardship.

The best way to help them is not by changing the rules across the board.

We can instead use more flexible forms of support, such as ComCare, which allows for a more detailed assessment of a person's situation.

Low-income families may approach their nearest Social Service Office for an assessment of their needs.

We thank Mr Bernard for his feedback and will continue to review the criteria for the GST Voucher scheme regularly.

Lim Yuin Chien

Director, Corporate Communications

Ministry of Finance

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2015, with the headline 'Targeted eligibility criteria for GST Voucher'. Print Edition | Subscribe