GST, property and 'sin' levies boost tax revenue to new high

Levies on consumption and property sales helped the taxman run up record returns for the last financial year, although the income tax takings slipped on the back of more rebates.

The total tax revenue collected in the 12 months to March 31 came in at a new high of $41.6 billion, up 0.5 per cent from the previous year.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) collection grew 5.3 per cent to $9.5 billion in the 12 months to March 31, based on the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) annual report out yesterday.

The increase was due to moderate private consumption expenditure growth last year.

Property taxes flowed in as well to the tune of $4.2 billion - 10.6 per cent higher than the $3.8 billion collected in the previous financial year.

This was attributed to higher annual values and an increase in the number of properties, said the Iras report.

Various cooling measures put in place over the past year have had an effect on government coffers. Stamp duty collection decreased by 8.8 per cent to $3.9 billion as the measures led to fewer property transactions.

But "sin" taxes also boosted the taxman's revenue, as betting levies, which include revenue collected from 4-D, Toto and Big Sweep, rose 3.2 per cent to $2.4 billion.

The higher receipts from GST, property and betting taxes were enough to counter a decline in income tax, traditionally the main contributor to the Iras.

All three categories of income tax - corporate, individual and withholding - fell across the board, due mainly to tax rebates.

Corporate income tax fell 1.1 per cent to $12.7 billion, individual income tax dropped 0.4 per cent to $7.7 billion while withholding tax declined 13.8 per cent to $1.15 billion.

Total tax revenue accounts for 72.9 per cent of the government operating revenue and 11 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.

Tax experts said the increase in GST and property tax is not surprising.

PwC Asia-Pacific indirect taxes leader Koh Soo How noted that GST collections have quadrupled over the past 10 years, underscoring the importance of the GST as a source of tax revenues.

PwC Singapore corporate tax director Shantini Ramachandra said: "The increase in property tax revenue is also understandable in the light of the introduction of a more progressive property tax structure for residential properties with effect from Jan 1 2014, resulting in higher property taxes for owners of higher end residential properties."

KPMG Singapore's head of tax, Mr Tay Hong Beng, said: "The wholesale and retail and real estate and business activities industries continue to be the biggest contributors to the GST collections by economic sector.

"This reflects the higher household income and standard of living enjoyed by Singaporeans, who are purchasing more goods and investing in residential properties."

EY Singapore's head of tax, Ms Sim Siew Moon, said: "Interestingly, the reduction in stamp duty collection is replaced by the increase in property tax collection. Property tax collection is expected to grow in significance to tax collection with the increase in property tax rate."

feimok@sph.com.sg