Woman arrested at Changi Airport for failing to declare branded items worth over $11,000 for GST payment

Officers checked the woman's luggage when she tried to exit through the Customs Green Channel without declaring the items, which were worth more than $11,000, for GST payment.


SINGAPORE - A 25-year-old woman was arrested at Changi Airport last Friday (Jan 12) after she failed to declare the branded items she had bought overseas for goods and services tax (GST) payment.

Singapore Customs, in a Facebook post on Tuesday night, said the woman - a Singaporean - had arrived on a flight from Paris.

Officers checked her luggage when she tried to exit through the Customs Green Channel without declaring the items, which were worth more than $11,000, for GST payment.

Photos posted on Facebook showed at least two handbags, several wallets and a belt.

Investigations are ongoing.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, a Singapore Customs spokesman said bona fide travellers are granted GST relief on goods imported for their personal use depending on the time spent away from Singapore, adding that there is no GST relief for goods imported for commercial purposes.

Travellers, including Singaporeans returning from overseas, will have to pay GST on the value of goods that exceeds the GST relief. GST for goods valued below $150 is not applicable for travellers who are out of Singapore for less than 48 hours. For those who are away for more than 48 hours, GST is exempt for goods valued up to $600.

In the post, Singapore Customs said that travellers are responsible for making "an accurate and complete declaration of the taxable and dutiable items in their possession".

In October last year, businessman Foo Tee Suan, then 54, was jailed for 24 weeks for making false entries in his GST returns.

The false entries resulted in GST evasion involving $172,315. He was also ordered to pay a penalty of $516,945, which was three times the amount of tax undercharged.

In April 2016, a branded handbag and wallet seller was fined $190,000 for evading more than $50,000 in GST payment.

Yu Chung Tan, then 47, instructed his suppliers from Europe, Hong Kong and the United States to indicate the value of the goods imported as below $400, so that they would not be subjected to GST.

The partner of online store LovethatBag imported 2,338 branded handbags by parcel post on 41 occasions.

Between April 2012 and February 2014, Yu also travelled overseas on 14 occasions and bought 519 branded items to sell in Singapore. He did not declare them for GST payment when he arrived at Changi Airport.

In other similar cases of GST evasion, two handbag retailers were fined in separate cases in 2015 for under-declaring the value of their imported goods in fake invoices submitted to Singapore Customs.

Adrian Tang Wai Chuen, then 42, was fined $95,000, while Ong Siew Hong was fined $42,000. She was then 60.

Those found guilty of fraudulent evasion of GST may face a fine of up to 20 times the amount of tax evaded and/or a jail term of up to two years.

Those with information on evasion of customs duty or GST can contact Singapore Customs on 1800-233-0000 or e-mail customs_intelligence@customs.gov.sg. The public can also use the Customs@SG mobile app to report these activities.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.