GST tourist refund claim: PR fined for fraud

He got tourist to claim tax refund for a $44,500 Cartier watch his wife had bought

A 48-year-old Singapore permanent resident whose wife bought a $44,500 watch tried to claim a tax refund of $2,911.21 by asking a Chinese tourist for help.

Yesterday, Zheng Da Fei was found guilty of tax refund fraud under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act. He was fined $4,500 or, in default, jailed for three weeks.

In May 2014, Zheng and his wife bought a Cartier watch for $44,500 from the Cortina Watch outlet at Paragon mall in Orchard Road.

His wife paid $40,000 in cash, and $4,500 with her credit card. An Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS) ticket - required for a GST refund - was issued to her.

The next day, Zheng approached a Chinese tourist at Terminal 1 of Changi Airport to help him claim the GST refund of $2,911.21.

Zheng accompanied the tourist to the refund booth with the watch and the relevant documentation to make the GST refund claim.

The tourist made a successful claim for the refund, by treating the watch as her own.

Customs officers detected the fraudulent tourist refund claim at the airport and arrested Zheng, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) said in a statement.

Zheng said he was aware that neither he nor his wife was entitled to the GST refund as Singapore PRs, and knew it was wrong to do so.

The eTRS is available only to tourists to claim GST refund on goods they have purchased and taken out of Singapore.

The tourist gets a receipt and an eTRS ticket when he buys goods from a GST-registered retailer participating in eTRS.

The tourist can then make a GST refund claim through the eTRS self-help kiosk at Changi Airport, or opt for a cash refund at the Central Refund Counter in the Departure Transit Lounge with the eTRS ticket or the credit card with which he purchased the goods.

In its statement, Iras said it takes a serious view of anyone who makes false declarations to seek GST refunds under the tourist refund scheme.

Iras added that it works closely with Singapore Customs to uncover any attempt to abuse the scheme.

It is an offence under the GST Act for a person to engage another person to seek or obtain an approval for a refund under the tourist refund scheme.

Offenders are liable to a fine of up to $5,000 or, in default, a maximum of six months in jail.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2016, with the headline 'GST tourist refund claim: PR fined for fraud'. Print Edition | Subscribe