Masks, hand sanitisers subject to usual GST rules: S'pore Customs

A woman in a face mask at Singapore Cruise Centre in HarbourFront on Feb 12, 2020. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

There are no extra restrictions on masks and hand sanitisers, but the usual Customs regulations apply to the import of these items, Singapore Customs said yesterday.

It issued the clarification after a picture of a sign recently put up at the Singapore Cruise Centre instructing travellers to declare their purchase of face masks was shared on social media.

The new sign had been placed below another one telling travellers to declare dutiable goods such as cigarettes, alcohol and new items.

The post had prompted some concern on whether the import of face masks and hand sanitisers was being clamped down on.

Singapore Customs said it had put up the sign at the cruise centre in response to a surge in the number of ferry passengers hand-carrying the items in large quantities.

These passengers had carried the items with values in excess of their goods and services tax (GST) import relief thresholds or had brought the items in for commercial purposes, and thus had to pay GST for these items according to existing rules that would also apply to other goods, it added.

Face masks and hand sanitisers have been highly sought after since the coronavirus outbreak last month, with many shops and online sites running out of stock.

A spokesman for Singapore Customs said: "As a number of travellers had quantities of masks and sanitisers with values in excess of their GST import relief thresholds or which were for commercial purposes, they were stopped at the baggage screening area and turned back to the Customs service counters for GST payment.

"The sign was therefore put up with good intentions by our front-line staff to remind travellers to make their GST payments first before proceeding for Customs clearance so as to minimise in-convenience and help expedite their clearance at the Singapore Cruise Centre."

The Customs spokesman added that the sign was put up only at the cruise centre in response to a localised problem there, and that it had since been taken down.

Under the law, all goods brought into Singapore are subject to 7 per cent GST.

Travellers are granted GST import relief on new goods that are purchased overseas and brought into Singapore for their personal use.

The relief amount is based on the duration of time the traveller has spent outside Singapore. GST is then applicable for the value of the goods in excess of the relief limit.

Travellers who spend 48 hours or more outside Singapore get GST relief on the value of their goods of up to $500. For those who spend less than 48 hours away, they get GST relief on goods of up to $100.

Goods brought through Customs for resale do not qualify for the GST relief.

Regarding an online post which showed a receipt from a traveller who had to pay $25.20 in GST for seven boxes of masks, Singapore Customs said the man arrived via Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal with $360 worth of N95 and surgical masks.

"As the goods were for commercial purposes, no import GST relief was accorded to him," said the Customs spokesman.

He thus had to pay a duty equal to 7 per cent of the total sum.

Anyone convicted of failing to declare or making an incorrect declaration of dutiable goods other than cigarettes can be asked to pay a fine of up to 10 times the duty amount for the first offence, and more for subsequent offences.

Editorial note: This article has been edited for clarity.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2020, with the headline Masks, hand sanitisers subject to usual GST rules: S'pore Customs. Subscribe