Tourists, foreigners living here paid half of net GST in 2018 and 2019: Chee Hong Tat

Tourists and foreigners paid about half of the net annual GST collected in Singapore in 2018 and 2019, or about $3 billion. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Tourists and foreigners in Singapore accounted for close to $3 billion, or about half of the net annual goods and services tax (GST) paid by households and individuals in 2018 and 2019, Senior Minister of State for Finance Chee Hong Tat said on Tuesday.

Mr Chee, who was speaking in Parliament, said households and individuals paid around $6.8 billion of GST annually in 2018 and 2019, after deducting refunds under the Tourist Refund Scheme.

After further deducting GST vouchers of over $1 billion provided annually to Singaporean households, the net annual GST collected from households and individuals was estimated to be around $5.7 billion.

Tourists and foreigners residing here accounted for about 50 per cent of that, said Mr Chee. The top 20 per cent of resident households in Singapore accounted for another 20 per cent or thereabouts.

Data from 2020 and 2021 was not cited as it is not representative of consumption patterns due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The bulk of the net GST that the Government collects is actually borne by two groups of people. What this means is that the remaining 30 per cent is spread over the rest – the 80 per cent of households and individuals,” he said.

While this means that there will be some part of the net GST that is paid for by different groups of society, including those from the middle- and the upper-middle income, the impact that they bear is not the “full amount”, he added.

Mr Chee was responding to a question from Workers’ Party MP Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC), who had asked about the breakdown of net GST that various groups, such as foreigners, accounted for.

Associate Professor Lim also raised concerns about the impact of GST on the middle class, who may not qualify for the full suite of support measures due to their income bracket.

In response, Mr Chee said the support package that the Government provides extends to middle-income households. Some parts of the package also benefit those who earn more or live in private properties.

He cited the payout in December of $500 cash to 2.5 million eligible adult Singaporeans to help cushion the impact of rising prices.

Mr Chee said that refunds under the Tourist Refund Scheme are not substantial. From 2010 to 2019, an average of around $200 million per year was refunded to tourists. This works out to around 2 per cent of the total GST collected.

He added that the refunds in 2020 and 2021 were much lower, at around $22 million per year, due to the travel restrictions associated with Covid-19.

The scheme allows tourists buying goods from participating retailers in the Republic to claim a refund of the GST paid on their purchases.

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