BUDGET 2019: Drawing on past for the future

Smaller tax-free shopping and alcohol allowances

Returning travellers have a smaller allowance on tax-exempt overseas shopping, under new rules that kicked in at midnight today.

Those who spend fewer than 48 hours outside Singapore will now avoid paying the 7 per cent goods and services tax (GST) only if the total value of items bought abroad is $100 or less, down from $150.

The threshold has also been lowered from $600 to $500 for travellers who spend 48 hours or more outside the country, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced yesterday. The alcohol duty-free concession will also be reduced, from 3 litres to 2 litres, starting on April 1.

In a joint statement yesterday, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore and Singapore Customs said the revision of GST import relief limits is aimed at keeping Singapore's tax system resilient, amid rising international travel.

They also reminded travellers to declare their taxable goods upon arrival in Singapore, and advised them to keep their purchase receipts.

Advance declaration and payment of GST can also be made using the Customs@SG mobile app or Web portal, the statement said.

Failure to declare, or making an incorrect declaration, is an offence that carries a fine of up to $10,000 or the equivalent of the amount of tax payable - whichever is greater - as well as up to 12 months in prison.


Mr Adrian Ball, EY Asia-Pacific indirect tax leader, said the Budget "continues to look at GST as a key source of revenue for the Government, with a focus on tightening concessions". The smaller GST import relief and alcohol duty-free allowances were "unexpected", and it remains to be seen if more enforcement action will follow, he said.

Housewife Jessie Neo, 44, who shops in Johor Baru, said: "Usually, I spend less than $100 on groceries, but I have to be more careful now."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2019, with the headline 'Smaller tax-free shopping and alcohol allowances'. Print Edition | Subscribe