SINGAPORE: Expect to see your bills rise slightly next year as Singapore’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) goes up by 1 percentage point.
This is the first of a two-step increase, which will see the rate rise to 9 per cent in 2024.
New rules to charge GST on imported low-value goods and more services will also take effect in January.
How will you be affected and what are the support measures that you can count on to cushion rising prices? Here’s what you need to know:
What is GST and what does it apply to?
The GST is a tax on domestic consumption, which can be any goods or services, including imports.
It is charged by all GST-registered businesses. Businesses with taxable turnovers of S$1 million or more are required to register for GST while businesses with taxable turnover below S$1 million may register for GST voluntarily.
However, there are some exemptions – such as the sale and lease of residential properties and financial services. The Government also absorbs GST on publicly subsidised healthcare and education.
The GST rate is currently 7 per cent. It will go up to 8 per cent on Jan 1, 2023, and to 9 per cent on Jan 1, 2024.
Are there any transitional rules?
Things can get a bit tricky if you order something at the end of 2022 but the goods or service gets delivered in 2023.
According to the Inland Revenue Authority's (IRAS) website, you should be charged 7 per cent GST if payment is made in 2022, and 8 per cent if payment is made in 2023.
But if you pay for something in instalments over 2022 and 2023, then two separate GST rates should be charged.
IRAS also says that GST is to be charged at 8 per cent on services performed and paid for on or after Jan 1, 2023 even if the invoice was issued in 2022.
For services that span over 2022 and 2023, you may pay 8 per cent if the billing date is in 2023, or you could pay 7 per cent for one part of the bill and 8 per cent for the latter part.
For example, if you stay at a hotel over New Year’s Eve and New Year's Day, the hotel can charge 8 per cent for the entire stay as the payment is collected in 2023.
But it can also choose to charge GST at 7 per cent on the value of hotel stay on Dec 31, 2022, and 8 per cent for the night of Jan 1, 2023.
How will GST be charged on low-value goods?
GST will also be extended to purchases of low-value goods and imported non-digital services, with the new rules kicking in on Jan 1, 2023. This was announced in the 2021 Budget.
Rules requiring overseas providers of digital services to charge GST had already begun in 2020, but it now extends to non-digital services as well.
For goods, GST is currently collected by Singapore Customs on all goods imported via sea and land, as well as goods imported via air or post valued above S$400. From 2023, overseas vendors who are GST-registered need to charge GST to local consumers if the goods imported cost less than S$400.
The Ministry of Finance has said this will ensure a level playing field for local businesses to compete with overseas suppliers of goods and services.
How has the GST rate changed over the years?
GST was introduced in Singapore on Apr 1, 1994 at 3 per cent.
This was increased to 4 per cent in 2003, 5 per cent in 2004 and 7 per cent on Jul 1, 2007.
The upcoming increase to 9 per cent was announced during the 2018 Budget, when the Government said that it would happen between 2021 and 2025.
Then in Budget 2022, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong announced that the increase would happen in two steps – in 2023 and 2024.
Why does GST need to go up?
Mr Wong has said that the revenue from the increase in GST will go towards supporting Singapore’s healthcare expenditure and taking care of seniors.
He also said in his Budget speech that the rise in GST will not be enough to cover the rise in healthcare and social spending.
The GST increase from 7 to 9 per cent by 2024 is expected to generate S$3.5 billion of tax revenue annually. After the Budget debate, more questions were raised in Parliament about whether the GST should be raised as planned, amid rising inflation.
Mr Wong confirmed in July that it will go ahead. When questioned about additional revenues and surpluses in the Budget, he said that one-off surpluses cannot be relied on to fund recurrent and structural spending increases.
“The short answer to the question ‘what will happen if we do not have this GST increase?’ is simple. We will be at risk of persistent structural funding gap, which will continue to widen year by year,” he said then.
What are the GST support measures?
For this round of increase, S$8 billion has been set aside for an Assurance Package to cushion the impact of the GST increase. When first announced in Budget 2020, the package was to cost the Government S$6 billion. This was bumped up to S$6.6 billion in Budget 2022, and this November, Mr Wong added another S$1.4 billion to the package.
The package is meant to offset additional GST expenses for the majority of Singaporean households for at least five years, and for around 10 years for lower-income households.
The permanent GST Voucher scheme will also be enhanced to help defray the GST expenses of lower- to middle-income Singaporean households, beyond the transitional support covered by the Assurance Package.
What about the GST Voucher scheme?
A permanent GST Voucher scheme was introduced in 2012 to help Singapore households defray their costs.
The GST Voucher has four parts: Cash, U-Save or utilities rebates, MediSave top-ups and rebates on service and conservancy charges.
From 2022, the assessable income threshold for the cash component was raised from S$28,000 to S$34,000 to cover more Singaporeans. The quantum was also increased.
The MediSave top-up is for elderly Singaporeans aged 65 and above. The cash and MediSave components are paid out in August each year.
The U-Save and rebates on service and conservancy charges are paid quarterly to households, in January, April, July and October. Those living in three-room or smaller flats will get more than owners of larger flats or private housing.
You can visit https://www.gstvoucher.gov.sg/ to find out if you’re eligible, and how to sign up, if you’ve not received any government payouts before.
How do I report unjustified price increases?
The Committee Against Profiteering was reconvened on Mar 16 to investigate feedback on unjustified price increases of essential products and services using the GST increase as a cover.
Businesses cannot use the GST increase as the reason for raising prices before the rate change. After Jan 1, they also cannot use the GST increase as the reason for raising prices by more than the rate hike.
You can report such cases here: https://www.cap.gov.sg/
You can also check if a business is GST-registered through the Register of GST-registered businesses. Such businesses have to indicate their GST registration number on tax invoices and receipts.