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Bringing home a luxury item bought overseas? 5 things you need to take note of

Arriving travellers, both foreigners and returning residents, will have to pay GST if the total value of the item exceeds the relief amount granted to them.

Bringing home a luxury item bought overseas? 5 things you need to take note of
Do you have to pay GST for a luxury bag you bought overseas? (Photo: iStock)

SINGAPORE: Last week, Taiwanese celebrity and make-up artist Xiao Kai, whose real name is Chang Ching-kai, took to social media to share an "unpleasant" encounter he had at Singapore's Changi Airport. 

In a live video on Instagram, Xiao Kai said he was asked by Singapore Customs officers to pay tax for his used luxury bag when he arrived at the airport.

The celebrity alleged in Mandarin that he was asked to show a receipt for his Celine bag, which he was unable to because he had purchased it in Taipei in September.

Xiao Kai added that the officers told him that the bag was considered new as it was purchased in the last three months. He ended up paying a tax of 7 per cent of its sale price, which he said was about NT$50,000 (S$2,205).

On Tuesday (Oct 25), a spokesperson from the Singapore Customs told CNA that the agency has contacted Xiao Kai to understand the circumstances of his case. 

Singapore Customs added that officers at the checkpoints will "assess the specifics of each case, such as the condition of the goods presented, to ascertain whether the goods are liable for GST (Goods and Services Tax) payment". 

Here are five things you should take note of when you are bringing back a luxury item bought overseas.

Do I have to pay GST?

GST is a consumption tax levied on the import of goods, as well as all supplies of goods and services in Singapore. All goods brought into Singapore are subject to 7 per cent GST. 

Arriving travellers, both foreigners and returning residents, must pay GST on the total value of items that exceeds the GST import relief amount granted to them.

"This is applicable whether the goods were purchased overseas or whether foreign taxes were paid," said a Customs spokesperson.

Goods granted GST import relief include new articles, souvenirs, gifts and food preparations intended for the traveller’s personal use or consumption, according to the Customs website.

The relief amount is based on the duration that the person has spent outside of Singapore:

Time spent away from Singapore Value of goods granted GST relief
48 hours or more S$500
Less than 48 hours S$100

For example, if you are travelling out of Singapore for a week and you bought a luxury bag for S$10,000 intended for personal use, your bag will be subject to GST payment.

You will be required to pay 7 per cent GST on the excess S$9,500 (i.e. S$10,000 minus the S$500 for which you are eligible for GST relief). 

If sales receipts are unavailable, the value will be based on the transacted amount of identical or similar items from the country they were purchased in or the original price if they were sold for export to Singapore, inclusive of shipping charges.

You may make an advance declaration and pay GST using Customs@SG web application. Alternatively, you can declare and pay at the Customs tax payment office.

When am I exempted from paying GST?

You are exempted from paying GST when the value of your items is lower than the granted GST relief.

The GST import relief does not apply to intoxicating liquor and tobacco, as well as goods imported for commercial purposes.

Holders of a work permit, employment pass, student pass, dependent pass or long-term pass issued by the Singapore Government, and airline crew members are not entitled to GST import relief.

If I am bringing in used personal items, am I still required to declare them?

For used personal items such as used clothing, shoes, bags and toiletries, travellers are not required to declare and pay GST on them, said a Customs spokesperson to CNA.

This is because GST relief may also be granted on used articles and personal belongings bought in reasonable quantities for personal use. 

However, officers at the checkpoints will assess each case, including the condition of the items, to decide whether the goods are liable for GST payment.

What happens if I am caught not declaring my items? 

Importers may be penalised if they do not comply with the requirements imposed under the Customs Act and the Regulation of Imports and Exports Act (RIEA).

It is an offence to not declare or make an incorrect or incomplete declaration on the value of goods imported into or manufactured in Singapore for the purpose of assessment of duty or GST.

Those found guilty may be fined up to S$10,000, or the equivalent of the amount of the customs duty, excise duty or GST payable, whichever is the greater amount. They could also be jailed up to 12 months, or both. 

If I bought a luxury bag from a duty-free shop in Changi Airport while leaving for my holiday, will I be taxed on the way back?

If you have purchased items from a duty-free shop at Changi Airport before your flight out of Singapore, you have to pay GST on the way back if the cost exceeds your GST relief amount.

Editor's note: The original version of the story said that Xiao Kai paid tax of about NT$50,000 for his bag. It should be that he paid tax of 7 per cent of its sale price of about NT$50,000. We apologise for the error.

Source: CNA/cm(ta)

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