SINGAPORE: A woman was fined S$5,500 on Thursday (Oct 6) for evading goods and service tax (GST) on several luxury bags from brands such as Louis Vuitton and Loewe.
Teo Hwee Ling, 37, was stopped by immigration officers at Changi Airport on May 1 after arriving on a flight from Frankfurt.
They inspected items in a paper bag she was carrying. She was then directed to the Singapore Customs office where she declared two branded bags for tax payment - a Louis Vuitton backpack and a Loewe bag.
"When asked by a Singapore Customs officer to produce the invoices for the two bags, Teo declared that these were gifts from her friend residing in Germany and she had no knowledge of their value," Singapore Customs said in a media release.
It added that in the absence of documentation to establish the value of the bags, Teo provided a verbal declaration of €1,000 (about S$1,470 at the time) and made a GST payment of S$68.20 after deducting the GST import relief for travellers.
As she had spent more than 48 hours outside Singapore, she was granted a GST relief of S$500.
Later that month, Singapore Customs received information that there were discrepancies in the declaration made by Teo and the purchases she made overseas.
"Investigations revealed that Teo had suppressed the value of the two bags which she declared as gifts, when they were Teo’s purchases and were valued at about S$5,060," the agency said.
She had also failed to declare five other items, which were valued at about S$9,240 when she returned to Singapore on May 1.
According to court documents, the items are a pair of Ferragamo shoes, perfumes and cosmetics, a Longchamp bag, a Chanel bag and a Louis Vuitton sling bag.
The items were not declared and were brought out of the arrival hall in a suitcase, said Singapore Customs.
It added that the GST that was not paid on the two under-declared bags was about S$250, and the GST leviable on the five undeclared items was about S$640.
The total value of the seven items was more than S$14,000, according to court documents.
Teo pleaded guilty to one charge of fraudulent evasion of GST. One charge of furnishing false information was also taken into consideration during sentencing.
"It is the responsibility of all arriving travellers to make an accurate and complete declaration of the dutiable and taxable items in their possession for duty and GST payment," Singapore Customs said.
Under the Customs Act, anyone found guilty of fraudulent evasion of GST faces a fine of up to 20 times the amount of tax evaded, a jail term of up to two years, or both.
"Refusing to answer questions or knowingly giving false information or furnishing false documents are serious offences under the Customs Act," said the agency, adding that offenders can be fined up to S$5,000 and/or jailed for up to 12 months.
Editor's note: Changes have been made to the headline to correct the amount of the fine. We apologise for the error.