That new handbag you just bought from Italy and got a VAT refund for? You might just have to pay tax on it anyway.
Since the implementation of GST in 1994, shoppers have actually had to pay GST for overseas shopping when they bring it into Singapore.
Yes, that includes items for personal consumption like clothes, shoes, bags, etc. As long as you bought the items overseas, when you come back to Singapore, you might be subject to local GST.
For travellers who go abroad for less than 48 hours, the tax exempted limit is up to S$150. But for those who travel for more than 48 hours, you may bring up to S$600 worth of items into Singapore without worrying about paying GST.
So that S$1000 handbag you just bought from Italy and enjoyed the VAT refund at the airport in Italy? You would have to declare it upon arrival back into Singapore to pay your due GST.
The GST will be levied upon the value of the item minus the tax exempted limit. For example, on that S$1000 handbag, only S$400 of its value will be subject to the 7% GST.
You might want to consider this the next time you’re off on your next shopping holiday. Is it really worth buying so much with the added 7% charge?
You might think, then, okay I won’t travel and shop. After all, you would have to buy extra luggage weight allowance (when flying budget) and pay more.
Now, with everything online, you might say, I’ll just shop online then!
But wait, don’t get ahead of yourself. There’s no escaping two things in life after all - death and taxes. Online shopping is also subject to GST!
You get GST relief of S$400 per shipment. However, if the value exceeds S$400, then you will be taxed on the FULL amount of the shipment.
(Pro tip: Just order your shipments in multiple batches then!)
Apart from purchases overseas, you are also going to kena GST on items that you purchase in Changi Airport on the way out of the country WHEN you return.
If you buy a S$2,000 handbag in Changi on your way to a trip to Maldives, for example, upon arrival back home, you will still have to pay the 7% GST for the item.
Since items at Changi Airport are sold without GST, many might try to take advantage of this. But there really isn’t any way to outsmart the system.
In all honesty, this is an option. You can choose to breeze through the Green Channel when you arrive back home in Singapore.
But you might be stopped randomly to be checked. If you are stopped and found with items you haven’t declared and paid tax on, you could be fined up to S$5,000.
Failure to make a declaration is an offence under the Customs Act and the GST Act.
The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore has made it very simple for you to pay GST for overseas shopping: