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Over 4,600 cases of duty and GST evasion detected at Singapore Land Checkpoints in 10 months, US$1.03 million penalties imposed

In the first 10 months of this year, over 4,600 cases of travelers and importers evading duty and GST payments were identified at Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints. Penalties exceeding S$1.4 million (US$1.03 million) were imposed, and S$14,200 in dues and GST were retrieved.

ICA emphasized the necessity of declaring and paying for overseas purchases, even when transporting items for others.



SINGAPORE: In the first 10 months of this year, authorities at Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints detected more than 4,600 instances of travellers and importers neglecting to declare and pay duties and Goods and Services Tax (GST).

As a consequence, penalties totalling over S$1.4 million (US$1.03 million) were issued, while almost S$14,200 in duties and GST was successfully recovered.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and Singapore Customs unveiled these statistics in a news release on Thursday (Nov 9), emphasizing the importance of compliance among travellers, importers, and couriers.

They particularly stressed the obligation to declare and pay for any overseas purchases, including items transported on behalf of others.

“It is not worth to take a risk and pay more. We have seen people trying to evade duty and GST as low as $10 to as much as $2,000 and they end up paying 10-20 times more, ” said a Singapore Customs spokesperson.

“Some may even get charged in courts. We urge all travellers and importers including couriers to use the Customs@SG Web application to declare and pay for their overseas purchases truthfully, including goods carried for or on behalf of other persons,” the spokesperson added.

In their operations at the land checkpoints in October, authorities identified 58 cases, resulting in the recovery of approximately S$625 in duties and GST, with a total of S$9,700 in penalties imposed.

While half of these cases were related to tobacco, the authorities noted an uptick in instances involving homeware and furnishings, as well as fashion and personal accessories, including parts of furniture items, luxury bags, and shoes.

They highlighted that approximately 28 per cent of the recent cases fell within these categories.

During the operations in October, Customs and ICA officers subjected over 200 inbound cars and travellers to enhanced checks, revealing a variety of irregularities.

Notably, one case involved a woman carrying two undeclared luxury bags and apparel, resulting in a GST of S$56 and a penalty of S$560.

Another case pertained to a work permit holder who failed to declare 10 sets of night curtains in his vehicle intended for commercial use. The GST involved amounted to about S$60, and he was penalized S$600.

Furthermore, authorities discovered instances of individuals attempting to smuggle undeclared cigarettes, including a woman concealing two packets around her waistline and a man hiding four packets in his bag.

In both instances, the cigarettes were discarded at the checkpoint as they did not adhere to standardized packaging requirements.

Under the Customs Act, any person who is in any way concerned in any fraudulent evasion of, or attempt to fraudulently evade, any customs duty or excise duty shall be guilty of an offence and will be liable on conviction to a fine of up to 20 times the amount of duty and GST evaded or jailed for up to two years.

The authorities emphasized their commitment to sustaining enforcement operations, alongside regular collaborative initiatives with other government agencies.

Their primary goal remains the upholding of compliance with Singapore’s customs and tax regulations, all while ensuring the security of the nation’s borders.

The statement also emphasized the importance of avoiding substantial penalties and ensuring convenience by advising importers and travellers to perform an advance declaration and payment for their dutiable or GST goods up to three days before their arrival in Singapore.

ICA advised them to utilize the Customs@SG Web Application for this purpose. Alternatively, those planning to settle their dutiable and taxable items upon arrival can visit the Customs Tax Payment Office located at various checkpoints.

Starting from July 1, 2020, all imported cigarettes and other tobacco products traded or distributed in Singapore are required to adhere to the SP (Standardised Packaging) requirements. Cigarettes and tobacco products failing to meet these standards will be discarded at the checkpoints.

Travelers are advised to verify that their cigarettes and tobacco products meet the SP requirements prior to declaring and making payments via the Customs@SG web application.

“For a smooth and hassle-free arrival experience, we would like to remind all importers and travellers to strictly abide by Singapore’s customs and immigration laws as failure to comply may result in penalties and prosecution, ” said the ICA’s spokesperson.

“The Singapore authorities adopt a zero-tolerance stance on any illegal activities. ICA will continue to conduct security checks at the checkpoints to safeguard our land, air and sea borders against smuggling activities that may pose security threats to Singapore.”

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