International sales present an excellent opportunity for online retailers. But they also raise a host of considerations, including dealing with import formalities. For merchants looking to ship goods to Singapore, learning about Singapore import tax and customs duties is a must.
For many online retailers, reaching customers in international markets is an attractive proposition. No matter where you are on your ecommerce journey, making cross-border sales is a great way to increase your business’s overall earnings and begin establishing a global brand.
How much are Singapore import tax and duties?
Although Singapore is a free port and operates an open economy, online merchants intending to send goods into Singapore will have to deal with its import procedures. This includes paying import duties and taxes, of which there are three types.
Goods and Service Tax
Though not strictly an import tax, all goods entering Singapore are subject to a 7% Goods and Service Tax (GST). However, the government has recently announced that this will be raised to 9% by 2025. There is currently an SG$400 duty-fee threshold for applying GST, which means imported goods whose total value is less than SG$400 are not subject to the 7% GST. Again, this will end when the GST is raised to 9%; there will be no duty-free threshold from that point.
The GST on imported goods to Singapore is calculated based on a good's CIF value—that means cost, insurance, and freight. For non-dutiable goods, the GST includes the CIF value and any incidentals. In the case of dutiable products, the GST consists of the CIF, along with all other import duties and charges.
Customs duty is usually applied to all goods entering one country from another—the key point being that the goods are crossing international borders. However, because Singapore operates a free port, it does not usually apply Singapore customs duty to imported products.
Most countries impose an excise duty on imported products that they want to discourage residents from buying. As such, they are usually applied to products that might be considered harmful for social and environmental reasons. Most online retailers importing to Singapore will not have to worry about paying excise duty. The country lists only four categories of products for this type of Singapore import duty: intoxicating liquors, motor vehicles, tobacco products, and petroleum products and biodiesel blends.
Which goods are subject to taxes and duties in Singapore?
We’ve already mentioned that all goods arriving in Singapore are subject to GST, one element of the Singapore import tax system. However, there are a few exceptions to paying GST on imported goods to Singapore.
- If the imported goods are investment precious metals.
- If the goods' total value falls under the duty-free threshold of SG$400.
- If the importer of record is approved for one of Singapore's GST schemes.
- If the goods do not enter Singapore's customs territory or are in a free trade zone.
On the other hand, excise duty only applies to the four previously mentioned categories of imported goods. Singapore customs duty is even more selective and mainly applies to beers exceeding 5.8% ABV.
How do Free Trade Agreements affect import duties?
Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are sometimes used between countries to encourage the trade of certain goods by offering preferential rates and quotas, thereby reducing the cost of importing these goods. Singapore has numerous bilateral and multilateral FTAs with major trading partners currently in place and more that have been signed but not yet entered into force, or that are under negotiation.
Some of the FTAs that Singapore currently has in force include:
- United States-Singapore FTA
- United Kingdom-Singapore FTA
- Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership
- Singapore-Australia FTA
- New Zealand-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Partnership
- Japan-Singapore Economic Partnership Agreement
- India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement
- GCC-Singapore FTA
- EU-Singapore FTA
- ASEAN-China Free Trade Area
However, because most goods already enter Singapore tariff-free, these FTAs mostly benefit Singaporean exporters. Under these agreements, Singapore-based merchants may enjoy preferential tariffs for exporting goods to other countries. For example, the United States-Singapore FTA removes all tariffs on Singaporean-made exports to the US and waives the Merchandise Processing Fee for products originating from Singapore.
To claim preferential tariffs under an FTA, importers will need to file a claim that is supported by:
- A Preferential Certificate of Origin from the relevant Competent Authority in Singapore.
- A valid self-certification.
- An E-ATIGA Form D reference number for a Form D that has been sent digitally through the ASEAN Single Window from Thailand.
Can I import any product into Singapore?
Singaporean law prohibits the import of certain goods. It also restricts the import of others. Singapore differentiates between the two: prohibited products are entirely forbidden within the country, while controlled products may be imported under certain conditions.
Below, you’ll find a list of just a few products that Singapore prohibits from being imported, even if you pay the Singapore import tax and duties:
- Chewing gum
- Endangered wildlife, or products derived from these.
- Military communications equipment
- Obscene articles, including books, magazines, and DVDs
- Nasal and oral snuff
- Chewing tobacco
You can also view the complete list of prohibited products.
To understand which goods are controlled within Singapore, you will need to have the appropriate Singapore customs HS code for the products you want to import. You can enter this unique harmonized system code —used throughout the world to assign categories to imported products—on the Singapore government’s import site to check whether a particular category of goods is controlled within Singapore. If the goods you want to import to Singapore are controlled, you will have to get a license or certificate of approval from the relevant local Competent Authorities as well as paying the Singapore import tax and duties.
How to Pay Singapore Import Taxes and Duties
Singapore offers numerous payment options for importers. However, the exact process depends on how your goods arrive in the country.
Imports by Post
If your goods are imported to Singapore by post, you can pay the applicable taxes and duties at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) counter at a Singapore Post center, by NETS, CashCard, credit card, or Inter-Bank Giro.
For shipments sent through Singapore Post, you can pay import duties and taxes on delivery by cash or cheque or by GIRO if you have signed up for the Singapore Post GIRO program.
Importers can apply ahead of time for a Customs permit that pre-authorizes their parcels' clearance and payments. They can then present this to the ICA or Singapore Post as proof of payment to receive the parcel.
Imports by Courier
Courier companies such as DHL and UPS often have their own arrangements for dealing with Singapore Customs. If your imports will arrive in Singapore with one of these courier companies, you should check how they handle customs clearance and payments.
All other import methods
For all other import methods, you or your agent will have to pre-register as an importer of record and set up an Inter-Bank GIRO (IBG) account with Singapore Customs. To do so, simply fill out an application for an IBG; all your Singapore import tax and duties will be debited automatically from this account.
Getting a refund on GST or duties
Importers sometimes end up paying higher Singapore import tax or duties than their goods require. In this case, they can request a refund from Singapore Customs. This should be done within five years from the date of the original payment.
It should also be for a valid reason, such as those outlined below:
- Double declaration or payment
- Granting of GST relief or exemption
- Shipment canceled
- Shipment under personal effects
- Wrong Harmonized System code
- Wrong value declared
- Wrong importer’s name
Importers who want to claim a refund on their Singapore customs duty or GST can do so through the “Refund Module” in Singapore’s digital trade portal, TradeNet.
They will then be notified of the application outcome, which could be:
- Rejection: A refund claim may be rejected for many reasons; in some cases, the importer may be asked to file the claim with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.
- Approval: If the refund claim is approved, the refund will be credited to the importer’s Inter-Bank Giro account.
- Pending: A refund claim may be held until further documentation is provided; importers may be asked for a refund permit, commercial invoice, freight notification, or similar.
Customs Currencies in Singapore
In Singapore, all import duties and taxes must be paid in the local currency, Singapore Dollars. This applies even if the goods are paid for in a foreign currency. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) publishes a Singapore custom exchange rate every week to facilitate this. The rates are published one week ahead of time and can be found on the MAS website.
FAQs - Singapore import tax
How do I become an importer to Singapore?
- Register as an importer with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) or relevant agency to get a Unique Entity Number (UEN).
- Activate your Customs Account on TradeNet.
- Apply for an Inter-Bank GIRO (IBG) and authorize this payment method with Singapore Customs.
- Furnish security for your transactions—this could be a Banker’s Guarantee or Insurance Bond, for example.
- Appoint a Declaring Agent or apply for a customs permit through TradeNet—this usually costs SG$2.88.
Does GST apply to imported goods in Singapore?
Is there a difference between import taxes and duties?
Can I import all types of products into Singapore?
Start Importing to Singapore with Shopify
One of the most important things about running a global ecommerce brand is ensuring your customers feel comfortable buying from your store and trusting that their purchase will be safely shipped to their location. One element of this is to make sure they know exactly how much import tax and duties they’ll pay. Shopify simplifies this process—for Singapore and beyond—by helping you automatically calculate these in your store. Simply edit product details to add the relevant Harmonized System code to products in your store by using a bulk editor of importing a CSV file. Your store will automatically show a duties estimate to your international customers during checkout, including in Singapore. And, if you're on a Shopify Plus plan, you can even collect these duties at checkout, as long as the country you're shipping to accepts payment in advance.
Shopify makes it easy to ship internationally—including to Singapore. From your account, you can take your ecommerce business international with international shipping solutions, translating your store into multiple languages, and localize your currencies and checkout methods—and calculate Singapore import tax and duties.