Returning from holiday? Here's what you can take back to Singapore

With the peak holiday season upon us, travellers hoping to take mementos of their travels home should take note of the guidelines for prohibited and controlled items, including food products.

They will also have to pay goods and services tax (GST) on the value of the goods that exceeds the GST relief.

Unsure about what you can take home to Singapore with you, and how much in GST you should pay?

The Straits Times takes you through some commonly asked questions.

1. What are some prohibited items that cannot be brought into Singapore?

Chewing gum, except dental and medicated gum, is among prohibited items that cannot be brought into Singapore. PHOTO: ST FILE

These items include chewing gum (except dental and medicated gum), chewing tobacco and imitation tobacco products (such as, electronic cigarettes), cigarette lighters in the shape of a pistol or revolver, firecrackers, pirated publication and CDs, among others.

2. What is the general rule for travellers entering Singapore with food products?

Travellers need not obtain a permit for food products for personal consumption if the type of food product is allowed, the amount is within allowance, the source country is approved by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the food products are not sold commercially.

3. Are meat items allowed? How about my favourite bak kwa from Malaysia?

Travellers are barred from bringing in bak kwa, or barbecued sweet meat, into Singapore. PHOTO: ST FILE

Yes, each person is allowed a maximum of 5kg of meat products directly from approved sources. These include all forms of meat products, including cooked food containing meat.

However, beef, mutton, pork and poultry can only be from a list of approved countries.

For instance, travellers are barred from bringing in bak kwa, or barbecued sweet meat, into Singapore.

Bak kwa is considered a pork product and can be imported only from approved regions, including Australia, Japan, United States and a number of European countries.

Eggs from Malaysia or other countries are prohibited, except those from Australia, New Zealand and Sweden.

Each person is limited to 30 eggs from allowed countries.

4. How about seafood products?

Each person is allowed a maximum of 5kg of seafood products, out of which a maximum of only 2kg of frozen cooked crabmeat and frozen cooked prawn meat is allowed.

5. I would like to bring the delicious cherries I ate on my holiday back for my family. Can I do so?

Yes. Under AVA rules, fresh fruit and vegetables from all countries can be brought into Singapore if they are in “small, reasonable quantities” and “hand-carried for personal consumption”.

However, there is an exception for local produce from the American tropics, which includes Brazil, Mexico and Ecuador.

A phytosanitary certificate to certify that the produce is pest-free is required for these countries.

6. What about processed food products, such as pineapple tarts and biscuits?

Travellers need not leave their favourite goodies, such as pineapple tarts, behind. But such processed food products are limited to 5kg, or $100 per person, according to food import guidelines.

These exclude meat products, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, and eggs.

For cleaned dried bird’s nest, a maximum of 1kg is allowed and there is no restriction in terms of its total value.

7. What is GST and why do I have to pay GST on my purchases overseas?

GST is a tax on local consumption. All goods brought into Singapore are subject to 7 per cent GST regardless of whether they are imported through commercial shipments or hand-carried by travellers for their own personal use.

Such goods include new articles, souvenirs, gifts and food preparations purchased overseas and meant for the traveller’s personal use.

The policy of GST imposed on goods brought into Singapore has been in force since April 1, 1994, when GST was first implemented in Singapore.

There is no GST relief for liquor, tobacco products, petroleum and goods imported for commercial purposes.

8. When am I exempted from paying GST?

GST for goods valued below $150 is not applicable for travellers who are out of Singapore for less than 48 hours.

For those who are away for more than 48 hours, GST is exempt for goods valued up to $600.

9. If the item was received as a gift, how is the tax calculated since there will be no receipt?

If the receipts are not available, the value of the goods will be assessed based on the values of identical or similar goods when computing the GST payable.

10. Do travellers still have to pay GST if they have already paid sales tax for an item overseas and did not claim tax rebate?

GST is applicable for items imported into Singapore regardless of whether foreign sales tax was paid for the items overseas, as the items will be consumed in Singapore.

11. What are the penalties for not declaring good purchased abroad?

Any person found guilty of failing to make accurate and complete declaration of dutiable and taxable items may be jailed up to a year, and fined up to $10,000, or the equivalent of the amount of tax payable, whichever is higher.

Those convicted of fraudulent evasion of GST will be liable to a fine up to 20 times the amount of tax evaded and/or be jailed for up to two years.

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