On 11 November 2013, the Goods and Services Tax (Amendment) Bill 2013 (the “Bill”) was passed in Parliament but has not come into force yet. When in force, the Bill will amend the Goods and Services Tax Act (the “GST Act”) and implement the following changes that were raised following an on-going review of the Singapore goods and services (“GST”) system:

  • Enforcement powers in relation to fraudulent claims under the Tourist Refund Scheme (“TRS”): The GST Act will be amended to allow the Comptroller of GST to seize goods for investigation and prosecution purposes where TRS fraud is suspected, and arrest without warrant a person suspected to be involved in a TRS fraud.
  • Allow GST obligations to be imposed on new local agent: An overseas person can import and supply goods in Singapore through a local agent who is subject to GST obligations in this regard. The Bill amend the GST Act to provide that, if the overseas person changes his local agent before the goods are supplied, certain GST obligations of the first local agent will reside with the new local agent.
  • Refine scope of disclosure of information on taxpayers and clarify confidentiality obligations: The GST Act will be amended to permit the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (the “IRAS”) to disclose anonymised information to the Government or any statutory boards for statistical or research purposes. The IRAS may also disclose information relating to professional misconduct to the relevant professional body and authority. Currently, the IRAS generally has to keep confidential all taxpayer information which it comes across in their course of tax administration.
  • Provide for repayment of GST from purchaser under the Approved Refiner and Consolidator Scheme (“ARCS”): Under the ARCS, a person may have the benefit of purchasing goods from an approved supplier without paying GST. The GST Act will be amended to provide that the purchaser has to repay the GST chargeable on the supply if he was ineligible for the benefit at the time of supply.
  • Clarify definition of “refine” used in the ARCS for refiners of precious metals: The definition of “refine” in the GST Act will be amended to include the casting of precious metals into another form. Presently, the word “refine” is defined as “to process or convert goods into, or extract from the goods, any investment precious metal or precious metal”.
  • Direct sharing of information: The IRAS will be empowered to directly share with the Commercial Affairs Department and the Singapore Police Force information that is needed for the domestic investigation of money laundering of proceeds of serious tax crimes. This is currently possible only through a court order process which may delay investigation.
  • Expand definition of “public officer”: The definition of “public officer” will be expanded to include IRAS officers for the purpose of deducting tax arrears from Government payments. This will make it clear that the IRAS may directly deduct any outstanding taxes of a taxpayer from the amount to be paid by the Government to that taxpayer under any law, contract or scheme.

Reference materials

The Goods and Services Tax (Amendment) Bill 2013 is available from the Singapore Parliament website www.parliament.gov.sg by clicking here.