TL;DR – There are multiple ways to avoid paying more GST, should you choose to accept the challenge.
Singaporeans have been complaining about GST being increased to 9% sometime in 2022-2025.
However, how many of us actually track our spending on a regular basis, and thought of ways to siam paying more GST?
When do I need to pay GST?
Goods and Services Tax or GST is a broad-based consumption tax levied on the import of goods (collected by Singapore Customs), as well as nearly all supplies of goods and services in Singapore.
You have to pay GST in situations like:
- Buying products and services from GST-registered companies
- Overseas purchases above $400
- Online services like Netflix and Spotify
- Importing more than $500 of goods when you travel back into Singapore (if you’re overseas for 48 hours and more)
- Importing more than $100 of goods when you travel back into Singapore (if you’re overseas for less than 48 hours)
- Buying more than the duty-free allowance specified
How can I avoid paying more GST when it rises to 9%?
Instead of worrying about the 7% becoming 9%, I stayed up till the middle of the night, thinking about the meaning of life, and how I could choose to spend the rest of it.
What would be relevant, useful tips that the majority of us could try, without much of a hassle, without jumping through creative accounting hoops, without compromising on our quality of life?
What choices do we have, when the GST will confirm increase anyway?
1. Spend less
This is something my husband repeatedly tells me.
It is good advice.
The meaning of our existence on Earth doesn’t depend on how much we spend and consume.
I used to spend on spa packages (that I’ve ended up giving away) and hair treatment packages (which disappeared when the salon closed down).
Although I am not living a spartan life, and could definitely cut down more, gone are the days where I bought $50 dresses (now I browse HDB flea markets), $200 Coach bags, and gym memberships (just run in the open or watch PopSugar fitness classes at home).
If you look hard enough, there are decent alternatives to some of your expenses which may even be better.
2. Measure your ins and outs
For some of us who unconsciously treat our digital bank accounts and credit cards as almost-bottomless pits of cash, measuring your ins (income) and outs (spending) will sober you up.
Don’t let your bank account have only one zero.
In fact, I’ve started monthly financial “check-ins” to tally the outcome of my income minus my spending, to see if I am saving more money month after month. These check-ins are scheduled the day before my pay-day, when I am technically at the poorest time of the month.
There are even online communities on Personal Finance that you can join to access more tips and tools for managing your finances.
3. Reduce, reuse, recycle, upcycle
If you can reduce your consumption, reuse some of your existing items, recycle what you’ve used and even upcycle to fulfill a different need, you’re doing great in avoiding paying more GST in future!
Inspired by various eco-conscious friends who use whatever is around them to upcycle, I am learning how to challenge my own kooky creativity to create new products from trash, to avoid buying something off the market.
For example, I wanted to find a place my children could place their essential oils before sleeping without having to walk on the floor with oily feet (long story but if you’re interested you can PM me on Facebook). I could have gone to Ikea and purchased two shelves to drill into the wall.
But in an amateur attempt to upcycle, I used toilet rolls, tape and raffia string to create cylindrical holders tied to the headrest of my kids’ bedframes. No new purchases, no GST paid.
4. Expand your supply chain
Instead of always being the end consumer, why not be part of the supply chain instead?
For example, be your own labour. Eating at a restaurant costs $20. Buying a small box of cut fruits costs $3.
Why not cook for yourself, and cut your own fruits if you’re able to do so?
Some friends even grow their own herbs and fruits to harvest, saving on GST AND the price of goods sold.
5. Barter trade
Money isn’t the only form of currency that makes Singapore tick.
You could make a deal with another person to exchange goods and services.
Just imagine, if you didn’t have any cash for one day, how creative could you get to produce something of value to trade with the other person?
6. Free stuff
Singaporeans are champions at getting deals and freebies. Free food, free clothes, free groceries, free furniture, free baby items, free legal services, the sky’s the limit.
7. Supporting local startups, social businesses and freelancers
Instead of buying everything from big brands and companies where you pay GST*, why not source from your local startup, social businesses and freelancers?
With your support and business, our local talents can grow and hit the qualifying criteria to be GST-registered.
*Only GST-registered businesses are allowed to charge and collect GST on the goods and services you purchase from them. Businesses which have a taxable turnover at the end of any calendar year which is more than S$1 million need to be GST-registered.
If you are really worried about GST rising from 7% to 9%, don’t panic.
There are ways to pre-empt paying more for GST by changing our lifestyles and habits.
By being more careful of your spending, creative with your resources and open-minded about your sources of products and services, you may find yourself a calmer, happier person who is better prepared to avoid paying more GST in future.