What does importation into Singapore mean?

Importation refers to the process of bringing goods; either from an FTZ (Free Trade Zone) or any other entry point into a Customs territory, or bringing overseas products into an FTZ for storage and/or re-export.

You are obliged to notify Singapore’s Customs if you are intending to import products into the country. GST (Goods and Service Tax) and if applicable, import duties must be paid upon import.

The procedure for importing products in Singapore

If you are importing products, you must determine if GST or/and Duty payments are applicable when your cargo arrives in Singapore:

Some useful notes:

  • GST or/and Duty are temporarily waived until the goods are inside an FTZ.
  • GST or/and Duty are applicable if the goods are distributed in local markets.
  • GST or/and Duty are also waived when products are subject to transfer at a licensed premise of the Singapore’s Customs from an FTZ.
  • GST or/and Duty doesn’t apply to goods; granted duty dispensation, or those granted Goods and Service Tax relief, or the ones that are subject to import through the Temporary Import Scheme under the Customs and the appropriate IRAS (Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore) schemes mentioned below:
    • Import GST Deferment Scheme (IGDS)
    • Major Exporter Scheme (MES)
    • Approved Import GST Suspension Scheme (AISS)

Below is a step-by-step guide on how the proper Competent Authorities can grant you the appropriate permits and authorization (if products are controlled) for imports.

Step one: Apply for the UEN, and then Activate your Customs Account

For an individual or an organization to:

  • be involved in the export and import business in Singapore, and to
  • engage in trading, and shipment licenses

It needs to:

Step two: Check if you’re importing controlled goods.

It is important to check if your goods have restrictions imposed upon them by Singapore’s Competent Authorities.

Firstly, you’ll have to look-up if your products are subject to a restriction with the appropriate Competent Authorities on how to obtain the relevant permit. You can do this by using the product’s Harmonized System (HS) code, then checking the CA product code, and finally by referring to the item’s description.

You can also appeal for the official classification ruling if you need help with the products’ eight-figure HS code. Keep in mind; this application has a 75$ processing fee, and the classification rulings only apply inside Singapore’s jurisdiction.

Step three: Submit an application for the Inter-Bank GIRO

It may be necessary for the declaring agent or/and you to maintain an IBG with Singapore’s Custom Authorities for you to pay duties, penalties, fees, taxes, and any other charges. The payment will be subject to transfer directly from the bank to the Customs Authorities on the services they offer you.

You need to fill out the IBG Application form, and mail to the Singapore’s Customs address provided on the application form.

You can empower a Declaring Agent so he can utilize your IBG to: pay the Goods and Services Tax and duties of your Customs obtained permit, just a day after your application for the IBG is approved. In case your IBG with the Singapore’s Customs authorities is not maintained, your declaring agent will pay the GST and duties through his IBG.

Step four: Security Fee

A security fee for a transaction involving the following is obligatory; Dutiable products, provisional import of products on authorized grounds, and for operating a licensed property like excise factories and licensed warehouses.

The security should manifest itself as Insurance Bond, a Guarantee from a Financial firm, or Banker’s Guarantee.

Step five: Apply for the Custom Import Permit.

The importing entity can either:

  • Delegate the application procedure to some declaring agent, and he/she will take care of the process for you, or
  • Just apply for the permit themselves, either on their behalf, or their clients’, for this you are required submit an application for TradeNet’s User-ID while filing like a declaring agent. The approved permit is referred to as a Cargo Clearance Permit.

Every Single application for acquiring a permit are entertained electronically through TradeNet, which can be accessed:

  • Through an official solution provider of the TradeNet’s front-to-end software, or through
  • Government Front-to-End Application.

As of 2020, the standard application cost for a single permit is $2.88. Remember that this neither includes the charges of services like cargo forwarding nor charges of a Declaring Agents. So, if you’ve already appointed some declaring agent, you should check with them for the charges of their services.

Step six: Make sure you’ve got complete documentation for the clearance of cargo

Permits that got approved for cargo clearance have an expiration date. Always check the validity period of an approved permit. When applying for an import permit, cargo containers that are subject to import require the transporter’s seal number and container number.

You are required to present the permit granted by the Customs alongside the supporting documents like transportation receipts, packing lists, or invoices for verification purposes to the relevant officers.

Permits often come with permit conditions such as:

A1          For the sake of custom clearance and endorsement through the ‘In’ gate of an FTZ (Free Trade Zone), the presentation of the permit is mandatory alongside its invoices, BL/AWB, etc.

 A3          For clearance or endorsement at the Tuas or the Woodland checkpoint, the presentation of this permit is mandatory alongside its invoices, BL/AWB, etc.

H1          For clearance or endorsement at a selected customs office, a station, and the Custom checkpoint of an Airport, the presentation of this permit is mandatory alongside its invoices, BL/AWB, etc.

Traders should be aware that Singapore does not allow partial clearance if the products are subject to admission at the Tuas, or the Woodland Checkpoint.

Step Seven: Preservation of Trade Documents is compulsory.

You need to preserve regarding the sale, purchase, import, or export up until five years of the time of endorsement of the Permit from Customs. It is best to archive all documents related to all the import transactions you have been a party to over the past 7 years.

Two of the common ways to store these documents are; as hard copies, or as a softcopy or an image. You’re obligated to present these documents to the Custom Authority of Singapore when requested.

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