Chapter 3: A Complete Guide to Singapore Import Customs
Singapore as a country has a stable economy and has a good trade relationship with China.
They import most commodities from China into their country owing to the Chinese technology which is thriving.
Singapore and China Bilateral Trade
As well, some commodities are also exported to China from Singapore.
Let me tell you one truth today:
Before anyone imports from China, it is important to be well versed with the import customs and other important information required for a better trade relationship.
Like I said earlier, Panda will brief on all these.
But still, it is important to know exactly what to expect.
That’s why I have this chapter for you.
Basically, before you import from China to Singapore, you must consider:
- Type of goods prohibited for import in Singapore
- Customs clearance procedure
- Importation documents
- Taxation procedures
- Costs due to import clearance, etc.
And, I will not lie to you about this:
It is mandatory to declare to Singapore customs before importing any good into Singapore.
This is necessary since there is Goods and Services Tax (GST) payable for any non-dutiable goods imported which is applicable for only local consumption.
Any commodity imported to Singapore has a stiff regulation under:
- Regulation of Imports and Exports Act
- Customs Act
- Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act.
But, that’s not all.
To account for tax payment and import of goods, a custom permit is required.
The goods being imported to Singapore are therefore subjected to duty payment and/GST.
Most goods which incur both GST and duty considered as dutiable goods include;
- Petroleum products
- Intoxicating liquors
- Motor vehicles
- Tobacco products.
All other goods will attract only GST.
Before importing and subsequently shipping from China to Singapore, you need to know whether you’ll pay duty for the product or commodity.
In fact, you should note the following three scenarios:
i. When goods remain within Free Trade Zone, duty and /GST are suspended
ii. When goods are released directly for local circulation, duty/GST are payable
iii. When goods are moved into customs licensed premises from a free trade zone, there will be a suspension of duty/GST since they are in licensed premises.
Commodities granted duty exemption or GST relief do not attract duty/or GST.
There are also some goods granted temporary import schemes from the Singapore’s customs.
They do not attract such duty or GST relief.
Such Schemes include:
- Import GST Deferment Scheme (IGDS)
- Major Exporter Scheme (MES)
- Approved Import GST Suspension Scheme (AISS)
Don’t worry about all these, our Panda custom clearance team will explain everything you need to know about these.
Anyway, let’s come back to even a more important subject when it comes to Singapore import customs duties.
3.1. Clearance and Authorization to Import Products from China to Singapore
To obtain relevant permits and authorization for the controlled goods, you have to:
· Register to obtain Unique Entity Number (UEN) and then activate the account for the customs.
This is just an entity which ensures that there is an engagement in imports and export activities in Singapore.
Ensures also that the export and import shipment certificates and permits are done.
Start by registering with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).
Or, register with the agency for Unique Entity Number (UEN) in order to get UEN.
Then, activate Customs Account.
· Check if your commodities are also under the list of controlled goods
Some goods are restricted by the Competent Authorities in Singapore and have regulations attached to them.
These goods could be checked directly from the Competent Authorities on their stipulated licensing requirement.
Alternatively, you can search for their descriptions or codes such as Competent Authority product code and Harmonized System code.
Importing these goods blindly may end up on the importer getting disappointed. Check out this information: Controlled or Prohibited Goods by Singapore Customs.
This can be maintained by the declaring agent on behalf of the importer.
This is important for paying of the taxes, duties, penalties, fees and other charges.
Normally, the Singapore customs indicate this depending on the status of the imported good.
This payment will be made directly from your bank account to the Singapore customs.
It is important to maintain your IBM with Singapore Customs to avoid the duty and the GST being deducted from the declaring agent’s account IBG account.
· Declaration of the transaction Security
Finance Company Guarantee, Banker’s Guarantee or an Insurance Bond will be used to declare the transaction security.
This involves a temporary import of goods for authorization purposes, dutiable goods and for running of the licensed premises such as warehouses.
· Application for Custom Import Permit
The procedure has two scenarios,
- One can appoint a declaring agent to apply for customs permit on their behalf
- Register as a declaring agent and obtain a Trade Net user ID via application and apply for customs permit by self or on behalf of the client.
It is important to note that all the permit applications are submitted viaTradeNet which can be accessed via government front end module or TradeNet front-end software obtainable from approved software vendor.
· Process cargo clearance documents
Every permit approved is given within the validity period.
Before clearance is initiated, one has to ensure that the permit is valid for that given duration.
When planning to clear some goods such as those packed in a container, one has to produce shipper seal number and container number when applying for the permit.
If the permit use is not valid, there will be a lot of technicalities during clearing.
This may prompt over staying of the consignment which attracts a lot of other charges.
a) Documentation required for Container cargo clearance
For importation of the containerized cargo, one is required to produce different documents at the entry point.
The documents needed include:
- Customs permit and other supporting custom’s documents
- Packing list
- Bill of Lading
- Invoice etc.
Customs officers in Singapore will verify these documents at the check point.
Failure to produce such documentations may delay the clearance process.
Worse still, this may add on to the cost of shipment as many levies will be incurred i.e security levy due to over staying at the port of destination.
b) Documentation required for conventional cargo
The following will be presented to the check point custom officers for verification before clearance:
- Hard copy of the customs permit
- Other customs supporting documents such as the Bill of Lading/Air Waybill, packing list and invoice.
For any consignment requiring partial clearance, the same custom permit issued will be presented throughout for consecutive endorsements until it is fully cleared.
It is important to note that no partial clearance is allowed for any commodity which comes in through Tuas and Woodlands check points.
Now, this is where some people go wrong – I don’t want you to be a victim.
It is important to retain the documents used during buying and clearance exercise.
This can be either in soft copy or hard copy as they may be required by the Singapore’s customs office any time.
At least you can keep them safe for a period of 5 years without disposing any of them.
This is also used as security to verify the content imported.
At times, Singapore customs officials may require some of these documents later.
3.2 Singapore Prohibited and Controlled Goods for Import
Before making any attempt to import any product, it is also important to be aware of the nature of different commodities which can be allowed in Singapore.
Some products may be totally prohibited while others are controlled.
I had mentioned this earlier, you remember?
Also, it is necessary to know how to identify the product safety requirement.
By importing such products, you may end up wasting your money.
And, I don’t want you to learn through the hard way.
a) The prohibited goods
The prohibited goods are those goods not required completely into the country, hence not allowed for import.
List of controlled and prohibited goods for import in Singapore
They include: chewing gums except for approved chewing gums for medicinal purposes, cigarette lighters which are pistol or revolver shaped, fire crackers, any element of rhinoceros horns, endangered species of wild life and their product, some telecommunication equipments highlighted as prohibited, chewing tobacco and tobacco products, treasonable and seditious products, any nicotine element, nasals and oral stuffs ,reproduced copyright materials , drugs falling under 4th Schedule of Misuse of Drugs Regulation of Singapore identified as prohibited among others.
b) Controlled goods
Controlled goods are those commodities which require the attention of the competent authorities before being shipped into the country.
They therefore need a license or certificate before an approval is made for them to be imported into the country.
Some of the goods include: Animals, birds and products thereof, Articles of asbestos, Amusement machines, coin or disc-operated, including pin-tables, shooting galleries & cinematograph machines, Articles of clothing intended as protection against attack, including bullet-proof vests, Cartridges/cassettes/audio compact diskettes – pre-recorded, Batteries (primary), alkaline, zinc-carbon and mercury oxide, Some chemicals unless approved by the competent authority, Chlorofluorocarbons, fuel, minerals, Fishes and fishery products, Flammable materials, Irradiating apparatus, Human pathogens among others.
These products may not just be imported by everyone and hence it is important to equip yourself with their current status into the country.
3.3. Product Good Safety Requirement (PGSR) when importing from China to Singapore
The Singaporeans are protected from unsafe products by the Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board of Singapore (SPRING).
Singapore has not yet set their own safety standards but uses both the USA and European Union standards.
Products such as Watches, Children’s Products, Clothing and textile, Furniture and beddings, Toys among others are those that are covered by more than one Consumer Goods Safety Requirement (CGSR).
Any unsafe product is easily halted by the SPRING on realization to help protect the customers.
Commodities falling within the Consumer Goods Safety Requirement must conform to the international standard.
Of course, as spelt out in the United States, European Union or International product regulations.
a). Importer Verification of the Consumer Goods Safety Standard Compliance
The following are the steps needed to import the right good into Singapore:
i. Get the right standard of the product
Although Singapore has not set its own product safety standards, it has a list of the international standards to be met when importing from China.
They are available in the CGSR booklet, where you can access this information easily.
This ensures smooth transaction during clearance and prevents a lot of losses.
ii. Getting the right manufacturer/supplier
Ensure you get the manufacturer or supplier who can give the exact standard of the product needed.
Research for the different suppliers and compare their experience.
Give them the specific standards and only deal with the one who can provide your requirement and has positive reputation.
Be aware of the counterfeit products under “non-existing” manufacturers using other manufactures trade names.
iii. Compliance test of the product
Every product must have passed the compliance test from reputable companies such as the Bureau Veritas and SGS.
These test compliances are approved as the international standards.
On the products, the compliance symbols will always be indicated.
iv. Electrical Consumer Goods
The products of this nature must have the IEC international standards or the European Union EN standards.
SPRING has a list of all the home electronic standards which are allowed into the country.
In Singapore, it is also mandatory that those who import electronics ensure the power plugs have safety marks on them.
All power plugs must have the registration number present in the safety mark as registered with the SPRING.
Without these safety marks, no such goods will be cleared by the Singapore Authority.
3.4 Customs Value
In Singapore, the calculation of the import duties and any other tax is pegged on the customs value.
The custom value is therefore equals to CIF which encompasses the product Cost, Insurance cost and the Freight cost.
Normally, custom value as calculated in Singapore include:
a) Import Duties
Most products received at the port in Singapore are subjected to import duties.
The import duty is calculated based on custom value.
The given percentage is levied on the total custom value to get the exact cost.
This percentage is provided by the customs department of Singapore.
b) Product value/cost
This includes transit cost from China to the Singapore port and the insurance for the transportation.
The handling charges of the product will also be factored in to give the total product value.
Other valuation methods which may be included for other specific commodities are available on the official Singapore Customs website.
Don’t worry, Panda is here to handle all your shipping from China to Singapore needs.