Essential Guide to De Minimis

What is the de minimis rule in Singapore?

The de minimis rule in Singapore is a provision in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act that allows GST-registered businesses to claim input tax on exempt supplies under certain conditions. Here’s a breakdown:

What are exempt supplies?

These goods and services are not subject to GST under the law. Examples include financial services, educational services, and necessities like food, water, and medicine.

What does the de minimis rule allow?

Businesses cannot claim input tax (GST paid on purchases) for exempt supplies. However, the de minimis rule allows them to claim a portion of it if the total value of their exempt supplies falls within specific limits:

  • Average of $40,000 per month: The average monthly value of all exempt supplies cannot exceed $40,000.
  • 5% of the total value of all taxable and exempt supplies: This considers all supplies made by the business, including both taxable (subject to GST) and exempt ones. The total value of exempt supplies cannot exceed 5% of the combined value of both supplies.

Benefits of the de minimis rule:

  • Reduces administrative burden: Businesses don’t need to track and account for every small amount of input tax on exempt supplies, simplifying compliance.
  • Improves cash flow: Businesses can claim back some of the GST paid on purchases used for exempt supplies, boosting their cash flow.

Important points to remember:

  • The de minimis rule is applied monthly or on a more extended accounting period (such as quarterly or annually) if chosen by the business.
  • The input tax on exempt supplies cannot be claimed if the de minimis rule is not satisfied within a certain period.
  • You can find additional details and guidance on the de minimis rule in the IRAS e-Tax Guide:

What is the de minimis rule in Malaysia?

In Malaysia, the de minimis rule also applies to imported goods and has a different meaning than in Singapore. Here’s what you need to know:

De Minimis for Imports:

  • Value threshold: A shipment’s Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) value must be below RM500 (approximately USD 115) to qualify for the de minimis rule.
  • Tax exemption: Shipments with a CIF value below RM500 are exempt from import duties and taxes.
  • Benefits: This simplifies customs clearance and reduces costs for individuals and businesses importing low-value goods.

Important points:

  • Direct Release: Shipments meeting the de minimis threshold are classified as “Direct Release” shipments, meaning they can be cleared through customs quickly.
  • Exceptions: Certain goods, like alcohol and tobacco, may not be eligible for the de minimis rule regardless of their value.
  • Frequency: While there’s no limit on how many de minimis shipments you can receive, excessive or frequent imports may raise suspicion and attract scrutiny.

Additional notes:

  • The de minimis rule applies to all import modes, not just air or sea.
  • The value limit is subject to change, so it’s always best to check with the Royal Malaysian Customs Department for the latest information.

Further resources:

De Minimis Rule Comparison: Singapore vs. Malaysia

Feature Singapore Malaysia
Type GST input tax claim Import duty and tax exemption
Applies to GST-registered businesses All import shipments (individuals & businesses)
Threshold Average of $40,000 per month or 5% of annual turnover RM500 CIF value (approx. USD 115)
Exemption Input tax on purchases made for exempt supplies (e.g., financial services, education) Import duties and taxes
Benefits Reduces GST burden for businesses with small exempt supplies Simplifies customs clearance and reduces costs for low-value imports
Conditions Two-pronged test (monthly average & annual turnover) Single threshold (CIF value)
Additional notes Applicable over more extended periods for high-turnover businesses Exceptions exist for certain goods (alcohol, tobacco)
Resources IRAS website, e-tax guides, professional advice Royal Malaysian Customs website, DHL Malaysia, Janio Asia

Key differences:

  • Type of exemption: Singapore’s de minimis applies to tax claims, while Malaysia’s applies to import duties and taxes.
  • Threshold: Singapore’s threshold is based on a turnover percentage, while Malaysia’s has a fixed value.
  • Conditions: Singapore’s rule has a two-pronged test, while Malaysia’s has a single threshold.
  • Benefits: Both simplify administration and reduce costs but for different purposes.

What does de minimis mean?

“De minimis” comes from Latin and means “about minimal things”. It’s often used in legal and financial contexts to describe something too small or insignificant to be considered or taken into account.

Here’s a breakdown of the different meanings:

1. “Trivial matters”: “De minimis non curat lex” translates to “the law does not concern itself with trifles.” This means that courts may dismiss or disregard minor issues or violations that wouldn’t significantly impact the more significant case.

2. “Negligible amount”: In financial contexts, de minimis often refers to an amount of money that is so small it’s not worth considering or recording. For example, a company might have a de minimis expense threshold below which they don’t require receipts.

3. “Threshold for exemption”: In some cases, de minimis refers to a specific value or condition that must be met to qualify for an exemption. For example, the de minimis rule for imports in Malaysia exempts shipments with a CIF value below RM500 from import duties and taxes.

Overall, “de minimis” conveys that something is too small or unimportant to warrant attention or action. It’s a helpful concept for avoiding unnecessary work and focusing on what matters most.

How does the de minimis rule work?

How the de minimis rule works depends on the specific context in which it’s applied. Here are some general principles:

1. Threshold:

A set threshold usually defines what qualifies as “de minimis.” Sometimes, it’s a fixed value (e.g., RM500 for import duty exemption in Malaysia). In contrast, in others, it’s a percentage or average (e.g., Singapore’s GST input tax claim based on turnover).

2. Insignificant impact:

The core principle is that the matter in question must be so small or inconsequential that it wouldn’t have a material impact or warrant attention. This means:

  • Financial: The value or cost involved is negligible.
  • Time: The amount of time spent or required is insignificant.
  • Resources: The resources needed to address the issue are not worth allocating.

3. Application:

Depending on the context, the de minimis rule can work in different ways:

  • Exemption: Certain actions, transactions, or benefits might be exempt from requirements, taxes, or penalties if they fall below the de minimis threshold.
  • Disregard: Minor violations or infractions may be overlooked or not pursued.
  • Simplified procedures: De minimis cases might follow a streamlined process for reporting or compliance.

4. Individual vs. aggregate:

The de minimis rule sometimes applies to individual instances (e.g., a single import shipment). In contrast, in others, it considers the aggregate of similar cases over a period (e.g., average monthly exempt supplies for Singapore’s GST).

5. Exceptions:

There might be exceptions where the de minimis rule doesn’t apply, even if the threshold is met. For example, certain goods or activities may always require attention regardless of their value.

It’s important to note that the details of how the de minimis rule works vary greatly depending on the jurisdiction, industry, or context. Always refer to relevant legal or regulatory information for the most accurate and up-to-date guidance.

What is the meaning de minimis level?

The “de minimis level” is another way to express the concept of the de minimis threshold or de minimis limit. It essentially refers to the same thing: the boundary below which something is considered too small or insignificant to deserve attention or action.

The term “level” emphasizes a clear dividing line between what’s considered de minimis and what isn’t. Depending on the context, this line is usually defined by a specific value, percentage, or average.

Here are some examples of how the term “de minimis level” is used:

  • Import duty: In Malaysia, the de minimis limit for import duty exemption is RM500. Any import shipment with a CIF value below RM500 is exempt from import duties.
  • GST input tax: In Singapore, the de minimis limit for claiming input tax on purchases made for exempt supplies is an average of $40,000 per month or 5% of annual turnover. Businesses with a small proportion of exempt supplies can claim input tax on their purchases even without detailed recordkeeping.
  • Court cases: In legal proceedings, a court may dismiss a minor claim or disregard a trivial infraction if it falls below the de minimis level.

The concept of the “de minimis level” helps to ensure that resources are focused on important matters and that time and effort are not wasted on insignificant details. It simplifies processes, reduces administrative burdens, and promotes efficiency in various fields.

However, it’s important to remember that the specific limit and its application vary considerably depending on the context. Always refer to relevant legal or regulatory information for the most accurate and up-to-date guidance on how the de minimis level applies in a particular situation.

What does de minimis mean? Examples

To understand “de minimis” better, let’s explore some examples across different contexts:


  • A court dismisses a lawsuit seeking $10 in damages as “de minimis,” deeming the amount too small to justify the court’s time and resources.
  • A police officer overlooks a minor traffic infraction, like a slightly expired license plate, considering it “de minimis” and not worth issuing a ticket.


  • A company doesn’t need to report employee coffee purchases as a fringe benefit because the cost is “de minimis” and falls below the reporting threshold.
  • A bank may waive a small ATM fee for exceeding withdrawals as “de minimis” if it’s only a few cents.


  • A retailer doesn’t track customer returns for items under $5 as it’s considered “de minimis” and not worth the administrative effort.
  • A software company offers free technical support for small usage issues as it’s “de minimis” and builds customer goodwill.


  • A traveller can bring in a small package of candy without paying import duty because its value is “de minimis” and falls below the exemption limit.
  • A small business importing samples for a trade show can clear customs quickly due to the “de minimis” value of the goods.

These examples highlight how “de minimis” applies to various situations, constantly referring to something too small or insignificant to warrant attention or action based on its value, cost, or impact.

Remember, the specific threshold for “de minimis” can vary depending on the context and jurisdiction. Always refer to relevant regulations or consult a professional for accurate guidance in your specific case.

How is de minimis calculated?

How de minimis is calculated depends heavily on the context in which it’s applied. Here are some general scenarios:

1. Fixed thresholds:

  • Import duties: In many countries, a fixed value is used as the de minimis threshold. For example, in Malaysia, imported goods with a CIF value below RM500 are exempt from import duties.
  • Financial transactions: Some financial regulations might set a fixed amount below which reporting requirements don’t apply.

2. Percentages or averages:

  • GST claims: In Singapore, businesses can claim input tax on purchases made for exempt supplies, but only if the total value of those supplies is below a certain percentage of their overall turnover or an average monthly value.
  • Court awards: Sometimes, courts might award de minimis damages in small claims cases, calculated as a percentage of the claimed amount.

3. Aggregation:

  • Business expenses: In some cases, the de minimis rule might consider the aggregate of small costs over a period rather than individual transactions. For example, a company might not track minor office supply purchases if the total monthly cost falls below the de minimis limit.

4. Specific criteria:

  • Court judgments: Courts may consider factors like the nature of the violation, potential harm caused, and intent when determining if an infraction is de minimis.
  • Customs clearance: Some goods might be exempt from de minimis rules based on their type or purpose, even if their value falls below the threshold.

Here are some additional points to remember:

  • The relevant regulations or legal framework will always define the specific calculation method.
  • Understanding the context and applicable rules is crucial before assuming something falls under the de minimis rule.
  • Consulting with a professional can provide accurate guidance for specific situations.

What is a synonym for de minimis?

When referring to taxation and duties, there are several synonyms for “de minimis” that capture its meaning with slightly different nuances:

  • Negligible: This term emphasizes that the amount involved is too small to consider.
  • Trivial: This highlights the insignificance of the amount or impact.
  • Immaterial: This signifies that the matter is irrelevant or does not affect the overall situation.
  • Insignificant: This emphasizes the lack of importance of the amount or issue.

Here are some examples of how these synonyms can be used in sentences:

  • “The import duty on these small samples is negligible so you can disregard it.”
  • “The tax benefit from this deduction is so trivial that it’s not worth claiming.”
  • “The court dismissed the claim as immaterial to the main issue.”
  • “The petty fine amount doesn’t justify the hassle of contesting it.”
  • “The company doesn’t track employee coffee purchases because they’re considered chicken feed.”

Remember, the most appropriate synonym will depend on your specific context and audience. Choose the one that best captures the meaning of “de minimis” while maintaining the desired tone.