Ultimate Guide to Customs Import Tariffs in Singapore

Despite its reputation as a free-trade advocate, Singapore maintains a system of customs import tariffs, albeit with a focus on facilitating trade and economic growth.

This comprehensive guide will explore the various aspects of customs import tariffs in Singapore, including the types of import tariffs, goods subject to tariffs, goods exempt from tariffs and trade agreements that import import tariffs. 

What are Import Tariffs

Import tariffs, or customs duties, are taxes a government imposes on goods and commodities imported into a country from foreign countries. 

These tariffs are typically levied at the time of importation and are calculated as a percentage of the customs value of the imported goods. The customs value is determined based on factors such as the price paid for the goods and transportation costs, insurance, and freight (CIF) charges incurred until the goods reach the country’s border.

In Singapore, the Singapore Customs, a statutory board under the Ministry of Finance, is responsible for administering customs import tariffs and regulating the importation and exportation of goods. The agency ensures compliance with customs regulations and facilitates international trade.

Types of Import Tariffs and Fees in Singapore 

1. Goods and Services Tax (GST)

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a consumption tax imposed on most goods and services in Singapore. It is not strictly an import tax but applies to the supply of goods, including imported goods. The standard GST rate is 8%, but there are exemptions and special schemes that may result in lower or zero GST rates for certain goods.

GST is levied on the customs value of imported goods. The customs value includes the cost of the goods, transportation costs, insurance, and any other charges incurred until the goods reach the country’s border.

Importers are responsible for paying GST on the value of the imported goods. This tax can significantly affect the overall cost of imported items.

Goods exempt from GST include essential food items, financial services, and the sale and lease of residential properties.

2. Customs Duty 

Customs duty is a tax on imported goods. These tariffs can be categorised into different types, including ad valorem, specific, and compound. The rates vary depending on the type of goods and their classification under the Harmonized System (HS) code.

Import tariffs are applied to the customs value of the goods. The specific rate depends on the classification of the goods under the HS code, an international system for classifying products.

Importers must pay customs duties on the imported goods, and the cost can vary widely depending on the type of goods and the applicable tariff rates.

Singapore maintains a low and transparent tariff regime, and many goods are exempt from customs duties or subject to zero tariffs, particularly those that support international trade and economic openness.

3. Excise Duty

Excise duties are taxes levied on specific categories of goods with a higher potential for harm or misuse. These goods include tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, and petroleum products. Excise duties are typically applied per unit of the product, such as per litre of alcohol or pack of cigarettes.

Excise duties are imposed on the quantity or volume of the goods, regardless of their value.

Importers of excisable goods must pay the applicable excise duties, which can significantly impact the cost of these products.

Excise duties aim to discourage the consumption of harmful or socially undesirable goods while generating revenue for the government.

4. Environmental Taxes

Singapore has introduced taxes on environmentally harmful goods, such as carbon emissions and non-biodegradable plastic bags. These taxes are designed to discourage the use of products with negative environmental impacts.

Environmental taxes are specific to goods or activities with adverse ecological effects.

Importers of goods subject to environmental taxes must pay these taxes, which may vary depending on the ecological effects of the product.

Environmental taxes promote sustainability and encourage responsible consumption by addressing environmental concerns.

5. Customs Fees

In addition to customs duties and taxes, customs fees are associated with customs clearance. These fees are imposed to cover the cost of customs services, inspections, and administrative processes.

Standard customs fees include clearance, storage, examination, and other administrative charges related to customs clearance. Customs fees are incurred as part of the customs clearance process and are typically based on the services provided or the duration of storage. Importers are responsible for paying customs fees associated with the clearance of their goods.

What Are HS Codes and How They Apply to Import Tariffs in Singapore

HS codes, or Harmonised System codes, are a standardised international classification system used to categorise and identify products for customs, trade, and statistical purposes. 

These codes consist of a series of digits that systematically classify products based on their characteristics, components, and intended use. HS codes are used globally to simplify and standardise importing and exporting goods, making determining applicable import tariffs, taxes, and regulatory requirements easier.

Singapore Customs maintains an easy-to-navigate online database of HS Codes.

How HS Codes Are Used for Calculating Import Tariffs in Singapore

  1. Determining the Correct HS Code: Importers must accurately determine the appropriate HS code for the goods they intend to import. The classification should reflect the product’s key characteristics and intended use. The Singapore Customs website provides access to the Singapore Trade Classification, Customs and Excise Duties (STCCED) system, which helps importers find the correct HS code.
  2. Customs Declaration: When completing a customs declaration for imported goods, importers must include the relevant HS code on the declaration form. The HS code is a critical piece of information for customs authorities to identify the type of goods being imported.
  3. Calculating Import Tariffs: Once the correct HS code is applied, Singapore Customs uses it to determine the applicable import tariffs, taxes, and duties for the goods. These may include customs duties, Goods and Services Tax (GST), excise duties, and other relevant fees or taxes.
  4. Customs Valuation: The customs value of the goods, which can be determined using methods such as the transactional value method, is multiplied by the tariff rate associated with the HS code. This calculation yields the amount of import tariffs payable.
  5. Compliance and Documentation: The HS code also plays a role in determining whether specific licenses, permits, or certificates are required for the importation of certain goods. The HS code may also influence compliance with non-tariff measures, such as product standards and safety requirements.

Types of Goods Subject to Import Tariffs in Singapore

While many goods in Singapore are subject to low or zero tariffs, specific categories of goods may be subject to import duties. The following are some of the types of goods subject to import tariffs in Singapore and their corresponding tax rates:

1. General Goods

Singapore’s standard tariff rates for most goods are relatively low. These rates can vary slightly depending on the country of origin and the type of goods.

Most consumer goods, electronics, and textiles fall under this category. For these goods, the tariff rates are typically low or non-existent.

2. Alcohol and Tobacco

Higher tariffs are typically applied to alcoholic beverages and tobacco products to discourage excessive consumption and generate revenue.

The tariff rates for alcoholic beverages vary widely based on alcohol content and packaging. For instance, wine may have a tariff rate ranging from 70% to 150% of the customs value, while spirits may face higher rates, often exceeding 200%.

Import tariffs on tobacco products can be significant. The rates can range from 50% to 220% of the customs value, depending on the type and quantity of tobacco products.

3. Motor Vehicles

Import tariffs on motor vehicles, including cars and motorcycles, can be relatively high, especially for luxury cars.

The tariff rates for motor vehicles can vary significantly based on engine capacity, type, and country of origin. Rates may range from 20% to 100% or more of the customs value.

4. Petroleum Products

Singapore imposes excise duties on petroleum products, including gasoline and diesel. These excise duties are not ad valorem but are specific rates per litre of fuel. The aim is to regulate consumption and generate revenue from the sale of these products.

The excise duties for petroleum products can vary based on factors such as the type of fuel and its intended use. Rates are often adjusted in response to global oil price fluctuations.

5. Controlled and Restricted Items

Some goods are subject to specific regulations and may require permits or face higher tariffs to control their importation.

Controlled and restricted items include chemicals, pharmaceuticals, firearms, and certain agricultural products. The tariffs and regulations for these items can vary widely depending on their nature and intended use.

Types of Goods Exempt from Import Tariffs in Singapore

The following are some goods typically not subject to import tariffs in Singapore.

1. Raw Materials and Industrial Inputs

Singapore recognises the importance of low production costs to maintain its competitiveness as a manufacturing and processing hub. Therefore, many raw materials and industrial inputs are exempt from import tariffs. This policy supports various industries, including electronics manufacturing, petrochemicals, and pharmaceuticals.

2. Machinery and Equipment

Singapore generally exempts machinery and equipment used for industrial or manufacturing purposes from import tariffs to encourage investments in technology and automation. This policy helps businesses modernise their operations and stay competitive.

3. Agricultural and Food Products

As a global trade and logistics centre, Singapore relies heavily on imports to meet its food and agricultural needs. Many agricultural and food products are exempt from import tariffs to ensure a stable food supply and competitive consumer prices.

4. Pharmaceuticals and Medical Supplies

Pharmaceuticals and medical supplies are essential for healthcare and public well-being. Many pharmaceuticals and medical supplies are exempt from import tariffs to ensure access to a wide range of healthcare products and promote public health.

5. Books and Educational Materials

Singapore places a high value on education and knowledge. Books and educational materials are generally exempt from import tariffs to support educational institutions and promote access to learning materials.

6. Environmental and Renewable Energy Technologies

Singapore is increasingly focusing on sustainability and green initiatives. Many related products are exempt from import tariffs to encourage the adoption of environmentally friendly technologies and renewable energy solutions.

7. Goods for Re-Export

Singapore’s role as a global trading hub is further enhanced by its policies regarding goods imported solely for re-export. These goods are often not subject to import tariffs, as their intended destination is outside Singapore.

8. Goods Covered by Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)

Singapore has entered various FTAs and economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with other countries and regions. These agreements often provide preferential tariff rates or even duty-free access to Singapore’s market for goods from FTA or EPA partner countries.

9. Personal Effects and Household Goods

Individuals moving to Singapore or returning residents can bring personal effects and household goods without paying import tariffs. This policy supports individuals relocating to the country.

10. Art and Cultural Items

To promote cultural exchange and the arts, Singapore may exempt some art and cultural items from import tariffs for exhibition or artistic purposes.

Trade Agreements That Impact Import Tariffs for Singapore

Singapore has entered various free trade agreements (FTAs) and economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with other countries and regions. These agreements often provide preferential tariff rates or even duty-free access to Singapore’s market for goods originating from FTA or EPA partner countries.

  1. ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA): Singapore is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) promotes intra-ASEAN trade by reducing or eliminating tariffs on goods traded among ASEAN member states. ASEAN countries include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  2. Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA): SAFTA is a bilateral trade agreement between Singapore and Australia that promotes trade and economic cooperation. Under this agreement, many goods imported from Australia into Singapore are eligible for duty-free treatment.
  3. Singapore-European Union Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA): The EUSFTA aims to enhance trade and economic relations between Singapore and the European Union (EU). It provides for reducing or eliminating tariffs on a wide range of goods, creating more favourable conditions for EU countries to export products to Singapore and vice versa.
  4. Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP): Singapore is a signatory to the CPTPP, which is a trade agreement among 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The deal reduces or eliminates tariffs on goods traded among member countries, including Japan, Canada, Mexico, Chile, etc.
  5. India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA): CECA is a bilateral trade agreement between India and Singapore. It provides for reduced tariffs and preferential treatment for various goods traded between the two countries.
  6. Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (KSFTA): The KSFTA is a trade agreement between Singapore and South Korea that eliminates or reduces tariffs on goods traded between the two countries.
  7. China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA): CSFTA is a bilateral trade agreement between Singapore and China. It promotes trade and economic cooperation and provides preferential tariff rates for goods traded between the two countries.
  8. Japan-Singapore Economic Partnership Agreement (JSEPA): JSEPA is a bilateral trade agreement between Singapore and Japan. It includes provisions for reduced tariffs and preferential treatment for goods traded between the two countries.


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