Hand-Carried Exports Scheme (HCES)

You can use this scheme when you intend to Zero-rate supplies to an overseas customer for commodities that are taken outside Singapore by hand via Changi International Airport. This has been in effect since 1 April 2009.

However, this scheme is not applicable to commodities which were carried outside Singapore by hand via land/sea/Seletar airport. Also, when the supply of commodities which were hand-carried outside Singapore has to be zero-rated, you need to mandatorily have all the necessary evidence with respect to the exports you initiated.

There is another separate scheme which IRAS offers from the Hand-Carried Exports Scheme, it is called the Tourist Refund Scheme. Click here to find more information on it.

Steps to Follow for Using This Scheme

You need to get a permit to export

You should obtain an authentic export permit (Cargo Clearance Permit/OUT Permit) through TradeNet® in relation to those commodities which will be carried outside Singapore by hand through the Changi International Airport.

This is irrespective of the quantity and worth of commodities. You can either opt for TradeNet® subscription or authorise a TradeNet® agent (like a freight forwarder from your end) for making a declaration with respect to an export permit.

Your goods need to be presented at the airport for inspection

An individual who intends to bring the commodities outside Singapore (i.e. the carrier) should present them at the airport to the Singapore Customs for inspection purposes along with:

  • An export permit which is valid.
  • An invoice copy.
  • Evidence of the intent to leave Singapore (example: an air ticket which is confirmed or a boarding pass).

An export permit will be endorsed by the Singapore Customs provided all the necessary conditions are met.

Get the commodities outside Singapore

A carrier should get the commodities along with his or her check-in/hand-carry luggage outside Singapore in less than 12 hours of getting his/her export permit endorsed.

Get an authorised export permit

In order to be eligible for zero-rating, an authorised export permit has to be received by you in less than 60 days starting from the date on which you initiated the supply of commodities.

Maintain necessary documents

When you intend to back the zero-rating of your hand-carried export, the documents which are listed below need to be maintained by you:

  1. A copy of the invoice or a tax invoice which was issued by you to an overseas client with respect to the commodities you sold.
  2. Export permit(s) which includes the actual endorsement which was done by Singapore Customs.
  3. Proof that your overseas client has actually paid you.
  4. Proof of payment you’ve made to an overseas client for getting a refund in relation to GST which was charged earlier & received from the client when the sale was made, if applicable*

*This is applicable for an instance wherein a supplier has made a supply standard-rated earlier and later paid a GST refund to the client on getting an export permit which includes the actual endorsement from the Singapore Customs.

Effective 1 January 2019, you’ll have to retain proof that shows that you’ve received your payment from an overseas client as mentioned in the 3rd point above.

How Will GST be Charged at the Point of Sale?

You will have to issue either a tax voice or an invoice. On receiving an authorised export permit in less than 60 days starting from the sale date, you must refund the charges in relation to GST (minus any administrative charges you levied) to your foreign customer.

How Do You Report Sale in a GST Return When You’ve Got an Authorised Export Permit?

The sale needs to be reported as a supply which was zero-rated (Box 2).

Conditions which are applicable include:

  • The Singapore Customs has endorsed the export permit and you received it in less than 60 days starting from the supply date.
  • The customer has received a GST refund from you.
  • You’ve maintained all the required documents to back zero-rating as per this scheme.

How Do You Report Sale in a GST Return When You’ve Not Got an Authorised Export Permit?

  • The sale needs to be reported as a standard-rated supply in Box 1.
  • Output tax will need to be accounted for in Box 6.
When you obtain an authorised export permit later:

You can reclaim output tax which you had accounted for previously to IRAS. In your GST return, for the duration during which GST refund was made, you must:

  • The sale has to be reported as a supply which was zero-rated (Box 2).
  • Deduct the sale value from the value of the standard-rated products that you supplied earlier (Box 1).
  • Deduct the GST charges which were refunded via the "Output tax due" in Box 6.
Conditions you need to comply with include:
  • The Singapore Customs has authorised an export permit and it was obtained in 60 days starting from the date on which your supply was initiated.
  • You’ve made the GST refund payment to your client overseas.
  • All the necessary documents which are needed for supporting zero-rating according to this scheme are maintained by you.

When You Don’t Charge GST at the Point of Sale

How to Report Your Sale in a Return for GST When You’ve Obtained an Export Permit Which Is Endorsed?

Your sale will need to be reported as a supply which was zero-rated, in Box 2.

Criteria which need to be met:
  • The Singapore Customs endorses your export permit and it’s received by you in 60 days starting from the date on which you initiated your supply.
  • You keep all the documents which are necessary to back the zero-rating as per this scheme.

How Should a Sale Be Reported in a Return for GST When an Export Permit Which Is Endorsed Is Not Received by You?

  • Provisionally, your sale has to be reported as a supply which was zero-rated.
  • You need to maintain every document which is needed to back the zero-rating based on this scheme.

In the event of not receiving an endorsed permit in less than a period of 60 days starting from your supply date, you must:

  • Report your sale as a supply which was standard-rated in Box 1.
  • Output tax needs to be accounted for via “7/107” (a tax fraction).

In case you had reported your sale as a zero-rated supply provisionally, you might have to do an adjustment via GST F7 filing.

How Do You Apply for an Exemption via the Hand-Carried Exports Scheme?

If, due to a few commercial reasons you were not able to present your commodities for inspection to the Singapore Customs, you can submit an application for exemption from HCES.

To apply for such an exemption, you should submit GST F17: Application for Exemption from Hand-Carried Exports Scheme to the GST Comptroller.

Other Queries You Might Have

Q. Who qualifies to hand-carry commodities outside Singapore as per the HCES?

A. An individual who carries commodities outside Singapore (i.e. a carrier) should be at least 16 years of age while he or she is showcasing the commodities at the airport to Singapore Customs.
He/she can be a supplier, an overseas client, or an individual who is approved by an overseas client (for example, an employee).

Q. Can I sell commodities to a local client who will carry out commodities outside Singapore by hand through the Changi International Airport? Also, will I be allowed to zero-rate the supply I initiated to the client under the HCES?

A. No. The HCES is applicable only to commodities which are sold to clients who are overseas. Since you’re intending to sell/deliver commodities to a localised client, you’ll have to levy GST charges on this sale because you intend to supply commodities is to a local customer.

Q. At the point of sale, will I get a chance to choose between levying GST charges and zero-rating my supply?

A. When you intend to zero-rate your supply, you should get an export permit in less than 60 days (should be authorised by the Singapore Customs). Also, you must keep ready with all the necessary documents which will be needed to back the supply of such zero-rated commodities.
When you opt to levy GST charges to your client overseas, you will not have access to any kind of facility via which you can get your GST refund at the Changi International Airport.

Q. Is there a declaration I need to make for commodities I intend to hand-carry outside Singapore?

A. Yes, you will need to declare an export permit which is valid in order to hand-carry commodities out of Singapore.

Q. What is the objective of GST F7 filing?

A. In case you’ve made an error in the GST F5/F8/F5 forms you submitted, you must do a GST F7 filing to rectify any error(s) you’ve made.

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