Major Exporter Scheme (MES)

As per this scheme, GST on a commodity which is non-dutiable will be suspended at the time of import  as well as when a commodity is removed from a Zero GST (ZG) warehouse. This scheme aims at easing the liquidity of a business which imports & exports commodities to a large extent.

As per the standard rules, a business will have to pay upfront GST charges on imports & consequently get a refund from the IRAS upon submitting its return for GST. This can result in liquidity problems for a business which exports commodities considerably because GST is not collected for supplies which are zero-rated in order to set-off its cash flow initially on imports.

A business which is approved for MES will be allowed to import commodities which are non-dutiable without any GST charges. Starting from 1 July 2006, such businesses will also be entitled to GST suspension in relation to commodities which were taken off from a ZG warehouse.

When to Use MES

You will be approved for MES on importing commodities under the following circumstances:

  • Import commodities which belong to you for your business-related reasons.
  • Import commodities that belong to your foreign principal for selling in Singapore/re-export in place of the foreign principal for purposes related to your business (you’re taking the place of a section 33(2) agent).
  • Import commodities that belong your principal overseas and later re-export those commodities to your foreign principal provided the conditions for a section 33A agent are met.
  • When you re-import commodities which were dispatched overseas by you for a value-added activity, owned by your local client or an overseas customer who has registered for GST provided certain conditions as per section 33B are satisfied by you. This is applicable starting from 1 January 2015.

For points b and c mentioned earlier, the following conditions must be met:

  • Your principal overseas is not GST-registered.
  • You maintain individual records for commodities that belong to your principal overseas.
  • You’re in charge of possession and custody of the commodities which belong to your foreign principals at any given point of time.
  • You consider any consequent supply of commodities as initiated by you:
    • When commodities are sold by you locally, you must ensure that the supply is standard-rated.
    • When commodities are exported by you and you retain the necessary export evidence, your supply can be zero-rated.

What are the Qualifying Criteria for This Scheme?

  • Your business should be registered for GST.
  • Your business has to be financially solvent & active.
  • You’re either importing or have intentions to import commodities in the future for reasons related to your business.
  • Your supplies which are zero-rated should account for over 50% out of the overall supplies, or your supplies which are zero-rated should be worth over S$10 million with respect to the previous 12 months.
  • Your internal controls need to be good and you should have maintained accurate accounting records.
  • Your compliance records with the IRAS need to be good. A few examples include:
    • Filing your income tax return and GST return on a timely basis.
    • Making GST payment, property tax, withholding tax, and income tax within the stipulated deadlines.
  • Your compliance record with the Singapore Customs must be good.
  • You need to satisfy any other condition which the GST Comptroller might levy on a timely basis.

How do You Apply for the Major Exporter Scheme?

  • Submit the GST F10 application form with all the necessary details as requested in the form along with your signature.
  • Also, you will need to perform any one of the following activities:
    • Do a self-evaluation* via ASK (Assisted Self-Help Kit) and submit the ASK declaration form which is certified (ASK: Declaration Form on Completing Annual Review & Voluntary Disclosure of Errors).
    • The ASK yearly review has to be done by:
      • A person who is accredited with SIATP (Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals) as an ATA (Accredited Tax Advisor) for GST/ATP (Accredited Tax Practitioner) for GST or
      • A business which has registered for GST & is certified by a person who has an accreditation with SIATP either as an ATP or an ATA for GST.
      • The ATA/ATP for GST can be an in-house/external tax professional.
    • Pledge or make a commitment to take part in ACAP (Assisted Compliance Assurance Programme). In case you’re an ACAP applicant already, the Assisted Self-Help Kit declaration form submission is not required from your end. This is applicable when the ACAP review results and ACAP report submission is pending.
    • Complete PAR (Post ACAP Review) & submit a form called "PAR Declaration" (GST F28) with respect to a business which has an active ACAP status. Also, in case your business holds an ACAP status which is active, the Assisted Self-Help Kit declaration form will not be needed, provided you carry out a Post ACAP Review & submit GST F28 (PAR declaration form).

*For a new business or a company which has changed its business activities, you’ll need to finish the Assisted Self-Help Kit review & submit the certified form in less than 1 year starting from when the scheme was approved.

Note: A letter of guarantee (LG) might be required either from an insurance firm or a bank in before you get an approval.

What is the Validity Period of the Major Exporter Scheme?

Upon receiving the approval for your application, you’ll be notified about the actual MES approval date. The validity period is generally 3 years. Your MES status can be cancelled at any given point in time when you’re not successful in complying with the qualifying conditions for MES.

Steps to Renew MES

  • When your Major Exporter Scheme is pending for review & you stay compliant with the qualifying criteria, you’ll be sent a letter inviting you to submit your MES renewal application.
  • You will need to make the Form R1 submission online through myTax Portal along with the ASK form which is certified. It needs to be submitted by the stipulated date mentioned in your renewal letter.
  • You will be intimated by IRAS about the results of your review in writing. Your MES status will remain active even though the outcome is pending.
  • During this process, the need for LG (letter of guarantee) will need to be reviewed too. You’ll be intimated if an LG is necessary.
  • With an aim to bring down the compliance expenses of a business, the validity term for an MES successful renewal has been increased to up to 5 years versus 3 years (currently). This change will be applicable to every business which has renewed its MES starting from January 2013 provided an ASK submission (certified) has been made as a part of the application process for renewal.
  • A new application will continue to have a 3-year validity period and a new applicant’s initial renewal will be scheduled for the 3rd year from the validity term.

You Can Appoint Your Declaring Agent(s)

When you’re an approved Major Exporter Scheme member, you can appoint declaring agents who can clear the commodities in place your place. You can appoint a maximum of 20 declaring representatives.

You will be liable for any permit which is made by a declaring agent who has been authorised by you. Hence, it is recommended that you only authorise declaring agents as per the requirement.

To appoint, remove, or change declaring agents, you will need to utilise an e-Service which is known as "Apply for Declaring Agents" via mytax.iras.gov.sg. Your application will be processed within the following two business days.

Everything You Need to Report in Your GST Return

In the event of importing commodities (inclusive of commodities which belong to your foreign non GST-registered principals) as an MES member, you must declare the worth of your imports in:

  • Box 5 (complete worth of purchases which are taxable).
  • Box 9 (overall worth of commodities imported under the Approved 3rd Party Logistics Company Scheme, MES, or any other approved scheme).

A declaration has to be backed by a valid ME permit & other supporting documents as necessary. Supporting documents can be a commercial invoice, a shipping document, etc.

When commodities are imported by you (includes commodities which belong to your foreign principal) into a ZG (Zero GST) warehouse, you should make a declaration with respect to the imports you’ve initiated via your return for GST in spite of GST suspension. You must declare the worth of your imports via Box 5 (complete value of purchases which are considered as taxable) in spite of GST being suspended.

Subsequently, when the commodities are taken off from a Zero GST warehouse and are moved into a customs territory under this scheme, you must declare the worth of removed commodities in:

  • Box 5 (entire worth of purchases which come under the taxable category).
  • Box 9 (complete worth of commodities which were imported under MES/Approved 3rd Party Logistics Company Scheme/other Approved Schemes).

Declaration made by you should be backed with an MC/Customs/ME permit which is valid. Other supporting documents have to be provided too.

Other Schemes Available

Additional Questions You Might Have

Q. Can a related company I know import its commodities with the help of my Major Exporter Scheme status?

A. No. Your Major Exporter Scheme status can be used only for commodities which belong to you/your foreign principal wherein you will take the place of a Section 33A agent/Section 33B agent/ Section 33(2) agent.

Note: It will be considered as an offence when a company which has not applied for MES status imports commodities via another firm’s MES status. A penalty will be levied & the concerned company’s MES status could be revoked.

Q. What kind of permit will I need to import commodities as an MES member?

A. You will need to get the ME permit from Singapore Customs.

Q. I have made an LG (Letter of Guarantee) submission to IRAS for renewal/application of my MES. My LG has expired. Will I have to make a new LG submission?

A. No. When an LG expires, it will be considered as invalid. Hence, the Comptroller will not give back the LG nor give out a letter of release.

During the period of your MES status renewal, the necessity for LG will also be reviewed. You will be intimated if a new LG will be needed.

Q. How can I ease the compliance factor with respect to my business?

A. You can consider seeking assistance from the TradeXchange Repository Service. This repository service renders a platform online via which your concerned trade documents can be consolidated. With this, as a business owner, you can meet your requirements for recordkeeping in relation to both imports & exports with ease. Since you can easily upload documents via this online platform, the need for you to match your permits manually with other related documents is not required.

Q. Will I be allowed to utilise my Major Exporter Scheme status in order to import IPM (investment precious metals) or any material which is utilised for/in IPM refining?

A. You’ll not be allowed to use the status of being an MES member to import commodities which are exempted from GST (IPM) or any material which attributes to the supply of commodities which are exempted from GST.

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