All business entities importing and exporting in Singapore should first be registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). Following which, the business/company will be given a Business Registration Number which is also its Unique Entity Number (UEN). UEN is a pre-requisite to interact with any government agency.
All importers, exporters and declaring agents are required to activate their UEN with Singapore Customs. Generally the activation is done on the same working day. The activation is free and the Customs Account is valid for as long as the entity remains registered with ACRA.
Goods are classified as controlled and non-controlled goods. Trading of non-controlled goods does not require licences. For trading controlled goods like drugs, chemicals, animals, food products, etc, a license must be obtained from the government agencies regulating the controlled goods.
In general, for import of all goods (controlled or non-controlled items), an Import Permit – IN Permit is required. It must be secured before the goods are imported and it can be obtained online via TradeNet®. An IN Permit is required for each shipment of goods entering Singapore.
For export of goods, you are required to Obtain an OUT Permit through TradeNet® within 3 days of export if your goods are non-controlled or are exported by sea or air; or Obtain an OUT Permit through TradeNet® before goods are exported if your goods are controlled or are exported by road and rail.
A special permit called JNTDEC3 must be obtained before exporting, re-exporting, transshipping and transporting goods governed by Strategic Goods (Control) Act. The Act covers all goods and technology intended or likely to be used for weapons of mass destruction.
Goods subject to customs & excise duties are known as dutiable goods. Duty is payable if such goods are manufactured in Singapore or imported into Singapore. Dutiable goods in Singapore are intoxicating liquors, tobacco products, motor vehicles and petroleum products. Duties are levied on an ad valorem basis or specific rate basis. Duties payable are temporarily suspended when goods are in Free Trade Zones (FTZs)in Licensed Warehouses under the Industrial Factory Exemption Scheme. This is a tax break scheme for manufacturers using dutiable raw materials in the manufacturing of non-dutiable goods.
All Goods imported into Singapore are subject to a GST of 7%, if the goods are meant for local consumption. The GST taxable is calculated on the CIF (Costs, Insurance and Freight)value plus all duties and other chargeable costs, whether or not shown on the invoice. GST payable are temporarily suspended when the goods are in Free Trade Zones (FTZs)in Zero-GST Warehouses in Licensed Warehouses.
In addition to the duties and GST, Singapore Customs charges Procedural and Administrative fees. Making payments through GIRO is the most efficient as it authorizes Singapore Customs to deduct directly from your bank account. Application for GIRO deductions can be signed when registering with Singapore Customs.
Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA) officers conduct checks on vehicles, cargoes and persons entering the country, and refer trade and customs matters to Singapore Customs for follow-up. Some documents to be produced at the point of clearance are :
For export of non-dutiable and non-controlled goods by air or sea, the trader can clear the cargo through the checkpoint without a Customs Permit. For air consignment, submission of Outward declaration for approval can be made within three days of the export of the cargo, whereas for sea consignment, it can be made before the departure of the vessel. For exports of Dutiable and controlled conventional cargo and for all exports via rail or road, Customs Permit must be produced at the exit checkpoints before the exports.
For import, traders should produce the Customs IN Permit with the supporting documents like invoice, packing list, bill of lading etc to the ICA officers at the entry checkpoint for the clearance of the goods. Also for imports meant for local consumption, GST has to be paid before clearance. For a consignment which requires partial clearance, the trader should produce the same permit each time for customs endorsement until the whole consignment is completely cleared.
There are two types of containers viz full container load (FCL) and less than full container load (LCL). A LCL container is a container with goods for more than one consignee or with goods from more than one consignor, whereas an FCL is a container with goods for one consignee or with goods from one consignor.
Free Trade Zones (FTZs): These are specially designated areas in Singapore where the payment of duties and taxes are suspended when goods imported into Singapore are stored here. Duties and taxes are payable when the goods leave the FTZ and enter into customs territory for local consumption.
Licensed Warehouses: These are for imported dutiable goods. Intoxicating liquors and tobacco products must be stored in Licensed Warehouses. They cannot be stored in Free Trade Zones or Zero-GST Warehouses.
Zero GST Warehouses: Non-dutiable goods and approved non-dutiable commodities like coffee, pepper, rubber, base metal, crude oil and petroleum products are stored here.
In Singapore almost all traders resort to Letter of Credit (LC) which eliminates the risk of non–payment against delivery for the seller and risk of non-delivery against payment for the buyer. It is a letter of undertaking from the buyer’s bank to pay an exporter, through the exporter’s bank, for goods on behalf of the buyer. A valid LC opens up other financing options eg :
Back-to-Back Letter Of Credit is opened on the same terms and conditions as the original LC enabling a trader to procure goods from a third party for export to the buyer in the original LC.
Trust Receipts are loan from bank to procure the Goods for which the LC was opened.
Packing Credit is an overdraft or loan for a particular shipment of goods. It can either be pre-shipment financing, where repayment is made when goods are shipped or post-shipment finance, where repayment is made when the buyer has paid for the goods.
Aside from LC, short-term finance from banks are available like Overdraft, Transaction and Term Loans. Export Credit Insurance insures the goods against damage, theft and loss and also protects the exporter against non-payment by the buyer. However, insurance does not cover risks inherent in the nature of the goods. To help local traders in the international market,International Enterprise (IE) Singapore launched a Trade Credit Insurance Programme or TCI under which the underwriters provide insurance coverage for traders at attractive premium rates.
All business entities importing and exporting in Singapore should first be registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). Following which, the business/company will be given a Business Registration Number which is also its Unique Entity Number
Since 1965, Singapore joined the ranks of free world countries leading up to a present day world-class city, bustling port, and prosperous economy. Not only is she established as a first world country, Singapore remains a strong foothold with her stable economy and cosmopolitan
International trading gives rise to globalisation. While every country is valued for different resources - global trade allows the use of commodities and increases consumer exposure to resources of the world. From Swiss Alps water to French wine, New Zealand honey to Thai rice
Singapore Business Federation
Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Singapore Manufacturers' Federation
Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Association of Small and Medium Enterprises