Thinking of leaving Singapore? Before you jump into the planning, it is important to take note of the costs that will be involved. Two Singapore-based financial advisors answer questions from readers on taxation and other economic considerations to keep in mind when thinking of relocation.
Plan your financial move well in advance of the physical move
Before you get carried away with dreams of a new country and lifestyle, Andrew Talbot from Globaleye Wealth Management recommends ways to smooth the path for an easy financial transition.
How do I pay my outstanding Singapore tax before leaving the country?
There are lots of different ways to pay: by giro, online via the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) website, at an AXS machine, via internet banking, or at DBS ATMs, post offices or SAM kiosks. You’ll need the SingPass two-step verification to log in to the IRAS website.
If I don’t pay my tax, will someone at Changi Airport tap me on the shoulder?
Only if your employment pass has been cancelled and the tax hasn’t been paid. The responsibility is with the employer to pay this from the last salary of the employee.
What if I receive a final payment from my Singapore job when I’m already living elsewhere? Is that taxed by Singapore? – and, if so, how do I pay it?
Yes, an updated notice of assessment will be submitted by the employer and it is the employer’s responsibility to pay the taxes to the IRAS. The employee will receive their final pay net of taxes paid by their employer.
What’s the situation for expats who are Permanent Residents?
When the time comes for your Permanent Residency (PR) to be reviewed, usually after five years, the authorities will look at whether you have paid any tax in the last three years. This could affect your chances of having your PR renewed, should you wish to do so. You can withdraw your CPF (Central Provident Fund) if your Permanent Residency is cancelled, but if you return to Singapore and the PR is reapproved then you would have to repay the CPF along with interest.
Take care of your dollars and cents
Chris Potter from Chartwell Associates explains why you need to think a tax year ahead when it comes to getting your finances in order.
What’s the general tax advice on Singapore-earned income?
Most authorities will tax “events” such as income and capital gains in the tax year in which they occur. If you return to your home country after making substantial capital gains in Singapore – which, in Singapore, would be free of capital gains tax (CGT) – and you become tax resident in your home country, those gains may be subject to CGT there. If a gain was made in the tax year before your return, then you’d be in the clear.
What should I do with the savings I have in managed funds in Singapore? Do I need to pay tax on them before I leave?
Singapore doesn’t have capital gains tax, so you shouldn’t have to pay tax on any savings or investments. Whether you should cash these in and take them with you will really depend on where you’re moving to. It may be better for these assets to remain in Singapore. The best thing is to take advice from someone who is familiar with the tax regime you’re going to.
Who do I need to tell in Singapore that I’m leaving?
The two main things to do are: terminate your Employment Pass (EP) and pay your outstanding tax bill. If you are employed, then your employer will cancel your EP and give you a white temporary visit pass, which you will surrender when you leave Singapore. Your employer will also give you an Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) form – an IR21 – that you must file with the IRAS for tax clearance.
Should I liquidate all Singapore assets before leaving, so as to avoid paying tax in my home country, or should I sell at a later date?
This will also depend to a great degree on the tax regime you’re moving to, and how the investments have performed. If they’re showing a loss, you may not want to crystallise that loss. Again, take advice from someone familiar with the tax regime that you’re going to.
“The guiding principal that all expats should adhere to is to leave the country assuming that you may return one day. In other words, make sure you leave with everything in good order – ensure you’ve paid all your tax, bills and fines (parking or otherwise)” – Chris Potter
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