Taxes for nation building
Taxes are used to develop Singapore into a stronger community, a better environment, and a more vibrant economy, a place that Singaporeans can be proud to call home.
Taxes go towards the funding of government expenditure. In FY2022/23, the largest sector making up 55.3% of total Government Operating Expenditure is the Social Development Sector. The Security & External Relations Sector (which includes expenditure in areas such as Defence; Home Affairs; and Foreign Affairs) takes up the second-largest share (28.1%) of total operating expenditure. The Economic Development Sector and Government Administration sectors make up 13.1% and 3.4% of government operating expenditure respectively.
Source: Economic Survey of Singapore, Second Quarter 2023
Fiscal policy is the use of government expenditure and revenue collection to influence the economy. The two main instruments of fiscal policy are government expenditure and taxation. In Singapore, the long-term objectives of fiscal policy are to:
- Promote and support sustained, non-inflationary economic growth;
- Maintain a balanced budget, i.e., to finance total operating and developmental expenditures from operating revenue over the course of the business cycle; and
- Focus government expenditure on delivering essential public goods and services, e.g., education, healthcare, infrastructure, housing, and programmes to protect the environment.
Underlying the above objectives are the recognition of market forces in driving the economy, financial prudence, and emphasis on human and infrastructure investment.
Tax policy is an integral part of fiscal policy. The main objectives of tax policy in Singapore are:
- Revenue Raising
This is the traditional aim of tax policy. Tax revenue is a substantial source of funding for government operations.
- Promotion of Economic and Social Goals
Tax has been used to influence behaviour towards desirable social and economic goals. For instance, to encourage mechanisation and automation, the government allows accelerated capital allowance for most assets used for business purposes. Tax rebates are given to encourage Singaporeans to have more children.
The fundamental tenet of Singapore's tax policy is to keep tax rates competitive both for corporations as well as individuals. Keeping our corporate rate competitive will help us to continue to attract a good share of foreign investment. Keeping our individual rates low will encourage our people to work hard. It will also make risk-taking worthwhile and encourage entrepreneurship.
To increase the resilience of taxes as a source of government revenue, Goods & Services Tax (GST) was introduced in 1994. This balanced mix of tax on consumption and income reduces the vulnerability of revenue intake to adverse changes in economic conditions and strengthens the resilience of Singapore's fiscal position.
Government operating revenue
There are three main sources of government operating revenue, namely tax revenue, fees and charges, and other receipts. Tax revenue accounts for 75.4% of the government operating revenue for the financial year 2022/23. The most significant is tax revenue from the various taxes imposed by the government, which are as follows.
- Income Tax
Income tax is chargeable on the income of individuals and companies.
- Goods & Services Tax (GST)
GST is a tax on consumption. The tax is paid when money is spent on goods or services, including imports.
- Property Tax
Property tax is imposed on owners of properties based on the expected rental values of the properties.
- Stamp Duty
This is imposed on commercial and legal documents relating to stock & shares and immovable property.
- Betting Taxes
These are duties on private lottery, betting & sweepstake.
- Estate Duty (Removed for deaths occurring on or after 15 Feb 2008)
Estate duty is levied on the value of a deceased's net assets in excess of a threshold amount.
- Motor Vehicle Taxes
These are taxes, other than import duties, that are imposed on motor vehicles. These taxes are imposed to curb car ownership and road congestion.
- Customs & Excise Duties
Singapore is a free port and has relatively few excise and import duties. Excise duties are imposed principally on tobacco, petroleum products, and liquors. Also, very few products are subject to import duties. The duties are mainly on motor vehicles, tobacco, liquor, and petroleum products.
- Casino Tax
The casino tax is a tax levied on the casinos’ gross gaming revenue.
These include the foreign worker levy, annual tonnage tax, water conservation tax, and development charge.
IRAS is responsible for collecting income tax, goods & services tax, property tax, stamp duty, betting taxes, and estate duty (for deaths occurring before 15 Feb 2008).