No extra restrictions on import of face masks, hand sanitisers; usual GST rules apply: Customs

Singapore

SINGAPORE: No extra restrictions have been imposed on face masks and hand sanitisers brought into Singapore, the Singapore Customs said on Monday (Feb 17).

“No additional Customs restrictions have been imposed on the import of face masks and hand sanitisers,” a spokesperson said in response to queries by CNA.

“As with all goods brought into Singapore, travellers are required to declare and pay Goods and Services Tax (GST) if the total value of goods imported for personal use exceeds the GST import relief, or the goods are for commercial purposes.”

The response comes after an image circulating on social media showed a sign put up by the Singapore Customs requesting that travellers who enter the country declare “all face masks and sanitisers”, alongside other dutiable items such as tobacco, cigarettes and alcohol.

READ: The Big Read – Panic buying grabbed the headlines, but a quiet resilience is seeing Singaporeans through COVID-19 outbreak

The Customs spokesperson clarified that the sign depicted in the Facebook post was put up at the Singapore Cruise Centre in response to a “surge in the number of ferry passengers hand-carrying sizeable quantities of surgical masks and hand sanitisers into Singapore”. 

“As a number of travellers had quantities of masks and sanitisers with values in excess of their GST import relief thresholds or which were for commercial purposes, they were stopped at the baggage screening area and turned back to the Customs service counters for GST payment,” the spokesperson added.

“The sign was therefore put up with good intentions by our frontline staff to remind travellers to make their GST payments first before proceeding for customs clearance, so as to minimise inconvenience and help expedite their clearance at the Singapore Cruise Centre.

“Unfortunately, the intent was misconstrued.”

READ: N95, surgical masks run out at retail outlets; MOH assures public there is enough stock

The Customs spokesperson said that the sign was put up only at the cruise centre to address a specific situation, and that the other checkpoints do not have similar signs.

Singapore has seen a surge in demand for face masks amid concern over the novel coronavirus.

Some retailers have raised the prices of masks drastically, while private sellers have taken to selling boxes of face masks online, usually in bulk.

The authorities have repeatedly stressed that Singapore has sufficient masks in its stockpile, and sent letters of demand asking several retailers to explain their pricing strategy for masks.

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