Sunday, 30 August 2015

Targeted GST Voucher criteria benefit Singaporeans

Mr Stewart Christopher Bernard ("Exclude home value from GST Voucher criteria"; Wednesday) asked whether overseas Singaporeans are eligible for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Voucher and also suggested removing the Annual Value (AV) component as a criterion to determine eligibility for the scheme.

The GST Voucher scheme is aimed at benefiting less well-off Singaporeans who incur GST on their living expenses in Singapore. To identify those permanently residing overseas, we have used the place of residence registered with the Government.

If we discover that an individual appears to be living overseas permanently but continues to have his registered place of residence in Singapore, we conduct further inquiries to reassess his eligibility for the GST Voucher.

The use of both income and the AV of one's residence as criteria for a person's eligibility for the GST Voucher is not perfect, and does not capture every individual's situation accurately.

But it provides us with a fair and practical basis to administer a large national scheme, reaching 1.6 million beneficiaries.

Among Singaporeans with the same income, those who live in private homes are generally better off than those who live in HDB homes. Likewise, those with no income (such as retirees and housewives) living in higher-end homes are generally better off than the same group living in lower-value homes.

The current AV threshold of $21,000 covers 80 per cent of homes in Singapore, including all HDB flats and some private properties. Nonetheless, we recognise that not all Singaporeans living in homes in the top 20 per cent of the AV range are well-off, and some may experience instances of financial hardship.

The best way to help them is not by changing the rules across the board.

We can instead use more flexible forms of support, such as ComCare, which allows for a more detailed assessment of a person's situation.

Low-income families may approach their nearest Social Service Office for an assessment of their needs.

We thank Mr Bernard for his feedback and will continue to review the criteria for the GST Voucher scheme regularly.

Lim Yuin Chien
Director, Corporate Communications
Ministry of Finance
ST Forum, 29 Aug 2015

Exclude home value from GST Voucher criteria

Every year, the Government gives Goods and Services Tax (GST) Vouchers to eligible Singaporeans to help them with their expenses.

However, I am puzzled about the criteria for receiving this voucher.

For instance, if a Singaporean has a Singapore address registered in his identity card, but is living overseas and owns property there, is he eligible for the voucher?

It is frustrating that some parents who are unemployed and living with their children in a private house are also not eligible for the voucher, because the annual value of the home exceeds the limit.

Even Singaporeans living in rented private homes are not eligible for the voucher, even though they do not own the property.

Perhaps the Government should not include the annual value of a property as a criterion for the GST Voucher.

Stewart Christopher Bernard
ST Forum, 26 Aug 2015

Government help schemes: Why annual value of a person's home is relevant

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