As the owner of a major import and export business, it is somewhat inevitable that at some point, your business will inherit some goods and services tax (GST) cash flow issues. This can be caused by new tweaks in GST law that can catch businesses off-guard.

The good news is that for major exporters of goods and services, there are schemes that can be used to help battle these GST cash flow problems. The Major Exporter Scheme (MES) is the crucial path to battling cash flow issues.

Major Exporter Scheme

This scheme is designed for big import and export businesses; cash flow is eased with the application of this scheme. Under the MES, GST is suspended on the import of non-dutiable goods and removal of goods is taken from a Zero- GST warehouse.

Under normal GST rules, companies are obligated to pay an upfront GST on imports. They get reimbursement from the IRAS after submitting their GST returns.

The normal rule can generate cash flow issues for gigantic export businesses because GSTs are not collected from Zero-rated stocks to help offset their first cash expenditure on imports. The Major Exporter Scheme came into effect on the 1st of July 2006.

How to Utilize MES?

As a huge export business, you can only be allowed to tap into the advantages of MES if your business imports goods in the following manner:

  1. Import your own goods in the course or furtherance of your business;
  2. Importing of goods that belong to an overseas principal for sale in Singapore or re-export on behalf of the overseas principal, in the course or furtherance of the business;
  3. Import goods belonging to your overseas principal which will later be re-exported, if the requirements for section 33A agent are satisfied; and
  4. Re-import goods which you previously sent aboard for value-added activities, belonging to your local customer or GST-registered overseas customer, if the requirements under section 33B are satisfied.

For (2) and (3) above, you must make sure that:

  1. Your overseas principal is not a GST-registered company;
  2. Different records are maintained for goods owned by the overseas principal;
  3. Goods owned by your overseas principal are always in your possession; and
  4. Any successive supply of goods is treated as being made by your company
    • Supply should be standard-rated when you locally sell goods.
    • You can Zero-rate the supply when goods are exported, and the required export records are kept.

MES Qualification

 

Certain requirements have to be met by your company for it to fully qualify for MES. They are:

  1. Your business is GST-registered;
  2. Your business is active and financially solvent;
  3. You have been and will be importing goods for your business purposes;
  4. Your zero-rated supplies are more than 50% of your total supplies or more than S$10 million in the past 12 months. For arriving at the value of total supplies, please exclude the following:
  5. You maintain good internal controls and proper accounting records; and
  6. You have goo compliance records with IRAS and Singapore Customs.

How to Apply For MES?

Every qualified major export business owner who is interested in taking advantage of MES is required to sign and complete an application Form GST F10: Application for Major Exporter Scheme.

After completing that requirement, you can either conduct a self-review with the Aid of the Assisted Self-Help Kit (ASK), submit the certified ASK declaration form on completing Annual Review & Voluntary disclosure of Errors or ensure that your company participates in the Assisted Compliance Assurance Program (ACAP).

For business owners who are not interested in going any of the above routes, they can execute a post-ACAP Review (PAR) and deliver the PAR Declaration form (GST F28) for business with a valid ACAP status.

Note, if your company is new or your existing business has changed business direction, you will be required to perform the complete ASK review and submit the certified ASK in the space of 1 year from when the scheme was approved.

A letter of guarantee from a bank or an insurance company may be required before approval is granted.

Once the MES application is successful, you will be notified on the day it was approved. In that notification, the validity period will also be stated this is typically 3 years.

Always endeavor to comply with all MES qualification requirements, because your MES can be rescinded at any time if you falter on any of them.

MES Renewal

When your MES is due for review and you continue to comply with qualification requirements, you will receive a letter inviting you to apply for MES renewal.

After receiving your renewal letter, via myTax Portal, you are expected to turn in Form R1 online. This should contain the certified ASK, and they have to be submitted within the due date declared in the letter.

You will be informed of the result of the review in writing. Meanwhile, your MES will continue to be valid as this is going on. There will also be a review of the requirement for a letter of guarantee. If a letter is required, you will be informed.

If your renewal process is successful, the validity period is then extended to 5 years from the existing 3 years. This was concocted to help decrease the compliance costs for companies.

New applications will still have a validity period of three years and their first renewal will be in the third year of the validity period.

The company review must be certified by an Accredited Tax Advisor or Practitioner (GST) accredited by the Singapore Chartered Tax Professionals Limited (SCTP). It would benefit your business to get an MES expert to guide you on how to apply MES and also assist you with your MES renewal.

Conclusion

MES is one of the best things to happen to the import-export business in Singapore. It prompts companies to utilize Singapore as a transshipment center for import and export goods. Every import and export business should take advantage of this scheme because it enables them to get a kick out of cash flow relief from the suspension of import GST