Your Guide to Importing and Exporting in Singapore

If you want to import and export goods and services in Singapore, you need to ensure that you’re following the correct legal procedures. This quick guide walks you through each step in the process so that you can get started right away.

Step 1: Register with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA)

Singapore is one of the most business-friendly countries in Asia, which is why the process of registering to conduct imports and exports in Singapore is easy, quick, and efficient.

Any business that wants to import and/or export must first register with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). Once the registration is complete, you will receive a Unique Entity Number (UEN). The UEN is a 9 or 10-digit standard ID number for different entities that allows you to interact conveniently with different government agencies.

Step 2: Activate Your Customs Account

The next step in the process is to activate your customs account. Both new and existing businesses can apply to activate their accounts through the Singapore Customs online portal. The application form takes roughly fifteen minutes to complete, and you’ll need the following information to do it:

  • Information about your business (Ex: Date of incorporation / Founder(s) / No. of employees)
  • Identifying and contact information of your primary contact person. This person handles receiving all notifications and correspondence about your customs account, including reminders, licenses, registration, renewal requirement, approval and rejection letters via email, and more
  • The same information as a secondary contact person, in case the primary contact is unavailable.  

You also need to appoint someone in the company to receive notifications whenever there are approved permit applications containing your business’s UEN.

  • Finally, the contact information of authorised personnel whom you authorise to access your customs account.

Once Singapore Customs approves the application, you can use your entity’s UEN to apply for import and/or export permits.

Step 3: Check If the Goods Are Controlled

Before importing or exporting, you also must check if the goods in question are controlled goods that are subject to restrictions by Competent Authorities (CAs) in Singapore. If your goods are subject to these restrictions, you must check with the relevant CAs to obtain the necessary licenses.

If you’re not sure about what your HS or CA product codes are, you can apply for an official classification ruling with Singapore Customs. The fee is S$75 per product.

Step 4: Apply for an Inter-Bank GIRO

You must create an Inter-Bank Giro (IBG) with Singapore Customs to manage the payments of fees, duties, penalties, taxes, and other charges on services offered by Singapore Customs. You can find the registration form via this link under the “Registration Forms” heading.

Step 5: Importing & Exporting

Importing

Most products require the importing party to obtain a customs permit. All permit applications are submitted through TradeNet. Some imported goods are subject to duty payments and/or the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The GST is levied at 7% of the product’s cost, insurance, and freight (CIF) value. The following goods are subject to both duty payments and the GST:

  • Intoxicating liquors
  • Tobacco products
  • Motor vehicles
  • Petroleum products

Any product that does not fall into these categories only incurs the GST. Make sure to contact the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) to ask about how to pay the GST for your imported goods if you’re required to do so.

Exporting

To export goods from Singapore, you must declare your items to Singapore Customs. Please note that the GST and duty payments are not levied on goods exported from Singapore. Permits are required in order to export the following:

  • The temporary export of goods that you want to import quickly afterwards
  • If you’re re-exporting goods under the Temporary Import Scheme
  • The export of locally manufactured goods or local GST-paid goods
  • When you’re exporting non-dutiable goods from a zero-GST warehouse
  • Any goods under the Major Exporter Scheme
  • Dutiable goods from a licensed warehouse
  • Goods that you export from the Free Trade Zone (FTZ)

Just like with imports, all permit applications are given electronically through TradeNet and cost a small fee (usually around S$2.88).  

Flow Charts for Imports and Exports

Depending on where you’re importing your products from or exporting them to, your goods might be subject to Free Trade Zone arrangements. To help you better understand these processes, refer to the flowcharts below about importing and exporting goods.

Imports Flowchart
Exports Flowchart

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. What are the types of import permits?

In-Payment import permits include: Goods and Services Tax (Including Duty Exemption), Duty and GST. In-Non-Payment import permits include: Approved Premises/Schemes, Storage in FTZ, GST Relief and/or Duty Exemption, Temporary Consignments, Destruction, Re-Export, Shut-Out.

  1. Which products do not require permits?
  • Intoxicating liquors not exceeding 10 litres and tobacco not exceeding 0.4 kilograms in the possession or baggage of any person arriving in Singapore
  • Investment precious metals not exceeding 0.5 kilograms for personal use, in the possession or baggage of any person arriving in Singapore
  • Petroleum carried in the supply tank of a motor vehicle or in the fuel supply tanks of an aircraft for its propulsion
  • Petroleum of an amount not exceeding 10 litres in a spare container of a motor vehicle
  • Dutiable and non-dutiable goods imported by postal or courier service unless required by Singapore Customs
  • Non-controlled goods imported by post, including investment precious metals
  • Bona fide trade samples, specimens for analysis or test, and gifts, excluding intoxicating liquors and tobacco, of a total value not exceeding S$400
  • Self-propelled boats for pleasure, recreation, sports or other similar events (for example, sailing yachts)
  • Freight shipping containers for international conveyance of goods
  • Human remains, human bones or cremated ashes  
  1. How do I obtain a customs import/export permit?

To receive an import or export permit, the company must first activate a Customs Account. If the company is applying for the permit under their own name, then the company will need to register as a declaring agent and apply for an inter-bank GIRO with Singapore Customs for any duty/GST payments.