Legal Ways to Avoid the Tax Man

By Farhan Shah

It’s that time of the year again.

Newly-minted working professionals fret about how much they have to give and whether they will miss out on anything while those who are more experienced complain about the amount of paper work that they might have to potentially face. That’s right; it’s tax-filing season.

Besides being one of the legal obligations that all working professionals who earn above S$22,000 annually have to fulfil, taxes are also used for a variety of state and country expenses. Unfortunately, evading taxes is a crime in Singapore and is punishable in a court of law.

However, there are numerous ways to actually legally avoid the long arm of the tax man while doing your part for society at the same time. We compile a few choice options, breaking it down into easy-to-understand language, which will help you reduce the amount of taxes you have to pay:

Donations

Cash donations: Besides helping a charity that is close to your heart, cash donations have, until 2015, the added benefit of getting tax deductions which are 2.5 times the amount you donated. What this means is that for every S$1 you donate, you get S$2.50 off your taxable income. The only caveat is that the charity you donate to has to be recognised as an Institution of Public Character (IPC). To check whether the charity that will be benefiting from your public-spiritedness is an IPC, you can visit the Charity Portal here.

Another way you can check is by calling the charity directly and asking whether they have received IPC status.

Shares donations: Similar to cash donations, donating shares to your favourite IPC-status charity will garner you tax deductions of 2.5 times the assessed amount of the shares.

Land and artefact donations: If you happen to have a spare old stamp lying around or hold the deed to a piece of land in Singapore and are not sure what to do with it, you might want to consider donating it, either to an IPC charity (land) or to an Approved Museum (artefact). The value of the artefact or the land will be assessed by the respective organisations and voila, your taxable income will be decreased by 2.5 times the value of your donation.

Public Art Tax Incentive Scheme (PATIS): Public Art Tax Incentive Scheme (PATIS): If you’re a budding artist who wants to have your art displayed or you love a piece of art so much that you would like to adopt it, then you can revel in the fact that you can get tax breaks under this scheme. Administered by the National Heritage Board, PATIS encourages you to contribute to the art scene in Singapore by giving you tax deductions at 2.5 times the value of your art piece. For more information on how you can contribute to PATIS, visit here.

Reliefs

Besides donations, you can also get your taxable income reduced by claiming for the numerous reliefs available. Here are some lesser-known reliefs that you might not know you’re entitled to.

Course fees relief: Course fees relief were introduced to encourage people to continually upgrade themselves so as to remain gainfully employable their whole lives. Aimed at the working professional, the relief can be claimed as long as the course, seminar or conference leads to an approved academic or professional qualification, relates to the trade or business the person is in, or does not relate to the trade or business but is now relevant due to a career change.

In simple terms, if you have always wanted to be a chef but baulked at the course fees you will have to fork out, you will be glad to know that you can claim up to S$5,500 of the course fees as tax relief, which can sometimes mean the difference between paying taxes and not paying any at all.

Unfortunately, IRAS does not have a specific listing of approved academic and professional courses but a general rule of thumb is that if the course, seminar or conference is not for leisure or to acquire general skills and knowledge, like mastery of the Microsoft Office suite, it is claimable for course fees relief.

CPF cash top-up relief: Instead of giving money to the tax man, why not give the money to yourself or to your loved ones? The CPF cash top-up relief scheme allows you to do just that, while evading the tax man at the same time. Your relief will be matched dollar to dollar, depending on how much you top up, either to your or to your loved ones’ account. Take note that you can only get up to a maximum of S$7,000 tax relief for each category.

Working mother’s child relief: Workings mothers in Singapore, rejoice! As a way to encourage mothers to re-enter the workforce, they can claim tax relief for each child that they have, up to a maximum of 25% of the mother’s income, depending on what order the child is born in. The best bit: This relief can be claimed on top of the more commonly known Qualifying Child relief, which is a tax rebate for married parents who have kids.

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For a full list of tax-deductible donations and tax reliefs that you are entitled to or can claim for, visit the two sites below for more.

Donations

Reliefs

Happy filing!

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