Singaporean woman fined $5,500 for evading GST on luxury bags, shoes

Shoppers walk past the French luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton store in Hong Kong. (LightRocket via Getty Images file photo)
Shoppers walk past the French luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton store in Hong Kong. (LightRocket via Getty Images file photo)

SINGAPORE — A Singaporean woman was fined $5,500 on Thursday (6 October) for under-declaring and evading goods and service tax (GST) on her luxury bags and shoes, including those from Louis Vuitton and Chanel.

Teo Hwee Ling, 37, pleaded guilty at the State Courts to one charge of fraudulent evasion of GST amounting to about $890 across seven luxury goods. Another charge of furnishing false information was taken into consideration during her sentencing.

On 1 May, Teo arrived at Changi Airport on a flight from Frankfurt, and was stopped by Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers for a check on the items in a paper bag that she was carrying, Singapore Customs said in a press release on Thursday (6 October).

She was then directed to the Singapore Customs office where she declared two branded bags, a Louis Vuitton backpack and a Loewe bag, for tax payment, according to a report by CNA.

When asked by a Singapore Customs officer to produce the invoices for the two bags, Teo declared that these were gifts from her friend residing in Germany and she had no knowledge of their value.

As there was no documentation to establish their value, Teo provided a verbal declaration of €1000 ($1,470) and made a GST payment of $68.20 for the bags after deducting the GST import relief for travellers. A relief of $500 was granted to her as she had spent over 48 hours outside of Singapore.

Later in the same month, Singapore Customs received information that there were discrepancies in the declaration made by Teo and her overseas purchases. She was asked to report to Singapore Customs for further investigations.

The agency said investigations revealed that Teo had suppressed the value of the two bags which she declared as gifts when they were her purchases with a value of about $5,060.

"In addition, Teo had also failed to declare five other items, which were valued at about $9,240, on her return to Singapore on 1 May," Singapore Customs added. In total, the seven items were valued at over $14,000.

The five items are a pair of Ferragamo shoes, perfumes, and cosmetics, as well as a Longchamp bag, a Chanel bag, and a Louis Vuitton sling bag, according to court documents seen by CNA. These belonged to her and were brought out of the airport's arrival hall in a luggage without declaration, said Singapore Customs.

The GST short-paid on the two under-declared bags was about $250 and the GST leviable on the five undeclared items was about $640, it added.

"It is the responsibility of all arriving travellers to make accurate and complete declaration of the dutiable and taxable items in their possession for duty and GST payment," said Singapore Customs.

Under the Customs Act, any person found guilty of fraudulent evasion of GST can face a maximum fine of 20 times the amount of tax evaded or a jail term of up to two years, or both.

Those who refuse to answer questions or knowingly give false information or furnish false documents can face a maximum fine of $5,000 or a jail term of up to 12 months, or both.

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