Last chance to plan your taxes for 2018

tax

As 2018 draws to a close, it’s that time of the year again where I access my tax position and decide if I wish to use any of the limited tools to manage my tax bill. I’ll encourage you to do so as well as efficient tax planning can help you save on unnecessary taxes.

To help you get through this quickly, here’s a guide to access your tax position and what you need to do should you decide to manage your taxes for 2018.

Step 1: Prepare a rough tax computation

Don’t know how to prepare a rough tax computation?

Well, I was bored over the holidays and decided to come up with my own Personal Tax Calculator for your use absolutely free. Download it, edit it however you like, use it. Just follow the instructions inside the excel file, answer all the questions and fill in the relevant blanks in the Raw Input Data tab and viola! You have automatically created a fairly accurate tax computation for your own reference.

I must say that the calculator was created as a quick tool for your reference and I’ve endeavoured to make the information presented and formulas as accurate and as bug-free as possible. That said, I am human so do reach out to me if you find any unforeseen errors / bugs by dropping me a comment / email.

Step 2: Assess your tax payable

Now that you have done a tax computation, does that tax payable figure presented in the computation seem too high? Do you wish to reduce your tax bill further?

My taxes are quite minimal at the moment so I am quite happy to sit on it till I hit higher income tax brackets.

Step 3: Manage your taxes

I’ve written quite extensively on this topic in the past. Here are some tax planning articles I’ve written for your quick reference:

  1. Tax reliefs
  2. CPF Cash Top Up
  3. Supplementary Retirement Scheme
  4. Bringing it all together – How to best utilise these reliefs to your advantage

TLDR Summary

  • Maximise your family support reliefs as these are gone if you don’t claim
  • Decide if you wish to utilise retirement support reliefs to manage your taxes further
  • There are mainly 3 retirement support reliefs available, CPF Medisave account Cash Contribution, CPF Special / Retirement account top up for you and your family and Supplementary Retirement Scheme account top up.
  • Deciding which avenue to utilise depends on your needs and goals, see Part 4 for a decision flowchart to help you decide
  • Each dollar topped up to each of these accounts will entitle you to a dollar of tax relief

You simply need to top up the respective CPF / SRS accounts before year end to qualify for the reliefs.

Summary

Tax planning can be complicated, but with my articles and now my tax calculator, I hope to help reduce the hassle and make tax planning more accessible for you. Do feel free to drop me an email or comment if you have any clarification questions on this.

Wishing all a belated Merry Christmas and an early Happy New Year.

Happy Hunting,
KK

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Personal tax planning 3: Supplementary Retirement Scheme

SRS

Welcome to part 3 of my basic personal income tax planning series! In this series of posts I hope to cover the following topics:

  1. Tax reliefs
  2. CPF Cash Top Up
  3. Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS)
  4. Bringing it all together – How to best utilise these reliefs to your advantage

In this part, I will cover how contributing to your SRS account can be used as a tool to mitigate your tax bill. Here’s a brief introduction to SRS.

What is SRS?

SRS is a government initiative to complement the CPF system and incentivise Singaporeans and PRs to save and invest more for retirement. It is completely privately operated and run by the 3 local banks – DBS, OCBC and UOB.

SRS is essentially a tax deferred investment vehicle. What this means is that contributions to the account (which is assumed to be derived from your income) are not subject to tax when contributed, but will be subject to tax years later when withdrawals are made. The beauty of this is that you can plan to commence withdrawals when you have retired and don’t have a high amount of taxable income, thus minimising your tax liability on withdrawal.

SRS Infographic

Assumes no early withdrawals

Some key points to note about SRS:

  1. General
    1. Statutory retirement age refers to the statutory retirement age at the time of your first contribution. This is currently 62 years old.
    2. You can only have 1 SRS account.
    3. The agent banks do charge fees on the transactions and account maintenance. The fee schedule for DBS and UOB can be found here and here. OCBC does not publish a fee schedule but based on my personal experience, there’s no account maintenance fees but I can’t recall the transaction costs but it should be comparable to DBS and UOB.
  2. Contributions
    1. Current annual contribution cap is $15,300.
    2. Contributions can be used for investments in stocks, bonds, gold, unit trusts and government treasuries.
    3. Cash balances are paid interest based on the prevailing bank interest rates.
  3. Withdrawals
    1. Early withdrawals before statutory retirement age are 100% subject to tax. It is also subject to a 5% penalty fee.
    2. 50% of withdrawals after statutory retirement age is subject to tax, ie if you withdraw $40,000, only $20,000 is subject to tax.
    3. You are given 10 years from the year you make your first withdrawal to completely withdraw your SRS funds.
    4. Point 3(b) when combined with point 3(c) plus the fact that the first $20,000 of taxable income in a given year is tax free, means that you can withdraw up to $400,000 worth of funds tax-free over 10 years, assuming you have no other taxable income sources.
    5. Withdrawals after statutory retirement age can be made in the form of cash or investments, subject to certain conditions.

Tax Relief

As mentioned in part 1, you will receive a dollar for dollar tax relief up to $15,300 per annum (due to current contribution caps) for your SRS contributions. Contributions can be made via iBanking by simply transferring the funds into the SRS account.

There’s nothing complicated about this relief, you just need to consider the Pros and Cons before contributing to SRS.

Pros and Cons

SRS Pros and Cons

Given the above, you should aim to accumulate no more than $400,000 of investments and contributions within your SRS account to maximise the tax benefits of this scheme. Of course, if you are fine with paying a bit of taxes, it is perfectly fine to disregard this target as you are still paying a relatively low tax rate as illustrated below.

Withdrawal tax exposure

Conclusion

The Supplementary Retirement Scheme is a tax deferred investment account that allows you defer your current taxes (through tax reliefs) to a future date while helping you save for retirement. This enables you to do some tax planning to mitigate your annual tax bill.

Now that you know about the 3 main tools at your disposal for personal tax planning, my last post of this series will examine the overall strategy that I employ for my own taxes as well as the priority I assign to each tax planning tool. Until next time.

Happy Hunting
KK

Personal tax planning 2: CPF Cash Top-up

Summary

Welcome to part 2 of my basic personal income tax planning series! In this series of posts I hope to cover the following topics:

  1. Tax reliefs
  2. CPF Cash Top Up
  3. Supplementary Retirement Scheme
  4. Bringing it all together – How to best utilise these reliefs to your advantage

In this part, I will cover how topping up your CPF can be used as a tool to mitigate your tax bill. As mentioned in Part 1, there are 2 ways to top up your CPF to obtain reliefs:

  1. Top up your / your family member’s Special Account (SA) / Retirement Account (RA)
  2. Voluntary contributions to your Medisave Account (MA)

Topping up of SA / RA

The Retirement Sum Topping Up Scheme (RSTU) allows you to top up your / your family member’s SA / RA with cash gives you a dollar for dollar tax relief of up to $14,000 ($7,000 for your own account, $7,000 for your family member’s account). The amount of relief you will obtain is subject to the following limit on cash top-up as well:

SA Cap.JPG

Source: IRAS

The current FRS for 2018 is $171,000, this cap will be readjusted annually until you turn 55.

Do note that tax relief for topping up your spouse or sibling’s SA / RA is only applicable if he / she had $4,000 or less income (including tax exempt income like interest and SG dividends) in the Year of Assessment.

Voluntary contributions to your MA

There are 2 ways to perform voluntary CPF contributions annually:

  1. Contribute generally to your CPF OA, SA and MA accounts in accordance with prevailing allocation rates.
  2. Contribute specifically to your MA.

The advantage to contributing specifically to your MA vs general voluntary contributions is the dollar for dollar tax relief given for contributing to your MA. The amount of tax relief is limited to the lowest of the following:

  1. Voluntary cash contribution to your MA; or
  2. Annual CPF contribution cap (currently $37.740 p.a.) less mandatory contributions
  3. Prevailing Basic Healthcare sum (currently $54,500) less MA balance before voluntary contributions

Pros and Cons of Contributing to your CPF SA / RA / MA

Topping up your CPF accounts is non-refundable and you should take the requisite time to weigh the following before acting:

Pros and Cons

Some people say that you can view your CPF SA and MA contributions as investing in a 30 year Government Treasury yielding minimum 4% and they do it in place of the bond component in their investment portfolio. For me, I’ve yet to voluntarily contribute to my CPF as I’m not at a high income tax bracket currently and I wish to retain the flexibility of capital to deploy opportunistically. Whether you choose to contribute or not is very much dependent on your tax situation and risk appetite. I will elaborate on this in my final post of this series.

Contribute to SA or MA?

There is no specific advantage of topping up your SA over contributing to your MA as both earn 4% in interest p.a. and both give the same amount of dollar for dollar relief (subject to caps). It depends on your personal preference, bearing in mind the purpose of the SA and MA.

The SA is set up specifically for your retirement. You can use the funds for the CPF Investment Scheme (CPFIS) if you have a minimum balance of $40,000 if you choose to. When you turn 55, the FRS is deducted first from your SA and if insufficient, then from your OA. The funds are transferred to your RA to fund CPF Life.

The MA is used mainly to help fund healthcare costs and pay for Medishield Life and your Integrated Shield plans. The money will stay there and not be used to fund your retirement, be it via cash withdrawal at 55 or to fund CPF Life.

As such, ultimately you have to decide for yourself – fund my retirement or fund my medical / insurance bills?

Conclusion

Contributing to your CPF is a tool you can use to mitigate your tax bill with some planning. It has however, many facets to consider prior to contributing, over and beyond just tax benefits. I will discuss how to best utilise this tax relief in the final post of this series.

Till my next post in this series on the Supplementary Retirement Scheme.

Happy Hunting,
KK

Personal tax planning 1: Tax reliefs

Tax-Relief.jpg

Welcome to my basic personal income tax planning series! In this series of posts I hope to cover the following topics:

  1. Tax reliefs
  2. CPF Cash Top Up
  3. Supplementary Retirement Scheme
  4. Bringing it all together – How to best utilise these reliefs to your advantage

This series of posts assumes that you understand the basic concepts of income tax and personal reliefs as well as the filing requirements. If you are new to income tax, I recommend that you go through the information on the IRAS website which provides a basic overview of things.

Know your personal reliefs

I’ve come across some friends that doesn’t even bother to fire up the IRAS myTax Portal every year to at least take a look at their tax filing, let alone adjust their filings. To that I say thank you for your outsized contribution to nation building! 😝

Let’s be clear, tax planning is not tax evasion. It’s about efficiency and paying your fair share. And knowing your reliefs is a large part of that. IRAS has done up a pretty nifty relief eligibility tool, I encourage you to play around with it and learn more about the various reliefs available. Who knows, maybe you could save some taxes in the process.

The reliefs I’ll be covering are those that require action on your part to qualify for (be it to proactively elect to claim the relief or perform the requirements), as if you do not even know the relief exists, you might not act in the first place. Generally I’ll be classifying them into 2 categories – family support and retirement / career support.

Family support reliefs

Generally this class of reliefs reflects the Government’s attempt to incentivise working Singaporeans to help support their family members in their old age or handicapped condition, or to have more children. This class of reliefs require you to elect to claim this relief in your annual tax filing and are more binary in nature (ie either you qualify or you don’t), resulting in limited tax planning opportunities.

Here is a summary of the available reliefs:

Family support reliefs

1 – Depends on whether the dependent stays with you
2 – Depends on whether the dependent is handicapped

Here are some infographics provided by IRAS for sharing with you guys:

More Tax Savings for Families

Child-Related Reliefs

Parent Relief

Generally if you are supporting a child, parent, grandparent, in-law, grandparent-in-law or spouse, you probably qualify. These reliefs generally have conditions like whether the dependent stays with you, or if you have incurred $2,000 in the YA to support these dependents who don’t stay with you, or if they have <$4,000 income in the past year. Some of the reliefs can be shared with your siblings or spouse so there’s some planning you need to discuss with your siblings / spouse. For more information on the conditions, I refer you to the relief eligibility tool from IRAS linked above.

The great thing about these reliefs is that once you claim it in one year, IRAS automatically applies it to your subsequent years’ tax filings. So going forward if nothing changes, you do not need to adjust your reliefs again.

I will talk a bit more about how to best utilise these reliefs in the last post of this series.

Retirement / Career support reliefs

This class of reliefs are the Government’s way to incentivise Singaporeans to upgrade yourself and take charge of your retirement. These reliefs require you to proactively do something to qualify for the relief. As a result, these reliefs have greater flexibility for tax planning purposes.

There are 3 reliefs I will cover in this section:

  1. Course fee relief
  2. CPF Cash Top-up relief / CPF relief
  3. Supplementary Retirement Scheme relief

Course fee relief

This relief allows you to claim up to $5,500 per year in tax reliefs for courses you have taken that will lead to a professional / vocational qualification or are relevant to your current or new employment. This does not cover courses you take for fun (RIP cooking courses) or general skills (RIP Microsoft Office courses). You can also choose to defer the claims up to 2 years (the earlier of 2 years or the year you have an assessable income >$22,000) if your assessable income is less than $22,000 in the year you incur the costs.

Pretty straight forward relief, nothing much to add. Just remember this relief when you go for professional courses and keep the invoices or records for this relief when you claim it, in case IRAS audits you.

CPF Cash Top-up / CPF Relief

There are 2 ways you can voluntarily top up your CPF account to get tax reliefs:

1. Top up your / family member’s Special Account / Retirement Account

You can voluntarily top up your own or your family’s Special Account (if you are under 55) or Retirement Account (if you are over 55) and get a dollar for dollar tax relief of up to $14,000 per year ($7,000 for your own accounts, $7,000 for your family members’).

2. Top up your Medisave Account

You can voluntarily top up your Medisave Account and get a dollar for dollar tax relief.

The CPF Board will automatically notify IRAS of the voluntary contributions you have made to the respective accounts. Do note that there are caps on topping up your Special / Retirement / Medisave Account, which I will cover in greater detail in my next post.

Supplementary Retirement Scheme Relief

Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) is a voluntary scheme that the Government hopes to encourage Singaporeans to save over and beyond the CPF for retirement. It is a account you can open with any of the 3 local banks and contributions are given a dollar for dollar tax relief. The funds deposited can be used for investment purposes. Do note that there is a annual contribution cap of $15,300 per year.

SRS relief is automatically credited to you annually as your bank will notify IRAS of your annual contributions. I will cover this scheme and its key considerations before you contribute in greater depth in my 3rd post of this series.

Summary

Knowing your reliefs is important if you wish to perform some tax planning to mitigate your annual tax liability. I’ve given you a brief overview of the various reliefs that are not automatically claimed. For more in-depth explanations on the qualifying criteria, you can visit the IRAS website.

Till my next post on the CPF Cash Top-up Relief.

Happy Hunting,
KK