Since Parliament announced the Solidarity Budget and the revised Self-Employed Person (SEP) Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) on April 6, an approximate 100,000 self-employed individuals would automatically benefit from government relief measures of up to $9000 for a period of 9 months.
The two key enhancements to SIRS include SEPs who have a monthly income of no more than $2,300 from employment work, as well as those who live in a property (based on individuals’ place of residence on their NRIC) that has an annual value of up to $21,000.
For those who are still unsure, here are the following enhanced eligibility criteria for people who qualify for this scheme:
- Be a Singaporean citizen
- Began work as an SEP on or before 25 March 2020;
- Currently earning a Net Trade Income (NTI) of not more than $100,000;
- If SEP also has employment (i.e. dual status worker), the income earned as an employee must be up to $2,300 per month;
- Living in a property with an Annual Value (AV) of up to $21,000; and
- Does not own two or more properties.
For married Singaporean SEPs, the following additional criteria apply:
- The SEP individual and spouse together must not own two or more properties; and
- The Assessable Income of his/her spouse cannot exceed $70,000.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s criteria qualifying (and disqualifying) various groups of SEPs above bring to mind why it is always important to honestly file one’s taxes timely and honestly, register one’s business accurately as well has have the required documents to prove one is rightfully self-employed.
#1 Filing Income Taxes In A Timely And Accurate Manner
Typically, residents in Singapore need to file their completed tax forms between 1 March to 18 April every year online or by 15 April (in cases of paper filing). This year, due to COVID-19, the deadline has been extended to 31 May 2020.
Since Singaporean SEPs aged 37 (as at 31 Dec 2020) and over in 2020 who declared positive SEP income to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) / CPF Board (CPFB) for Work Year 2018 do not need to apply, those who filed their income taxes properly would automatically qualify for SIRS and receive the first SIRS payout in end-May 2020.
Thus, the introduction of the SIRS to tackle the economic fallout due to COVID-19 is a lesson for SEPs to file taxes in an accurate manner, even if the self-employed income is so insignificant as to not have any tax impact.
#2 Registering One’s Business Accurately
The second lesson one can draw from the introduction of the COVID-19 SIRS scheme is the significance of registering one’s business accurately in Singapore.
If a SEP had registered his or her business as a sole proprietorship previously and if he or she also qualifies for all requirements for the SIRS, he or she will get $9,000 worth of benefits.
However, if the SEP had registered his or her business as a private limited company, he or she will be disqualified from this scheme even if he or she satisfies other existing requirements.
Thus a business owner who runs a one-man show in a small business registered as a private limited company will be unable to qualify from the SIRS because he or she draws a monthly salary as a company employee rather than as a SEP.
Additionally, the same business owner will not benefit from other government schemes such as the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) as he or she does not have other employees to subsidise in the current recession.
#3 Having The Necessary Documentary Proof
Besides, the unprecedented COVID-19 economic crisis that heralded in unprecedented levels of government spending in Singapore has another lesson to teach us, that is, the importance of having the necessary documentary proof detailing one’s work as a SEP.
Although being self-employed means working on one’s own schedule and terms, one would still need necessary documentation proving the nature of one’s work as well as to dutifully file income taxes (see point 1 above).
Credit responsibilities aside, having various documentation detailing the scope of your work are beneficial as one might qualify for governmental support schemes in times of economic difficulty, such as the most recent SIRS.
An example of an important document a SEP can have (especially if he or she is operating a business in the form of a sole proprietorship) is the profit and loss statement. This statement should reflect all expenditures, business-associated deposits and income. Having documents such as profit-and-loss statements can help one keep organised records as well as be eligible for possible governmental benefits.
Learning From Past Mistakes Is The Best Way Forward
It is not the time to whine about not qualifying for SIRS simply because one did not file one’s income taxes honestly and early on.
Neither it is the time to try to abuse the system to get as much of the payouts pie as possible – if one obviously does not qualify.
Rather, this recent COVID-19 SIRS payout scheme should be a timely reminder on the importance of keeping accurate and organised records of one’s income and business activities.
Honestly and punctually filing one’s income returns and taxes as well as having relevant proof of one’s activities as a SEP will go a long way in mitigating lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent ‘circuit breaker’ measures imposed by the Singapore government to stem the number of infections.
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