Credit Cards KrisFlyer

Earn KrisFlyer miles paying your income tax bill

Your annual income tax bill in Singapore can be a good opportunity to 'buy' a sizeable chunk of KrisFlyer miles at a low cost

Income Tax

It’s that dreaded time of year again if you work in Singapore. IRAS are already posting out the ‘Notice of Assessment’ for your 2017 income tax liability. Thankfully I didn’t receive mine yet!

No one looks forward to paying their tax bill each year, but there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Increasingly it’s become possible to pay your income tax bill with your credit card, in turn earning a sizeable chunk of KrisFlyer miles (or other frequent flyer points if your credit card allows that) for the transaction.

Many of you will already have received and paid your tax bill by now – apologies if you would have found this article useful I did intend to post it last month but it took a backseat.

The catch

This is not a service IRAS offers directly. The transaction must usually be arranged through your credit card company, and they will charge you a fee for the service, which means the miles are not going to be ‘free’.

For example – if like me you hold the Standard Chartered Visa Infinite card (SCVI) the income tax payment processing fee is 1.6%, and the card gives you 1.4 KrisFlyer miles per S$1 spent locally, assuming you have at least S$2,000 of other spend on the card in the same statement month which is a condition of the higher earning rate.

For a S$10,000 tax bill (example to keep the maths easy), the fee will set me back S$160, for 14,000 miles awarded. That means I’m paying 1.14 cents per KrisFlyer mile, which is a great deal as we value them at 2 cents each if used sensibly.

Even if you almost exclusively use your KrisFlyer miles for economy class redemptions, which we don’t recommend, you shouldn’t lose money ‘buying’ at this rate.

The credit card options

Not everyone has the SCVI card, so what other Singapore credit cards offer miles when paying your income tax?

image_standard-chartered-visa-infinite@2x02.png
The SCVI is one of the best-value options for accruing miles when paying your income tax. It requires a hefty income in the first place however. See our review here.

Here’s a table of those which allow it and the effective cost per mile for using the tax payment facility in each case:

Card Fee Miles per
S$1
Cost per mile
SCVI Hi* 1.6% 1.4 1.14¢
HSBC VI 1.5% 1.0 1.50¢
SCVI Lo* 1.6% 1.0 1.60¢
HSBC Revolution 0.7% 0.4 1.75¢
OCBC Voyage 1.9% 1.0 1.90¢
DBS Altitude 3.0% 1.2 2.50¢

* The SCVI tax payment facility offers 1.4 miles per S$1 (Hi rate) only if you have spent over S$2,000 on other transactions in the same statement period. Income tax payment doesn’t count towards the minimum – not specifically stated in the T&Cs but confirmed by Standard Chartered on the phone earlier this month. The agent I spoke with could be wrong, but it’s much safer to clear the spend requirement on other transactions in the same statement period if you’re counting on the 1.4 miles rate. Otherwise 1 mile per S$1 applies (Lo rate).

With the exception of the DBS Altitude card all of these options involve ‘buying’ KrisFlyer miles at less than 2 cents per mile, our personal upper limit to ensure a decent return. Note that for DBS Altitude cardholders, CardUp (see below) offers a better option.

97A_2
Flat-bed luxury awaits for as little as 27,500 miles between Singapore and Hong Kong on the A380’s latest business class. The miles from your income tax bill could go a long way towards it. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

CardUp

If your credit card doesn’t have a tax payment facility (many good ones don’t) there’s still another option to earn miles by paying your income tax bill using your credit card through CardUp.

CardUp.jpg

The issue here is that the fee is higher at 2.6%, so it doesn’t always make sense depending on the miles earning rate of your card and of course the cost at which you’re comfortable ‘buying’ KrisFlyer miles.

Here’s how the cost per mile comes out for major miles earning cards issued in Singapore if you pay through CardUp. Remember that unlike the direct credit card payment facilities listed above, you will also earn miles on the fee CardUp charge you, which is taken account of in the cost per mile column in the table below.

Card Fee Miles per
S$1
Cost per mile
Citi Prestige 2.6% 1.4 1.81¢
UOB PRVI Miles 2.6% 1.4 1.81¢
Citi PremierMiles 2.6% 1.2 2.11¢
DBS Altitude 2.6% 1.2 2.11¢

We added the DBS Altitude card to the CardUp list because it represents much better value to pay your income tax this way than using the DBS tax payment facility.

We first wrote about CardUp last year. If you haven’t used the service before (it can also be used to pay a number of other bills like rent, property tax and school fees), you can enjoy up to S$20 off the transaction fee on your first payment by using our promo code ANDREWC11.

Sign Up HERE

The Process

Direct with your Credit Card Provider

For Credit Card payments there’s a variety of methods depending on the card issuer (for Standard Chartered it’s online – for some others there’s a manual form).

In all cases to the best of our knowledge you must upload or submit your Notice of Assessment and provide your bank account details. If the application is accepted the card issuer will transfer the amount owed to your personal bank account and you will then be responsible for settling your income tax directly with IRAS.

Your card will be charged for the amount transferred to your bank account plus the processing fee, so be prepared to pay this about a month later.

Through CardUp

For CardUp, select ‘Income Tax’ when scheduling a new payment. You’ll be able to make a one-off payment in accordance with your Notice of Assessment (having entered your IRAS reference) and this will be directly transferred to IRAS on your behalf.

Your card will be charged for the total transaction, plus the 2.6% CardUp fee.

Paying Income Tax by Giro

What many people (myself included) prefer to do rather than pay off their annual income tax bill in one lump sum is to let IRAS calculate a monthly GIRO payment plan, which is interest free. You then pay your tax off for the previous year in much smaller monthly sums.

This is still possible if you pay your income tax by credit card, but only with the cards allowing you to do so directly. That’s because CardUp settles directly with IRAS as explained above, while the card issuers just give you the money and trust you to pay IRAS yourself.

Once the credit card company has paid your income tax total into your bank account, you are still responsible for then settling the income tax with IRAS. The credit card company will not check if you have done this, nor are they obliged to.

There is therefore no problem arranging with IRAS to pay your income tax by GIRO and simply use the money the credit card company transferred to you to settle your credit card statement the next month (when the income tax charge will be due).

Your tax payments will then be spread through the year as usual but you’ll still have a chunk of miles from the original transaction.

Summary

If you’ve still to receive your Notice of Assessment or haven’t paid it yet – don’t rush to do so without considering the miles earning options. This can be a big boost to your annual miles total.

9 comments

  1. Did you consider adding the annual fee in your cost per mile calculation, since might consider getting one of those cards just to earn miles on taxes? The HSBC VI has an annual fee of $650 so one would need an income tax payable of 130k to “breakeven” at 2 cents per mile.

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    1. Good point but the article is really designed to help you decide whether a card you already hold should be used to pay the income tax.

      The HSBC VI is certainly an expensive option at S$650 but that does include a sign-up bonus of 35,000 welcome miles (equivalent to buying at 1.86 cents per mile) so I don’t agree that you would need to have a payable tax so high to breakeven as you are effectively already starting at a sub 2 cents per mile base level even after paying the annual fee.

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    1. I made the exact same move two years ago when HSBC VI stopped offering the free airport limos – never looked back.

      SCVI works really well provided you’ll meet the S$2k eligible min spend per month – great miles earning, decent customer service and a second-to-none income tax payment facility.

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      1. Hi Andrew, not true that HSBC no longer has Free Airport Limo.. well.. free if you meet spend every month.. just booked my ride for Mon night.. But overall, you’re right that HSBC has been lowering their card benefits over the years.. Unfortunately, the HSBC paperwork has already been handed in, so looks like SCVI will have to be next year..

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Ken yes you’re right I should have clarified what I meant was when they stopped offering their unlimited airport limos (subject to a minimum monthly spend if I recall).

        I work at the airport so I used this service over 200 times in the two years I held the card (yes I know – I was part of the reason it eventually got capped!). It was good while it lasted.

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  2. Yeah.. I think they are ALL about the same.. in that at launch, they’ll entice people to sign up with good offers, then systematically remove the good bits one by one, in the hopes that either no one notices, or that people can’t be fussed to change.. a bit like OCBC Voyage going from 2.3mpd for dining to 1.6mpd.. or the Amex Centurion.. etc etc..

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  3. Hi Andrew,
    The HSBC website says “You’ll earn one Rewards point for every S$1 charged to your HSBC credit card”. My understanding is that the VI rewards program converts at 2.5 Rewards points to every mile. Wouldn’t this mean that the actual cost per mile is more like 3.75c? Or am I missing something here.

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    1. Yes I should have mentioned that – the HSBC Visa Infinite earns 1 mile (2.5 reward points) per S$1 on income tax payments regardless of what the HSBC site says (it has been wrong for years). The other cards like HSBC Revolution earn 0.4 miles (1 reward point) per S$1.

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