Updated: 3rd August 2020
It’s that time of year again when the dreaded IRAS income tax Notice of Assessment lands on the doormat (or more likely these days by SMS inviting you to log on and download it). While we haven’t received ours yet, we’ve already had many messages from readers who have, with the same question every year. “What’s the best way to earn miles when paying?”
Analysing all the options isn’t really worth doing until two major players in the market have revealed their respective offers for the year – CardUp and ipaymy.
Last week we had the answer from both card payment providers, and this week CardUp even cut its rate to match the competition with a special offer code for Mainly Miles readers – so it’s time to crunch the numbers and outline your best value options to turn one of the year’s single biggest expenses into thousands of miles at a reasonable cost.
Deferring your income tax payment
First point to note this year is that in view of the financial pressures many are facing due to the COVID-19 situation, IRAS is allowing you to defer your 2020 income tax payments by three months if you wish.
Provided your income tax is payable in May, June or July 2020 and you are not:
- a non-Singapore citizen employee who has sought tax clearance; or
- an employee of a foreign employer
you are eligible to apply for this tax extension.
If you are paying by GIRO and you defer your tax payment, there will be no GIRO deduction in May, June or July 2020. Your income tax deduction will resume in August, September or October 2020 and the end date of your instalment plan will be extended by 3 months. Your amount of income tax payable remains the same. For example:
|If you continue with current GIRO deduction||If your income tax payment is deferred|
|Instalment plan will run from May 2020 to April 2021||Instalment plan will run from August 2020 to July 2021|
If you are paying by lump sum and you defer your tax payment, your due date for income tax payment will be deferred to start from August 2020. For example:
|Current Payment Due Date||Payment Due Date if your income tax is deferred|
|5th May 2020||5th August 2020|
|15th June 2020||15th September 2020|
|23rd July 2020||23rd October 2020|
Note: Don’t worry if, like us, you haven’t received your bill yet and/or don’t have a ‘Notice of Assessment’ date showing at the online portal. IRAS sends out NoAs between now and September 2020, so your tax liability may be in a later ‘batch’.
Paying by credit card
As with last year, credit card payment for your income tax bill is not a service offered by IRAS directly. The transaction must usually be arranged through your credit card issuer or a third-party card payments provider, and they will charge you a fee for the service, which unfortunately means the miles you accrue are not going to be ‘free’.
The options for paying your income tax this year are almost the same as in 2019. You can do so with one of six bank-specific facilities, if you hold one of their eligible miles-earning credit cards, or through the two major card payment providers, CardUp and ipaymy.
|0.5 – 1.5%|
|1.6 – 1.9%|
|1.75 – 2.4%|
|1.75 – 2.25%|
The options available to you depend on the credit card(s) you hold. Remember your income tax bill is payable within a month of your ‘Notice of Assessment’ (NOA) date, unless your NOA states otherwise (e.g. the extension applied as mentioned above), so there may still be time to apply for and receive a new credit card with a superior miles earning rate if you wish.
Note that BOC also allows income tax payment through some of its credit cards for a 1% fee, but does not award any points for the transaction, making it of little interest to our readers and not worth mentioning in this article.
Additionally there are two more methods – the CardUp and ipaymy options for circumstances where your card provider’s rate is unattractive (examples include some Citi, DBS and UOB options), or your credit card provider does not offer a miles-earning tax payment service (e.g. BOC).
CardUp’s 2020 Income Tax offer
CardUp was first out of the starting gate with its 2020 Income Tax payment deal, offering a discounted rate of 1.89% for new to CardUp account holders and 1.99% for existing users.
CardUp has since launched a special offer for Mainly Miles readers, with a one-time discounted fee of 1.75%, matching the market-leading rate offered by ipaymy for 2020 income tax payments.
Despite first excluding Citi and Standard Chartered credit cards from the offer, this rate is now applicable for all Singapore-issued Visa and and Mastercard cardholders.
CardUp also has a discounted 2.4% fee for new and existing users paying their income tax by American Express card (usual rate 2.6%), with the exception of Amex cards issued by DBS, UOB or Amex Corporate cards or the Amex SIA Business card.
It’s worth noting that this year CardUp is the only platform supporting income tax payment using American Express cards.
Please feel free to use our promo code shown above (MM175TAX20) if you choose to pay by Visa or Mastercard using CardUp, to activate the 1.75% fee and to help support Mainly Miles.
Full terms and conditions for the MM175TAX20 promo code are available here.
What if I already used your previous CardUp codes? Don’t worry – the CardUp team will be in touch with you to offer additional discounts to make up for the difference in the fee you paid already, compared to this new 1.75% special reader rate.
ipaymy’s 2020 Income Tax offer
Ipaymy was the first this year to offer a market-leading 1.75% fee, the lowest we’ve ever seen from one of these providers for income tax payment (last year ipaymy offered a 1.99% fee – so this is a 10% discount in comparison).
|One-time IRAS income tax payment with a Singapore-issued Visa or Mastercard.|
In a newly extended offer until 31st August 2020, ipaymy has removed its exclusions for Mastercards, meaning all Singapore-issued Visa and Mastercards are included in ipaymy’s offer (even for Citi and Standard Chartered, which were previously restricted on the Mastercard side).
ipaymy is not currently offering payment using American Express cards.
Whether you use CardUp or ipaymy therefore probably depends on which one you have used previously, since you may not want to go to the hassle of opening a new account.
Citi PayAll rate change
Citi is running a deal through it’s PayAll service with an enhanced 1.5 mpd earn rate for IRAS income tax payments its PremierMiles cards between now and the end of August 2020.
For clarity, our tables show the cost per mile for Citi PM PayAll income tax payments applicable until 31st August and from 1st September.
Best deals for your 2020 income tax payment
Let’s take a look at the table (which we’ve split into four this year, depending on how good a deal we think you’re getting).
The formula is simply the fee divided by the number of miles you will receive, to generate a cost per mile.
Bear in mind that for both CardUp and ipaymy you will also earn miles on the fee itself, which is accounted for in the calculation. That’s not the case when you use the bank-specific or Citi PayAll payment methods, where the fee itself will not earn miles. For example:
- S$10,000 payment via CardUp at 1.99% fee (S$199) with 1.2 mpd card = $10,199 charge x 1.2 mpd = 12,239 miles. $199 / 12,239 = 1.63 cents cost per mile.
- S$10,000 payment via Citi PayAll at 2% fee (S$200) with 1.2 mpd card = $10,000 charge x 1.2 mpd = 12,000 miles. $200 / 12,200 = 1.67 cents cost per mile.
In other words the fee is still applied in both cases, but in the second example no miles are earned for the fee element.
Here’s our definitive list of your credit card income tax payment options for 2020. Simply start at the top (lowest cost per mile), and work your way down the table until you find a credit card you hold or wish to use.
Updated 3rd August 2020
Excellent cost per mile
You can ‘buy’ miles paying your income tax by credit card from between 1.07 cents and 1.25 cents each, an excellent rate for most of us, using the following methods.
|OCBC Premier Voyage||1.75%||1.6||1.07¢|
|OCBC Premier Voyage||1.75%||1.6||1.07¢|
|UOB PRVI Visa||1.75%||1.4||1.23¢|
|UOB PRVI Visa||1.75%||1.4||1.23¢|
|UOB PRVI MC||1.75%||1.4||1.23¢|
|UOB PRVI MC||1.75%||1.4||1.23¢|
* 1.4 mpd earn rate for the SCVI card is subject to a minimum spend of S$2,000 in the same statement cycle as your income tax payment. The income tax payment does count towards the minimum.
** Step up earn rate for HSBC VI is only applicable from year 2 of card membership onwards, provided you spent at least S$50,000 in the previous year.
Good cost per mile
Buying miles at 1.32 to 1.5 cents each is usually considered a good rate, so don’t despair if you didn’t find an option above – take a look at the following ways.
(until 31 Aug)
(until 31 Aug)
|DBS Alt Visa||1.75%||1.2||1.43¢|
|DBS Alt Visa||1.75%||1.2||1.43¢|
* Step up earn rate for HSBC VI is only applicable from year 2 of card membership onwards, provided you spent at least S$50,000 in the previous year.
Still worth considering
As miles purchase rates fall into the 1.54 – 1.9 cents range (1.9 cents being our personal upper limit to buy), they may still be worth considering if you are comfortable with these levels and can’t take advantage of the ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ options outlined above.
|Citi PM Amex||2%||1.3||1.54¢|
|Citi PM Visa
(from 1 Sep)
|Citi PM MC
(from 1 Sep)
|HSBC Visa Plat||0.7%||0.4||1.75¢|
|UOB PRVI Amex||2.6%||1.4||1.81¢|
Probably of no interest
If you still don’t have a credit card payment option in the lists above to settle your income tax bill, it’s probably time to either get one, or call it quits.
The following options all come in above our personal limit to buy miles, and should only be considered if you are 100% comfortable doing so.
|UOB PRVI (any)||2%||1.0||2.00¢|
|DBS Alt Amex||2.6%||1.2||2.11¢|
|DBS Alt Amex||3%||1.2||2.50¢|
|DBS Alt Visa||3%||1.2||2.50¢|
We have deliberately excluded using your OCBC and UOB Mastercards at ipaymy’s 2.25% fee, as each of these cards already has a cheaper option available, so there would be no need do so.
We also included the last card, the DBS WWMC, simply as an example of a clearly ridiculously expensive option. There are others in this category which we haven’t listed (e.g. the Citi Rewards card under Citi PayAll with a 2% fee makes absolutely no sense at a cost of 5 cents per mile).
It’s also worth mentioning that unfortunately no cards accrue their bonus 4 mpd rate for income tax payments through any means (that would be too easy!).
Two payment ‘methods’
The various card payment providers may seem the same, but in fact there are two distinct ways in which they help you to settle your income tax bill.
There is the ‘Return Payment Method’, where you produce your NoA to the supplier and they transfer the relevant amount to your bank account while charging your credit card for the same amount plus the processing fee.
The there is the ‘Direct to IRAS Method’, where the supplier will still charge your card with your NoA balance plus the processing fee, but will settle your income tax account with IRAS directly.
Here’s a summary of which providers do what:
Return Payment Method
Direct to IRAS Method
* These methods are designed for any payment with any purpose and a copy of your NoA is not required.
** Standard Chartered EasyBill is not available to all Standard Chartered credit card holders; eligibility is based on the bank’s own internal review processes and policies.
What’s the difference, you might ask. The key difference between the ‘Return Payment Method’ and the ‘Direct to IRAS Method’ is:
- The ‘Return Payment Method’ can be completed as many times as you like, and gives you the freedom to pay your tax bill by monthly GIRO if that’s what you prefer. You are responsible for paying IRAS, the intermediary has no knowledge of this.
- The ‘Direct to IRAS Method’ can only be completed once, and you can no longer pay your tax bill by monthly GIRO. The intermediary is responsible for paying IRAS on your behalf.
In other words you can repeat several different ‘Return Payment Methods’, but any option using the ‘Direct to IRAS Method’ can only be used once.
You can ‘churn’ several tax payments
This gives you the opportunity to earn even more miles from your income tax statement by following the ‘Return Payment Methods’ as many times as you think you are getting good value for them.
For example, say I just received an S$11,200 income tax NoA from IRAS, but I hold the following four credit cards:
- HSBC Premier
- OCBC Voyage
- Standard Chartered Visa Infinite (SCVI)
- UOB PRVI Miles Visa
Entering our tables above at the top, I can immediately see I should use the SCVI card through the bank’s own tax payment programme (cost 1.14 cpm).
However if I want to ‘churn’ as many miles as possible, I can do the following (subject to a sufficient credit limit on each card):
- SCVI Income Tax payment through the bank
- HSBC Premier Income Tax payment through the bank
- OCBC Voyage Income Tax payment through the bank
Then finally actually settle my IRAS tax bill with:
- UOB PRVI Miles Visa through ipaymy
Now instead of the 15,680 miles I would get from the SCVI bank payment facility (at a cost of 1.14 cpm), I will earn:
- 15,680 miles from SCVI (Fee S$179.20, 1.14 cpm)
- 4,480 miles from HSBC (Fee S$56.00, 1.25 cpm)
- 11,200 miles from OCBC Voyage (Fee S$212.80, 1.9 cpm)
- 15,954 miles from UOB PRVI Miles (Fee S$196.00, 1.23 cpm)
Total: 47,314 miles for a combined fee of S$644 = 1.36 cents per mile.
I’ve just earned enough miles for a Business Class saver award ticket on SIA from Singapore to Tokyo or Seoul for S$644.
Just to put your mind at ease, there is nothing in the terms and conditions for any of the ‘Return Payment Method’ providers that prevents you from doing this, just be careful to only use a ‘Direct to IRAS’ method once.
Paying income tax by GIRO
As we mentioned above, if you wish to pay your income tax bill by monthly GIRO payment plan with IRAS but still earn miles on your annual bill, you’ll be restricted to one of the ‘Return Payment Methods’:
- SCVI Income Tax Payment
- HSBC Tax Payment
- OCBC Income Tax Payment
- UOB PRVI Pay*
- UOB VI Payment Facility*
Personally we continue to use the SCVI Income Tax Payment facility, use the money they give us to settle our credit card statement the following month, then continue with our IRAS GIRO payment plan throughout the year.
If you can take advantage of that option or a similar one, 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.
Don’t forget about points flexibility
As we said last year, some cards allow you to earn points that can be converted into several Frequent Flyer Programmes, other than the relatively generic Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles schemes.
You can see a full breakdown of who transfers where at our dedicated and continually updated page here.
A good example though would be using your OCBC Voyage card to pay your income tax through CardUp or ipaymy at a cost per mile of 1.32 cents each, while also holding the Citi PremierMiles Visa card, which you could use via Citi PayAll at a cost of 1.33 cents each.
For all intents and purposes, you’re buying miles at ‘close enough’ the same rate here, however your OCBC Voyage Miles only transfer to KrisFlyer, whereas your Citi Miles transfer to:
- SQ KrisFlyer
- CX Asia Miles
- EVA Air
- MH Enrich
- Qatar Privilige Club
- KLM / Air France
- IHG (Hotels)
That’s a LOT of added flexibility for a marginally higher cost per mile in that example.
COVID-19: In the current climate, the future value of your frequent flyer miles is of some concern. Having a wide range of FFPs to transfer your credit card points to in future is therefore potentially a bigger consideration than usual when making your income tax payment choice.
Don’t forget we have a full list of credit card points to frequent flyer programme transfer partners, updated in the last few days, right here on the site for your easy reference.
Don’t forget about transfer blocks
If your best value income tax payment option is with a bank whose cards you don’t typically use year-round, you may find your accrued miles from an income tax payment aren’t very useful, because they fall short of one of the bank’s transfer ‘block’ sizes to airline miles.
That might then force you to use a card you wouldn’t normally use for additional spending in order to reach the next ‘block’ transfer threshold, so do make sure you’re accruing useful credit card points (and a useful amount) that transfers easily or ties in with your year-round spending anyway.
No one likes paying their annual income tax bill, but 2020 has brought one of the widest and most competitive range of options for doing so using your credit card to earn miles in the process.
This year the most competitive cost per mile rates come in at just 1.07 cents each for the top earning (1.6 mpd) credit cards through special offer codes from ipaymy (TAX2020) and CardUp (MM175TAX20).
Even the relatively accessible UOB PRVI Miles card can be used from as little as 1.23 cents per mile – a fantastic rate compared to 2019.
Your income tax payment can be one of the biggest single boosts to your miles balance each year, so do take the time to consider the options in our tables above carefully before committing to your payment method.
As always, the cost per mile (which we have calculated above for almost all cards across all methods) is key to deciding whether this is a good deal for you or not, though there are a few other considerations we’ve highlighted including what range of frequent flyer programmes you’ll be able to transfer into.
What’s your plan for earning miles from your income tax bill this year? Let us know in the comments section below.
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)