Welcome to the final part of my basic personal income tax planning series! In this series of posts I hope to cover the following topics:
- Tax reliefs
- CPF Cash Top Up
- Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS)
- Bringing it all together – How to best utilise these reliefs to your advantage
In this part, I will cover the considerations and general strategy I use to mitigate my personal tax bill.
The general strategy for tax planning is as follows:
- Maximise your family support reliefs
- Once those are maxed out, consider if further tax mitigation is necessary using retirement support reliefs.
The reason for this is that family support reliefs are always there every year as long as you qualify. If you don’t claim the reliefs, it is wasted. As for retirement support reliefs, there are real downsides to using those reliefs as identified in part 2 & 3. This mainly due to the long lock-up periods and irreversible nature of contributions. As such, you should only use these reliefs if you are fine with the money being locked away and that you are in a high tax bracket.
Family Support Reliefs
1) Maximising your family support reliefs
As talked about in part 1, knowledge is important in maximising your family support reliefs. A quick recap of common reliefs that you should consider claiming:
As a side point, for married women with children, you should definitely at least claim the working mother child relief as this is the government’s most generous tax relief at the moment, whereby you can potentially claim up to 100% of your earned income (depending on the number of children you have and whether you hit the $80,000 personal relief cap).
2) Allocation of family support reliefs
Some of the family support reliefs can be shared with your siblings / spouse, as such there is some potential for tax planning. From a tax efficiency standpoint, it is best to allocate reliefs to taxpayers who are in a higher tax bracket than taxpayers in a low tax bracket. (To me, low tax bracket refers to if your annual taxable income is $80,000 or less, as incrementally you pay a rate of 11.5% beyond that income level) This is because each dollar of tax relief gives rise to more tax savings in the hands of a taxpayer in a high tax bracket.
Of course, I understand there is a question of equality as you and your siblings/spouse may contribute equally to supporting your parents. As such, you might think that everyone should split the relief equally. All in all, this is something you should discuss with your family to achieve the most tax efficient and satisfactory outcome to all parties.
Retirement support reliefs
There are generally 4 considerations to make before deciding on which relief (CPF Cash top-up or SRS) to contribute towards:
- Availability of funds to lock-up
- Your incremental tax rate based on your taxable income after family support reliefs
- Your risk appetite
- The objective you hope to achieve with your contribution
1) Availability of funds to lock-up
You should only consider these reliefs if you are willing to not touch these funds for decades. If you foresee yourself needing the money for upcoming expenditure like a home or a wedding, you should not be considering contributions to your CPF or SRS.
2) Your incremental tax rate
Similar to allocating your family support reliefs amongst your family, you should consider if you are in a high or low tax bracket before contributing. If you are in a low tax bracket, it might be better to pay a small amount of taxes in order to retain the flexibility of your cash. After all, you are locking up a large sum of cash for minimal benefit.
3) Your risk appetite
Once you have considered point 1 and 2, you are ready to make your contribution of SRS or CPF. Choosing between the 2 very much depends on your risk appetite as CPF gives you a guaranteed 4% per annum return while SRS intrinsically only pays you the prevailing bank rate. This means that SRS contributions need to be invested in riskier assets in order to match or outperform CPF.
I currently use my meagre SRS funds in undervalued dividend paying stocks.
4) Your objective
If you have a low risk appetite, it is likely you will choose to contribute to CPF. As mentioned in part 2, you have to decide if you wish to fund your retirement or your health insurance and contribute to your SA or MA accordingly.
Here’s a simple flow chart to illustrate my overall tax planning strategy:
Currently, due to me still being in a low tax bracket, I’ve not contributed to my CPF SA or MA. I have contributed to SRS in the past due to experimentation and it fitting my desire to invest. However, going forward, I have decided to stop contributing as well to retain flexibility over my funds.
And that marks the end of this 4 part personal tax planning series. Do you agree with my strategy? Do you have a better strategy for your own tax planning? I look forward hearing to your suggestions.
PS: IRAS Corporate Communications reached out to me with some useful infographics to share with you guys. I’ve updated part 1 to include those infographics for your benefit.