The unexpected global pandemic that blew up in 2020, which resulted in an unimaginable shutdown of the normal daily activities of societies for almost two years, serves as a critical lesson on financial preparedness and response strategies to world governments. The decisive and proactive Covid-19 preventive measures of Singapore, one of the very few countries who had a successful strategy in mitigating the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the early days of the pandemic, are due to several factors such as their previous experience with infection control against the SARS outbreak in 2003, their law-abiding population complying with the strict government regulations, and of course, their highly developed and stable economy. Presently, the government is expecting a 3 to 5 percent GDP growth in 2022 as the economy recovers and businesses restructure in the pandemic situation. The reopening of international borders and easing Covid-19 restrictions offer a more positive outlook as mobility in offices and recreational areas resumes.
While uncertainties and vulnerabilities in their economy still linger, Singapore has consistently maintained its focus to support its own citizens by helping them stay afloat during this difficult period through various financial support schemes. One of the government efforts in providing financial aid to self-employed individuals is the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS). Introduced by the Ministry of Manpower in early 2020, eligible self-employed Singaporean citizens whose livelihoods were impacted by the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic— such as the prolonged lockdowns and global supply chain disruptions, applied under this scheme. A financial grant of S$9,000 was given out to those who passed the criteria and were successfully approved. Around 200,000 Singaporeans benefited in the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme from April to December 2020 amounting to a total of S$1.8 billion according to the Ministry of Manpower and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC). SIRS ended in December 2020 but the government launched another financial relief project called the Covid-19 Recovery Grant (CRG) to help lower- to middle-income earners who are still financially struggling in the current global pandemic crisis. Self-employed persons are also eligible as grant recipients. The Covid-19 Recovery Grant is extending its application period until December 2022.
There was a high turn-out of eligible self-employed Singaporeans who received the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme. More than sixty percent of the applications that went through the congress were approved based on the criteria that the Ministry of Manpower and NTUC posted. SIRS served as a cushion to the loss in income by independent contractors especially after the April-May circuit breaker wherein only essential businesses were allowed to operate. The transportation sector was one of the most hard-hit services because of the travel restrictions. The Ministry of Transport said that more than 50,000 taxi and private hire car drivers benefited from SIRS and other additional relief funds. Three SIR payouts were released every quarter which began in April 2020. However, around 1,000 self-employed individuals were asked to return their payout due to erroneous declarations. Inaccuracies in income and property information were found out by the Manpower Ministry. The Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme is audited by the ministry and an external auditor appointed by the NTUC.
What is a self-employed person?
A self-employed person is an independent contractor or sole proprietor of a business. Individuals who are engaged in a part-time business are also considered self-employed. They have special tax requirements as part of the contingent workforce. The Inland Authority Revenue of Singapore considers the following as self-employed persons: business owners, consultants, insurance and property agents, taxi and private-hire drivers, food stall owners, delivery riders, private tutors and trainers, housekeepers and hairdressers among others.
When SIRS was discontinued by the end of 2020, the Covid-19 Recovery Grant, which immediately began in January 2021, extended its financial help to individuals who lost their jobs, those who are on involuntary no pay leave, and to those who had significant income loss for three or more consecutive months. For self-employed persons, some SIRS criteria still apply but with a few changes.
Here are the 7 things you need to know if you’re applying for the Covid-19 Recovery Grant as a self-employed person:
1. You should be a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident who is 21 years old and above
In the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme, foreigners were not qualified to apply under this financial support. Applicants should be 37 years and above and have declared their net trade income before 2020. In the Covid-19 Recovery Grant, self-employed persons who are either Singaporean citizen or permanent residents 21 years old and above can apply for the grant.
2. Your gross household income should not exceed more than S$7,800
The Covid-19 Recovery Grant opens the application to both self-employed persons and employees. The monthly income of employees should not exceed more than S$2,600. For individual contractors, you should declare your annual net trade income (NTI) in 2020 or 2021. In SIRS, the net trade income (NTI) should not exceed more than S$00,000.
3. Your property’s annual value should not be more than S$21,000
Similar rules apply in CRG where both self-employed persons and employees affected by job loss or involuntary no pay leave should not own more than one residential property.
4. Your NTI overall loss should be at least 50%
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said that the NTI loss must have happened after 23 January 2020 when the first case of Covid-19 was detected in the country.
5. You are not receiving support from other government relief schemes
The other government relief schemes are Seafarers Relief Package, Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund, SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme – Company Training, or SGUnited Skills Programme.
6. You have proof or supporting evidence that you participated in job search or training
Self-employed persons who are also engaged in other trades or are also salaried employees are allowed to apply for the CRG. They must show proof of at least two job interviews, career coaching sessions or training programmes through any government-linked touchpoints. If they didn’t participate in such activities, they should present supporting evidence of two attempts of boosting their business revenue or have reached out to new clients for opportunities.
7. You should prepare any of the following relevant documents declaring that you are self-employed
- Valid trade licence(s)
- Income statements
- Contracts for service
- Tax invoices billed to service buyers
- Service receipts
- List of client engagements
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