Over the years, whenever I talked about how I started an SRS account from the time the scheme was introduced in 2001, listeners would be incredulous. I was only 30 years old in 2001. To me, the tax benefit was too obvious to be ignored. Since 2001, I have contributed to my SRS account up to the maximum sum allowed yearly.
In a blog post on 24 Dec 2009, I mentioned that "As long as a person is paying income tax, he should start an SRS account and contribute to it yearly so that he pays less income tax (or none at all). For me, it's that simple."
Well, it might be that simple for me but for people with many financial commitments, it might not be so. For these people, they might not have much money leftover after taking care of all their routine expenses. So, voluntary contributions to the SRS account could be difficult.
Having said this, as long as we are paying income tax, voluntary contributions to our SRS accounts should be viewed as an important part of planning for our retirement. We should try to include it in our retirement planning.
Voluntary cash contributions to the SRS account are eligible for tax relief. For some, contributing just a few thousand dollars a year could mean not having to pay any income tax. So, there is no need to contribute the maximum of S$11,475 per annum. This is the maximum allowed for Singaporeans and PRs.
Therefore, I would suggest that we look at how much of our income is taxable and to contribute to the SRS account sufficiently to become free from income tax. After all, funds in the SRS account should not be withdrawn till the statutory retirement age to avoid penalties. So, cash in hand is still better than being in the SRS account.
Of course, if our taxable income is much higher, contributing the maximum sum allowed would save us much in income tax although it might not mean being free from income tax. How much to contribute, if ability allows, therefore, depends on individual income levels.
Money in the SRS account could be used to invest for higher returns. Examples are fixed deposits, single premium insurance policies, shares, REITs, ETFs and unit trusts. SRS funds cannot be used for purchasing real estate, for example.
Upon reaching the statutory retirement age of 62, if we had been making regular contributions and investing prudently, money in our SRS accounts could be an important part of our retirement income. 50% of the funds withdrawn upon retirement would be subject to income tax. If we keep our yearly withdrawal within the non-taxable bracket which I believe is $20K, we would not even have to pay any income tax.
So, theoretically, if we had $200K or less in our SRS accounts by the time we retire, withdrawals could be non-taxable. Withdrawing the funds in ten equal portions over a period of ten years would lower the income tax payable if we had more than $200K in our SRS accounts by the time we retire.
For anyone paying income tax yearly and still wondering if the SRS is necessary, do consider the points I have made in this blog post. Financial security in our old age is one of the most important things we have to plan for in life.
UPDATE (18 July 2014):
The maximum contribution allowed for the SRS account now is $12,750 per annum.
NEW: From 2016, max contribution is $15,300.
Read Supplementary Retirement Scheme.
Updated Booklet on the SRS: HERE.
|From the FAQ section on SRS in MOF's website.|
"... the caps on contributions to the Supplementary Retirement Scheme will also be raised to $15,300 for Singapore citizens and permanent residents and $35,700 for foreigners."Source: The Straits Times, 23 Feb 15.
Related post: Double your income, not your income tax.