Getting started on your tax planning before the New Year begins can help you maximize tax relief and minimize tax payable next year.


You may only count your tax relief in April when you declare your income tax. But there are 3 things you must do before the year winds down for more tax relief.

#1. Contribute SRS for Tax relief and more

The Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) is a voluntary scheme that incentivizes individuals to save for retirement by way of tax-deductible contributions.

Singapore citizens and permanent residents can get tax relief up to $15,300, while foreign individuals can put in $35,700.

You need an SRS account to make the contribution. If you have not done so, you can open an account with one of the 3 local banks, i.e. DBS, UOB, and OCBC.

I always advocate making SRS contribution at the beginning of the year instead of year-end. This is because SRS is not just a tax relief scheme. You can invest your SRS balance to fund your retirement as well.

Based on statistics from the Ministry of Finance below, around 30% of Singaporeans’ SRS balances are idling as cash.


Nevertheless, if you haven’t contributed your SRS, you should read this article for more information about:

  • What is SRS and what are the benefits of SRS contribution
  • How to make SRS contribution
  • How to make SRS withdrawal

Click here to find out more about how to invest your SRS funds for retirement.

#2. Max out CPF Medisave contribution for more tax relief

You know that CPF contribution is tax deductible, but do you know that you may not fully utilize your CPF contribution limit?

Whether you are employees and self-employed persons, you can make tax-deductible voluntary contributions to your CPF Medisave account if your compulsory CPF contributions have not reached the annual CPF contribution cap.

For example, if your monthly salary is $6,000 and the annual bonus is $18,000, your total compulsory contributions at the combined employee and employer rate of 36% would be $28,080.

The annual CPF annual contribution limit has been revised to $37,740 since 2016. This means that you can still make more voluntary contribution to your Medisave account for tax relief.

How much voluntary Medisave contribution can you claim for tax relief

The amount of tax relief is given to the lowest of the following:

  • Voluntary cash contribution directed specifically to Medisave Account or
  • Annual CPF contribution cap for the year, less Mandatory Contribution (MC) or
  • Prevailing Basic Healthcare Sum(BHS), less the balance in Medisave Account before the voluntary cash contribution.

Mandatory Contribution (MC) refers to compulsory contribution by you and your employer, and compulsory Medisave Account for self-employed individuals.

#3. Top up CPF special or retirement account for yourself and your family

This is, in fact, a less known scheme. This relief is given to encourage Singaporeans and Permanent Residents to set aside money for retirement needs either in their own CPF accounts or those of family members.

Under the CPF Retirement Sum Scheme, you can obtain tax relief for your cash contribution to

  • Your Special Account (if you are below age 55) or
  • Retirement Account (if you are age 55 and above).

You can also top up CPF Special/Retirement Account of your family members who have basic retirement needs. Family members include:

  • Parents or Parents-in-law;
  • Grandparents or Grandparents-in-law;
  • Spouse; and/or
  • Siblings.

To claim tax relief for cash top-ups for your spouse or siblings, the spouse or siblings must not have an annual income exceeding $4,000 in the year preceding the year of top-up.

How much CPF cash top-up can you apply for tax relief

The maximum CPF Cash Top-up relief per Year of Assessment (YA) is $14,000 (maximum $7,000 for self and maximum $7,000 for family members).

For example, if by end of this year, you topped up $5,000 in cash to your own CPF Special Account and you topped up $10,000 in cash to your mother’s CPF Retirement Account.

Top-up Amount to own CPF Special Account$5,000
Top-up Amount to Mother’s CPF Retirement Account$10,000
CPF Cash Top-up Relief (own account)$5,000
CPF Cash Top-up Relief (mother’s account)$7,000
Total CPF Cash Top-up Relief for YA$12,000 ($5,000 + $7,000)

In the above example, you can claim a total CPF Cash-Top Relief of $12,000 for this year.

Please also note that there is a personal income tax relief cap of $80,000, which will apply from the Year of Assessment (YA) 2018 onwards. This cap applies to the total amount of all tax reliefs claimed, including any relief on cash top-ups made on or after 1 Jan 2017.

There will be no refund for accepted cash top-up monies. As such, you must take note of the overall personal income tax relief cap when evaluating whether you would benefit from tax relief on your cash top-ups, and make an informed decision accordingly.

#4. Spend on education and course and gain tax relief

Many people overlooked this when they file tax relief.

Course Fees Relief is given to encourage individuals to continuously upgrade their skills and enhance employability. It is targeted at those who are currently employed or who have been employed previously. Vacation jobs or internships are not considered employment for the purpose of this relief.

You can claim relief for the next year’s tax on the course fees paid this year for if the course, seminar or conference meets one of the following 3 criteria:

1. It leads to

  • An approved academic, professional qualification – the course, seminar or conference should lead to a recognised academic and professional qualification. Or
  • A vocation qualification – the acquired skill or knowledge should be one that can be applied in a vocation or a specific area in an industry; and the course, seminar or conference provider is a Singapore registered entity with the Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA)

2. It is relevant to your current employment, trade, business, profession or vocation; or

3. It is relevant to your new employment, trade, business, profession or vocation

You can claim the actual course fees incurred by yourself up to a maximum of $5,500 each year regardless of the number of courses, seminars or conferences you have attended.

You can claim only the portion of the course fees which you paid. Any amount paid or reimbursed by your employer or any other organisation cannot be claimed.

You may claim the following types of fees:

  1. Aptitude test fees (for computer courses);
  2. Examination fees;
  3. Registration or enrolment fees; and/or
  4. Tuition fees.

Please note the following courses are not eligible for relief:

  • Courses, seminars or conferences for recreational or leisure purposes;
  • Courses, seminars and conferences for general skills or knowledge (e.g. Internet surfing course, social media skills, basic website building skills and Microsoft Office skills); and
  • Courses, seminars and conferences to acquire skills or knowledge for a hobby instead of your profession (e.g. photography, language and sports courses).
  • Polytechnic/University courses if graduates have never exercised any employment or carried on any trade, profession or vocation previously.

Remember to act early

In the course of my work, I realize that many people do want to take advantage of these various tax relief schemes. However, many tend to procrastinate this because tax relief contributions seem to be a “year-end” thing.

In reality, during the festive season like now, everybody is busy celebrating and travelling. As a result, you either find no time or forget to make the contribution. If you make a last-minute contribution on the last couple of days of the year, it may be counted as next year’s tax relief due to delay in transactions (I speak from personal experience ^_^).

In addition, it may be too late to plan for attending courses to upgrade yourself.

Do you have any question about tax relief contributions? What are other tax relief tips you use for yourself? Simply leave your comment below.

And if you find this article useful, don’t forget to share it with your family and friends.

About the Author

Ivan Guan is the author of the popular book "FIRE Your Retirement". He is an independent financial adviser with more than a decade of knowledge and experience in providing financial advisory services to both individuals and businesses. He specializes in investment planning and portfolio management for early retirement. His blog provides practical financial tips, strategies and resources to help people achieve financial freedom. Follow his Telegram Channel to join the FIRE community.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. This does not reflect the official position of any agency, organization, employer or company. Refer to full disclaimers here.

    • Hi, If you are self-employed, you can actually contribute more. For YA 2020, your tax relief for your Medisave and voluntary CPF contributions will be capped at the lower of:

      • 37% of your net trade income assessed; or
      • CPF relief cap of $37,740; or
      • Actual amount contributed by you.

      Refer to the details here.

  • Hi, if I top up the full amt in SRS ($15.3k) only in Mar 19, can I claim tax relief for this year’s assessment (2019), or i can only claim it for next year’s income tax in April 2020? Thank you.

  • Annual CPF contribution (employer & employee) should exceed the $37,740 limit. Doing a VC to self SA account will not entitle any tax relief?

        • Hi, WK Yap,

          The CPF Annual Limit is the maximum amount of mandatory and voluntary contributions that can be credited to your account in a year.

          If I am not wrong, your contribution above the annual limit will be refunded back to you.

      • If i have reached $37,740 cpf contribution, there is no more tax relief for cpf. Could i still top up 7000 into special account to earn the 4% interest? Thks

      • For tax relief, the CPF contribution is only showing the employee’s portion in the IRAS assessment? For those low income earners, the maximum reliefs of $37,740 may not be reached… Am i right to say that?

  • I am 56 years old. I have just made Cash contribution to my Medisave account of $2,700. I am employed and my Mandatory contribution for this year will most likely to be maxed out. Will I still enjoy the tax deductible benefit (tax payable – $2,700) for the Cash contribution to my MA for CY2019 tax assessment

      • Amount of Tax Relief VC-MA
        The amount of tax relief given to the lowest of the following:

        (bracket is my scenario)

        1. Voluntary cash contribution directed specifically to Medisave Account = (2,700)
        2. Annual CPF contribution cap for the year, less Mandatory Contribution (MC)* = (0 – as my MC will be maxed to the CPF Cap)
        3. Prevailing Basic Healthcare Sum(BHS)^, less the balance in Medisave Account before the voluntary cash contribution = 2,700

        Does that mean that I will not get any relief?

  • Hi Ivan, for your Max out Medisave contribution point and the point on Cash top-up to SA/RA point, do they overlap? Meaning if I max out my medisave contribution and hitting the overall cap on CPF contribution that year, can I still top up say $7000 for my own SA and S$7000 for my parents’ RA? Thanks

  • Hi, would I be able to get a tax relief if I top up my mum’s medisave account? Or is it just for the oa and special account

  • Hi Ivan,

    Very clear explanation. Thank you for the information.
    My mum is in her early seventies. Still very much alive and kicking.
    I am thrilled by the option of contributing cash to her and at the same time enjoying some tax relife.
    The only question is, how is she getting the money that I top up to her CPF account?

  • Ivan,
    As a non-PR foreigner married to a Singaporean can I enjoy tax relief by topping up my wife’s CPF?


  • Hi,

    I just came across this as I had made a Cash Top Up to my Medisave account to gain from this Tax Relief – only to realise that my Medisave can only be used for Medical-related matters, and I can’t withdraw any unused amount unlike our SA and RA etc.

    May I know why you are advocating the benefit of topping up our Medisave account? What if eventually don’t incur a lot of medical bills and are unable to draw down on this account?

    • Hi, T

      That is a good question. Generally, you should only top up CPF with “spare cash”. With all the medical advance and the inflation of medical cost, Medisave will be useful when you are older.

      However, if you feel that it is not worth it, you can choose not to top up.

  • Hi, Thanks for sharing this.
    It’s too late for me to top-up special account for tax relief now.. but good info for next year.

    Can you clarify if the tax relief under top-up scheme is calculated by deducting the relief amount from total taxable income, OR from the total tax payable?
    For example:
    – I can claim CPF Cash-top relief of 5k
    – Taxable income is 50k @ 10%, so tax payable is 5000 (for simplicity sake)
    Does that mean I don’t have to pay any tax, or my tax payable is now 10% * 45k?

  • Thanks for the very helpful article! The CPF website is too messy, if only it can provide information like this in a more easily accessible way. One question though, do we have to make any declarations to IRAS for the tax relief contributions to take effect or is that all automatic now?

  • My sister was married and her 1st husband died of cancer. She remarried again but unfortunately passed away in an accident. But her wills, transpired the sole beneficiary of her property and possessions is on my name. Will her spouse has the rights over the property and possessions, because I don’t want to sell the property. Please advise. Thanks

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