The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) has updated its webpage on the Tax Treatment of Business Expenses to reflect the change in the tax treatment of withholding tax (WHT) on the interest payments borne by companies on behalf of non-residents, taking effect from Year of Assessment 2020.
In general, a company (“payer”) will be required to withhold tax on interest paid to a non-resident. In certain instances, the withholding tax on the interest may be borne by the payer on behalf of a non-resident.
Contractual Obligation to bear the WHT
Where the payer is contractually obligated to bear the tax for the non-resident, the withholding tax borne will be treated as part of the interest paid. The interest expense (inclusive of the withholding tax borne on behalf of the non-resident) is deductible if the loan is taken up to finance income-producing assets.
No Contractual Obligation to bear the WHT
IRAS has advised that if there is no contractual obligation for the payer to bear the tax on behalf of the non-resident, the withholding tax borne by the payer will not be treated as part of the interest paid. The tax deductibility of the withholding tax borne on behalf of the non-resident will then depend on the purpose of the loan.
If the loan is taken up for revenue purposes (e.g. to finance the purchase of trading stock), the withholding tax expense will be deductible in the hands of the payer as it is a revenue expense. On the other hand, if the loan is taken up to finance capital assets, the payer will not be able to claim a tax deduction on the withholding tax expense because it is a capital expenditure of the payer.
Withholding tax expense is also not a prescribed borrowing cost that is specifically deductible under the Income Tax Act.
For further information, please refer to IRAS’ website.