Surviving Covid-19 As a Self-Employed Person - SEP Schemes & Resources
Covid-19 has affected almost all segments of society, but self-employed persons (SEPs) are one of the hardest-hit groups in Singapore. The government has therefore introduced special measures to help self-employed persons with their income loss. Here are some useful resources for SEPs who need financial assistance.
Are You a Self-Employed Person?
Officially, a self-employed person (SEP) is anyone who earns money through anything other than employment under an employment contract. That means it's possible to be considered a SEP even if you are employed - for example, if you are a part-time employee as well as a taxi driver. According to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, here are some common examples of SEPs in Singapore.
Taxi / private-hire driver
Private tuition teacher
Food stall owner
SEP Income Relief Scheme (SIRS)
The SEP Income Relief Scheme, or SIRS, is a Covid-19 relief scheme that's targeted specifically at self-employed persons whose livelihoods were affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Most SEPs are automatically included, but if you aren't, you can still apply for it.
How much is the SIRS payout?
If you are eligible, you will receive 3 payouts of S$3,000 each (so S$9,000 in total). These are paid out in May, July and October 2020, in cash. There is no announcement on extending the support to 2021 yet.
How do you apply for SIRS?
If you have not been automatically included in SIRS, you can apply at www.ntuc.com.sg/sirs/. The process is fairly straightforward and uses SingPass MyInfo to pull your income records. Make sure you have filed your income tax in 2020 (i.e. your income in 2019) and have supporting documents on hand (such as your spouse's income details) just in case.
Who is Eligible for SEP Income Relief Scheme (SIRS)?
To qualify for the SEP Income Relief Scheme, you should fulfill the following requirements:
You are a Self-Employed Person, and started work as a SEP on or before 25 March 2020. Your Net Trade Income does not exceed S$100,000 a year.
If you are both an employee and self-employed worker, you can also apply. Your income from being an employee must not exceed S$2,300 a month.
You home's annual value must not exceed S$21,000, and you do not own more than 1 property. For married SEPs, your spouse's income must not exceed S$70,000.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much will I get under the SEP Income Relief Scheme?
- If eligible, you will get S$9,000 in total cash payouts from the government in 2020. This is divided into 3 payments of S$3,000 each. You will get S$3,000 in May, S$3,000 in July, and S$3,000 in October.
Will I be automatically included in SIRS?
- If you are at least 37 years old and declared your net trade income to IRAS last year, you will be automatically included in the scheme. Otherwise, you will need to check your eligibility and apply through https://www.ntuc.com.sg/sirs/
What if I narrowly miss the eligibility criteria?
- The SEP Income Relief Scheme's cut-offs for household income and property value are in place to make sure the money goes to the neediest groups. However, if you narrowly miss the qualifying criteria, you can submit an appeal through the NTUC SIRS website.
How do I check my property's annual value?
- Wondering if your home's annual value exceeds S$21,000? You can check it easily by logging into IRAS MyTax Portal. Go to "View Property Portfolio" to see your home's annual value. This amount is based on the rental rates and it can fluctuate.
Do foreigners qualify for the SEP Income Relief Scheme?
- No, the SEP Income Relief Scheme is for Singapore citizens and PRs only (as are the majority of the Covid-19 relief schemes). Foreigners can seek assistance from the Singapore embassies of their home countries and/or speak to their local MP or Social Service Office.
SEP Training Support Scheme
The SEP Training Support Scheme is a joint programme by the Singapore government and NTUC. Under this scheme, self-employed persons are encouraged to go for career training, and they can get at least S$10 per hour as training allowance. (It's slightly more if you are an NTUC member.) You will need to complete your training course in order to claim the money - here's how it works.
How to Claim Your SEP Training Support Scheme Allowance?
If you're a SEP who's keen on upskilling during the Covid-19 downtime, great. Follow the below steps to train and claim your S$10 an hour allowance.
Get Letter of Eligibility
This scheme is open to most self-employed Singapore citizens and PRs. However, you still need to apply for a Letter of Eligibility first. You'll need to send in supporting documents (NRIC, latest IRAS income statement, bank statement) by email thereafter. You will get the Letter of Eligibility within 2 working days if successful.
Attend an Eligible Course
You can get the training allowance only if you attend eligible courses, which are listed on the NTUC Learning Hub website. On top of being eligible for training allowance, you can also use SkillsFuture credits to pay for these courses so they need not even cost you any money. If you are an NTUC member, you can also use your UTAP credits to pay for them.
Submit Your Allowance Claim
After completing your course, you can submit your claim to [email protected] (within 30 days of course completion). You must attach your course receipt, the endorsed Training Certification Slip, and a signed PDPA form, where applicable. NTUC will transfer the training allowance to your bank account within 30 working days.
The MoneySmart Covid-19 Survival Guide
Apart from getting financial aid from these Covid-19 relief schemes, what else can you do to get through this? Head over to our main Covid-19 resource hub to get practical advice on the circuit breaker, dealing with debt, and how to make the most of your personal finances during the coronavirus period.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I qualify for the SEP Training Support Scheme?
- To qualify, you must be a Singapore citizen or PR. You have to be self-employed and have filed your income tax in 2020 (i.e. declared your income for 2019). You can have income from employment, but the majority of your income should come from being a SEP.
Do the SIRS eligibility criteria apply to this scheme?
- No, the property annual value and spouse income criteria do not apply here. For peace of mind, do apply for a Letter of Eligibility first.
Can I get more than S$10 an hour?
- Yes, if you joined NTUC as a member. If you were a member before March 2020, you can get S$11 an hour (instead of the usual S$10) under the same scheme. If you joined from March onwards, you will get S$10.50 an hour. If you are not a member, you can join first before signing up for the scheme.
Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme
Self-employed workers who are in the lower wage bracket are eligible for financial benefits under the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme. In 2020, those under Workfare will get a special cash payout to tide them over Covid-19.
How much is the Workfare payout?
For self-employed persons, the regular annual WIS payout ranges from S$1,133 to S$2,667, of which 10% is paid in cash (the other 90% is in Medisave). But, just for Covid-19, there will be a special payment in 2020: 2 x S$1,500 cash payouts in July and October 2020 (total S$3,000).
How can you receive the payouts?
There is no application procedure for Workfare - you will be automatically enrolled in the scheme as long as you declare your income to IRAS. If you have not been issued with any income tax return request, you can declare your income to the CPF Board. You must also make Medisave contributions to your own account, which is mandatory for SEPs in Singapore.
Who is eligible for Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme?
Workfare is a scheme for lower-income Singaporean workers, and benefits are paid out regularly via CPF top-ups and cash payments. You will be automatically included in the scheme if you declare your earnings to IRAS and meet the eligibility criteria here.
Citizenship & Age
The Workfare scheme is for Singapore citizens only - PRs are not eligible - who are at least 35 years old. All Singaporean persons with disabilities qualify for Workfare with no age requirement.
Workfare is open to employees and self-employed persons earning an average monthly income of not more than S$2,300. SEPs must declare your net trade income to IRAS and make Medisave contributions.
You home's annual value must not exceed S$13,000, and you do not own more than 1 property. For married SEPs, your spouse's income must not exceed S$70,000, and you must not own more than 1 property together.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much will I get under the Workfare Scheme?
- For self-employed persons, the regular annual WIS payout ranges from S$1,133 to S$2,667 (90% in Medisave and 10% in cash). For 2020, however, there is a Workfare Income Supplement Scheme Special Payment of S$3,000. This will be split into 2 payments of S$1,500 each. Expect the first S$1,500 to be credited in July 2020, while the second S$1,500 will be paid in October 2020.
I meet the criteria but am not receiving payouts. Why?
- You may have fallen through the cracks if you did not declare your income to IRAS or CPF Board, or did not make the mandatory Medisave contribution required for self-employed persons. Check if you have declared your income and made your Medisave contributions for the year.
How do I check my property's annual value?
- You can check if your home's annual value exceeds S$13,000 by logging into IRAS MyTax Portal. Go to "View Property Portfolio" to see your home's annual value. This amount is based on the rental rates and it can fluctuate.
Other Resources for Self-Employed Persons
It's not easy being self-employed in Singapore, but at least the government has recognised your financial difficulties. If you qualify for all 3 schemes above, you'd be looking at at least S$12,000 in cash payouts for the rest of 2020 - not too shabby - plus training allowance. But what else can you do to get through this tough period? Here are some suggestions for improving your cashflow situation.
3 Ways to Improve Your Cashflow During Covid-19
If you are cash-strapped due to Covid-19, you're not alone. It's not going to last forever, so hopefully it's only a temporary situation that you are in. You can consider the following options to improve your cashflow:
Defer Outstanding Loans
If you are unable to repay your outstanding loans - such as your housing loan, car loan and education loan - you can now apply for a loan deferment with the bank. You may or may not be asked to show proof of your income loss due to Covid-19. But bear in mind that you will have to pay back the deferred amount (which can total to quite a lot) when the special measures are lifted.
Get a Personal Loan
In this economic climate, we would hesitate to recommend a personal loan, since it's hard to know when your income and repaying power will stabilise. However, if you really do need the cash in the short term - for example, to repay urgent outstanding debts - a personal loan is one solution. Make sure that you have a plan for repaying the loan, such as by selling off your assets.
Increase Your Credit Limit
Depending on your circumstances, it might make sense to apply for more credit while you can (i.e., before your income drops further). Increasing your credit limit is a simple matter of applying for another credit card with a bank you have not applied at before. You do not even have to use the additional credit limit (in fact, it's best if you don't) but it can be reassuring to have that lifeline, just in case.
Compare Personal Loan Interest Rates
A personal loan is a serious commitment and shouldn't be taken lightly. If you have no choice but to borrow from a bank, take a moment to understand the terms of the deal. Find the right loan package for your needs and income level with MoneySmart's personal loan calculator.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can self-employed persons get a personal loan?
- Yes, you can apply for a personal loan if you meet the eligibility requirements laid out by the provider. For Singapore citizens and PRs, the minimum income you need is S$20,000 a year.
What income documents will I need to provide?
- Apart from your personal identification documents such as your NRIC, you will also need to provide proof of income. Since self-employed persons do not get paychecks, you will need to submit at least 1 to 2 years' worth of your income tax Notice of Assessment. The provider may also request your latest bank statements.
What if I don't have enough income documents?
- You can speak to various personal loan providers to find out what your options are. You may be asked to show your company's financial statements (if you have registered one), rental income records (if you are a landlord), and/or your personal bank statements.