Fortitude Budget: SME tenants get cash grant to offset rents

THE Singapore government will provide a new cash grant to offset more of the rental costs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to be disbursed through property owners.

Taken together with the property tax rebate, the government will, in effect, offset about two months' of rents for qualifying SME tenants of commercial properties, and about one month for qualifying SME tenants of industrial and office properties.

The cash grant will be disbursed by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) to landlords from end-July. Landlords are required to pass this on to their SME tenants.

It will cost about S$2 billion in total, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in Parliament on Tuesday as he unveiled the fourth round of support measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

SME tenants are defined as those with not more than S$100 million in annual turnover, based on corporate tax and individual tax returns for the Year of Assessment 2019.

The new cash grant will be available to SMEs with qualifying leases or licences commencing before March 2020.

For qualifying tenants of commercial properties, such as shops, the grant will amount to about 0.8 month's worth of rent.

Those in industrial and office properties will get a grant amounting to 0.64 month's worth of rent.

SME property owners who run a trade or business on their own property will also be eligible for this new grant.

More details will be provided via IRAS's website by the end of June this year.

Mr Heng on Tuesday said many businesses have given feedback that while the Jobs Support Scheme provides support on wage costs, they are still facing difficulties with rental costs, which are “especially tough” on SMEs.

Given that businesses will need more time and support to get back on their feet after the “circuit breaker”, the government will now do more, he added.

Landlords are also expected to help with rental relief, and this will be legislated.