Be a hawker, be a millionaire, but remember to pay your taxes.

Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint
Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint



  • Couple behind famous Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint fined and jailed 4 weeks for tax evasion. (Yup, 4 weeks of Char siew hiatus for you)
  • Ha Wai Kay, 64 is registered as the sole proprietor of Kay Lee and was found guilty of evading $54,917.15 of income taxes for 2010 and 2011.
  • If you are wondering, his sales income for 2011 was $829,335. (Why did my mother ask me to study so hard instead of teaching me how to roast meat?)
  • His wife Kong Kuee Chin, 69, was convicted of helping him.
  • Both Ha and Kong were sentenced to four weeks’ jail and each had to pay a penalty of $164,751.45 which is three times the tax evaded.

These guys ain’t the 1st and wouldn’t be the last

In 2007, Singapore saw the first case that a hawker in a coffee shop has been prosecuted for tax evasion.

Mr Looi San Cheng, the sole proprietor of Tip Top Curry Puff, understated the profits of his business for the Years of Assessment 2001 to 2006. The total amount of profits understated was $1,054,633.

Woah, that’s how much you can earn from just selling curry puffs!

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For the curious and unaware.

If you are thinking of a career switch…

From’s article back in 2007,

“Topping the charts is Mr Lee Chee Wee, who is the owner of Beach Road Prawn Noodle House along East Coast Road. He reportedly makes sales of $139,200 a month (max). Just by selling award-winning prawn noodles.

Coming in close in second place is Mr Hassan Abdul Kadil of Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak at Adam Road Food Centre. He takes in $122,880 a month.

Note that the figures cited above are gross income from sales alone and do not take into account the cost of goods (i.e. ingredients), rental, employee salaries, etc.”

I spoke to my friend John* who is in his 30s and recently started a stall selling local favourite chai tow kway aka carrot cake. His stall wasn’t award-winning nor did Joseph Schooling visit him but it was centrally-located and he managed to take home a typical monthly income of  $12,000-$16,000 SGD. It was pretty good money to him but the long hours and working conditions didn’t work well for him and he eventually stopped the business after 3 months and went back to his previous trade.

So if you are thinking about it, maybe you should think harder considering how tough it can be to be a hawker.

And if you are thinking about tax evasion, well, you have been warned.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual. But he did declare his income and paid his taxes, don’t worry. 

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