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Towards a new tax morality

Many governments are taking heed of the public mood for taxpayers to pay their fair share of taxes; Singapore should also seek a fairer distribution of the tax burden.

Published on Apr 19, 2014 12:24 PM

When I first met Mr Koh Yong Guan more than 20 years ago, he had just been appointed the Commissioner of Inland Revenue. One thing he said then and which has stuck with me ever since was: "Tax evasion is illegal - and tax avoidance is immoral."

The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore eventually became a client of my technology consulting firm, and I would often caution my staff that we should be whiter than white in our personal tax returns, especially with a tax commissioner who thinks like that.

That said, my feeling then was that Mr Koh was unique in his view of tax morality. In fact, I knew, and still know, of more than a few chief financial officers and accountants who consider it not only fair, but their very duty, to minimise, as much as possible, the taxes they and their companies pay.

Indeed, a whole "tax planning" industry has sprung up to help individual and corporate taxpayers push the envelope in tax avoidance, and so, legitimately pay little or no tax.

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