S'pore a leader in tax digitalisation: Expert

In an age where most things can be done online or at your fingertips, filing taxes in many countries still remains a cumbersome process.

A leading expert has urged global tax authorities to embrace digitalisation, saying that reducing the burden of compliance can lead to important economic gains, as businesses, individuals and tax administrations are freed up to pursue other activities.

"The integration of new technologies, for example, cloud computing, social media and mobile technology, is also rapidly changing many aspects of everyday lives and driving wider expectations," said Mr Peter Green, the head of the Forum on Tax Administration (FTA) secretariat at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Mr Green is in town for the OECD FTA e-Services and Digital Delivery Workshop being held here this week.

This is the first time that Singapore is hosting the workshop, which was held in Russia twice previously.

  • Over 97% of taxpayers file returns electronically

  • Ninety-six per cent of taxpayers filed their tax returns on time this year, maintaining the record high set in 2016.

    Also, about 770,000 taxpayers, or more than 97 per cent of those who filed, did so electronically, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) said in a press release yesterday. It also said 17 per cent of e-filers did so with smartphones and tablets, one of the tax filing enhancements introduced last year.

    As part of a newly piloted initiative, about 70,000 e-filers received their finalised tax bill (Notice of Assessment) immediately upon filing their tax returns. Taxpayers on the Giro payment scheme will have their instalment payment based on their actual tax payments instead of a provisional instalment plan, giving them greater certainty on their tax payments. Iras aims to scale up this service initiative progressively.

    Meanwhile, over 5,000 partnerships filed their business income by end-February, allowing their partners the convenience of having their partnership income pre-filled in their individual returns. With over 10,000 taxpayers benefiting from this, Iras has invited all business partnerships to file earlier in 2018.

Mr Green said that the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) and Russia's tax authorities are among the leading administrations in the area of digital transformation.

Iras, for example, has brought together several initiatives under its programme for Leveraging Analytics, Design and Digitalisation, which includes piloting and then rolling out important simplifications to how employers submit employee records to Iras.

Iras has also been a leader in the use of mobile devices, allowing taxpayers to use e-Services to file tax returns, he said.

Mr Green noted that Iras' "outside-in" approach to better understand the needs and expectations of taxpayers exemplifies what other administrators should do.

Iras' revamped Tax Portal is a more intuitive and Web-responsive design for tax filing and other e-services because of this approach, he said, adding that it is also important for tax authorities to be agile.

"The pace of technological change means that huge infocomm technology projects may well be outdated by the time they arrive. Tax administrations are increasingly testing new initiatives through pilots and by phased introduction."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore a leader in tax digitalisation: Expert'. Print Edition | Subscribe