S'pore in top spot for GST compliance regime: Study

14 out of 47 countries score favourably; 15 need reforms to ease taxpayer, admin burden

Shoppers at looking at shoes are a store in The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, on Feb 14 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore has topped a study that considered the compliance requirements and administrative burden associated with rules around the goods and services tax (GST).

The research noted that 14 countries out of 47 studied scored favourably on compliance, while 15 appeared to need reforms to reduce the burden for taxpayers and administrators.

Singapore has the least burdensome compliance regime, followed closely by Australia, Costa Rica, New Zealand and South Africa.

The study by UNSW Sydney and KPMG applied 27 indicators to assess the compliance burden. These included the use of multiple tax rate structures, the ease of registering, the ability to deal electronically with the tax authorities, filing, payment and information services, as well as the speed of returns.

These indicators reflect four factors seen to be the main drivers of compliance burden: tax law complexity, the number and frequency of administrative obligations, capabilities to support taxpayers, and monetary costs and benefits.

The study also suggests that governments can learn from jurisdictions where the compliance burden is rated more favourably, for instance by implementing technology solutions to help streamline processes, KPMG noted.

Mr Lachlan Wolfers, global head of indirect taxes at KPMG International, said: "The findings highlight the importance not only of countries having the right (GST) policies in place, but also the call to modernise the delivery of tax administration to support businesses in efficiently managing compliance costs.

"Businesses are telling us that, as their compliance obligations are globalising through the digitalisation of business models, the ability to deal with tax authorities electronically... is becoming increasingly important."

The diagnostic tool used in the study can be employed to highlight the importance of sound policies to help manage compliance costs, with countries such as China and India both recently recognising the value in having fewer tax rates, KPMG noted.

"Ultimately, a more efficient system means less need to devote resources and investment to administrative compliance processes, which can benefit not only businesses and tax administrators but also society at large," noted Mr Chris Morgan, global head of tax policy at KPMG International.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2019, with the headline S'pore in top spot for GST compliance regime: Study. Subscribe