Outside-in approach: Three co-creations that help taxpayers file their returns

A man walking past the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) logo at the IRAS building.
A man walking past the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) logo at the IRAS building. PHOTO: ST FILE

In an effort to enhance its services so that it can better serve taxpayers, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) utilises an "outside-in" approach. This is where customers and stakeholders are invited to co-create possible tax paying solutions.

These ideas are then prototyped, tested, and refined before being assimilated into existing systems and processes.

By involving the community in the design process, Iras is able to tap diverse perspectives for innovation. This in turn helps the agency offer intuitive and customised services that can tap the latest digital technology.

Last September, the taxman organised its inaugural hackathon with the objective of co-creating taxpayer-centred ideas to help individuals, the self-employed and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The competition produced 19 ideas from 24 teams over three days. Three teams were granted up to $30,000 each to further develop their prototypes.

Their final products are now available to taxpayers. Note that the Web applications (apps) are wholly owned and maintained by third-party vendors and charges apply for their use.

The Sunday Times highlights how these three new co-creations work.

1. FreeBoh The FreeBoh personal income tax filing assistant helps part-timers collate income and expenses for tax submission.

It is the brainchild of FreeBoh, an online jobs marketplace that helps people find flexible employment and enables employers to manage hiring, time-keeping, leave management and payroll.

FreeBoh has also co-developed a Web and mobile application solution with Iras called Personal Income Tax Filing Assistant, which helps reduce inaccurate tax filing by part-timers/freelancers.

The application can collate and record information on your income, expenses, CPF contributions and donations.

SOME OF ITS FEATURES

•Offers an income summary by the type of income (that is, self-employed or employment income).

•Creates an employment income record.

•Creates a self-employed income and business expense record for self-employed income.

•Generates a list of employment income and four-line statements for each of the self-employed incomes to facilitate tax filing.

CASE STUDY TO SHOW HOW IT WORKS

Mr Alan Tong (not his real name) is a part-time waiter with XYZ Hotel and a freelance photographer. During the tax filing season, he has to check the Iras website to confirm that XYZ Hotel is not participating in the Auto-Inclusion Scheme (AIS).

He also has to check through all his bank records to compute the total employment income he has received from XYZ Hotel and his income as a freelance photographer last year. He has difficulties computing his total allowable business expenses as he did not maintain proper records.

With the FreeBoh app, Mr Tong can now record details of his income and business expenses. In addition, he will be able to see from the app that XYZ Hotel is not one of the employers participating in the AIS.

During the tax filing season, Mr Tong can generate a summary of his employment income from XYZ Hotel and the four-line statement in respect of his self-employed income as a freelance photographer to help file his tax return.

2. TallyGo The TallyGo record-keeping mobile application helps self-employed taxpayers who are often too busy to keep track of their income and business expenses. The iOS and Android versions of the application were launched recently.

SOME OF ITS FEATURES

• It can be used to keep records for multiple businesses.

• Creates income and expense records in the app by taking/uploading a picture of the receipt. The list of expenses can be exported to an e-mail account in just one click. This is possible via the optical character recognition (OCR) technology.

•The user can select the accounting period to generate the profit and loss statement and four-line statement to facilitate in the tax filing.

•Displays all the expenses and income recorded by way of charts for an overall view.

CASE STUDY TO SHOW HOW IT WORKS

Property agent Keanu Lim (not his real name) finds tax filing a hassle as he has to compile all his expenses and income of his business activities.

With TallyGo, he can record the details of his expenses and income on the go. In addition, he can scan his receipts using the OCR feature and the amount incurred will be auto-generated in the app.

During the tax filing season, he can generate his profit and loss statement from the app.

3. TinkerTax This is an online application platform for SMEs - with simple tax matters - to convert their accounts into a tax computation.

The app lets companies easily convert accounting income to taxable income for Form C-S filing in three simple steps.

First, the user uploads or inputs the firm's trial balance or profit and loss data (that is, income and expense amounts) into the app. This then prompts the user to review the data and make tax adjustments via a series of review questions.

Once this is completed, the app computes the tax payable for the company and generates a tax computation and the Form C-S data for submission to Iras.

This innovative solution is expected to benefit small companies as it allows them to do it all themselves and complete their tax return filing in a breeze.

CASE STUDY TO SHOW HOW IT WORKS

Mr Abdullah Rosman (not his real name) is a director of ABC, a new start-up company. As the company's tax matters are simple, he prefers to handle tax filings himself instead of engaging a tax professional.

The TinkerTax application lets Mr Abdullah convert his firm's accounting income to taxable income for Form C-S submission in three simple steps:

Step one is to enter profit and loss data for the year into the online application.

Then the app, which has in-built tax rules and formulae, prompts Mr Abdullah to review the numbers and make tax adjustments via a series of review questions.

For example, upon detecting that the company had incurred "donation" and "entertainment" expenses, he is automatically prompted that donations to institutions of a public character (IPCs) qualify for 2.5 times tax deduction, and the qualifying amounts can be retrieved from Iras' myTax Portal; entertainment expenses that are non-business in nature are not tax-deductible.

The app will then compute the tax payable and generate a tax computation and Form C-S data fields. These can then be filed to Iras at myTax Portal.

Lorna Tan

•For more information on the three apps, please visit www.freeboh.com, www.tallygo.sg and www.tinkertax.com.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 27, 2017, with the headline 'taxpayers file their returns Outside-in approach: Three co-creations that help'. Print Edition | Subscribe