Most doctors act on advice of consultants and accountants

Doctors do not receive any training in business law, or accounting in their undergraduate and postgraduate education.

When they go into private practice, they rely on business consultants and accountants to advise them on the appropriate company structures.

Medical practices also engage qualified accountants to audit their accounts and submit their annual reports to the authorities accordingly.

When news of Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) investigating medical practices for inappropriate company structures and tax submission broke a year ago, many doctors were surprised and confused (Iras recovers $10m from high-earning tax avoiders; Oct 15).

Doctors could not understand how all their accounting work - including the company set-up and yearly audits, which are done on professional advice from their accountants - was wrong.

They understand that the company directors, usually the medical practitioners themselves, are eventually responsible. But they would expect their company accountants to help them set up the company structure and arrange their tax submission appropriately and lawfully.

Iras has been kind in not imposing a fine or criminal charge on most medical practices.

Most practices have been just advised by Iras to pay back the correct taxes and fewer than a handful of medical practices have been charged with tax evasion.

But moving forward, professional accountants must upgrade their knowledge and practices so as to give the best professional advice to small businesses, like medical practices.

When patients receive inappropriate medical advice from doctors and suffer from complications, patients can take legal action against their doctors.

When doctors receive inappropriate accounting advice from their accountants and are fined or charged in court, what action can doctors take against their accountants?

Desmond Wai (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2018, with the headline 'Most doctors act on advice of consultants and accountants'. Print Edition | Subscribe