Law being amended to beef up powers for trained tax investigators

The proposed changes will give the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore more powers to investigate specified serious tax crimes, or where the suspect attempts to destroy evidence.
The proposed changes will give the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore more powers to investigate specified serious tax crimes, or where the suspect attempts to destroy evidence.PHOTO: ST FILE

Trained tax investigators will have the power to arrest an individual without warrant under proposed changes to the Income Tax Act.

These investigators will also be allowed to conduct forced entries and perform body searches under certain conditions. The proposed changes are part of the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill introduced in Parliament yesterday.

The proposals will give the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) more powers to investigate specified serious tax crimes, or act in cases where the suspect attempts to destroy evidence. Serious tax crimes include tax evasion.

The Ministry of Finance said these powers will be exercised only so that investigations into serious tax crimes are not impeded.

In a statement in June, the ministry said changes were needed as syndicates and recalcitrant taxpayers were employing more sophisticated strategies for tax fraud. Following public feedback, the ministry said the arresting powers of designated trained tax investigators will be limited, to prevent abuse of powers on innocent individuals.

There will also be clear guidelines on situations where these powers can be exercised. "The training of tax investigators, guidelines and protocols will be consistent with those in other law-enforcement agencies," said the ministry.

In total, the public sent in 100 suggestions from June 20 to July 11 this year and 37 were accepted, with the draft revised accordingly. One suggestion that was rejected had proposed giving taxpayers the right to be notified once their information has been shared with law-enforcement agencies. The ministry said Iras divulges only information that it assesses as necessary for investigation or prosecution of serious crimes.

It explained: "Such serious crimes include drug dealing and corruption. Notifying the taxpayer of the information shared or how information may be shared will alert potential suspects on ongoing investigations into serious crimes, thereby prejudicing the investigations."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2018, with the headline 'Law being amended to beef up powers for trained tax investigators'. Print Edition | Subscribe