Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore - The World's Friendliest Tax Collector

When I returned to the office after my sojourn in Florida, Cambridge Mass and Taos New Mexico, a letter from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore awaited me.  “Your account shows tax balance of a [about] $500, the letter informed me.  The deadline for paying without an additional assessment had already expired. Thus an additional fine would have to be paid, though the amount was not large.  
I knew that my best strategy was “direct action.” The next morning I booked a Comfort-Citicab taxi and embarked for Revenue House, the headquarters of the IRAS, located at Singapore’s Novena Square.
Because Revenue House is also home to the National Population and Talent Division and the National Climate Change Secretariat, Office of the Prime Minister it is a familiar venue. It was my privilege to introduce System Dynamics modeling to staff members of the two Ministries in the spring of 2014. Once before,  I had also paid a visit to resolve a minor tax issue.
Customers with tax issues to resolve first approach a service counter where four revenue officers are on duty.  While clients are encouraged to use online services, seeking personal attention seems to carry no stigma. My wait-time before receiving personal attention was less than 5 minutes.  The revenue officer who served me was a courteous, knowledgeable, just-past-middle-aged professional.  Locating my file online, based on the correspondence I provided, he explained that the arrears was not covered by the “Automatic No Filing Service” submission for 2016, but a recalculation holdover from the previous year. On his own authority, he immediately set-aside the modest fine for late payment.  I would be able to pay by cheque and the cheque could be submitted at an adjacent office of the Singapore Post Office, he explained. The post office employee who accepted my cheque was equally courteous, helpful and efficient.   Excluding transit time, the entire transaction took less than 30 minutes, leaving me time to buy groceries an a nearby shopping centre before returning to my office.
“Comparisons are invidious” my mother taught me years ago.  The US Tax Code is far more complex. For Taxpayers with any degree of complexity in their income stream, obtaining the professional assistance of a tax accountant is mandatory. Meeting and Internal Revenue Service Officer personally, unless one is being audited is out of the question. Employees of the US Internal Revenue Service are dedicated professionals, doing their best, however their task is a daunting one.

However credit should be accorded where credit is due.  Were there an international award given for “The World’s Friendliest Tax Collector,” Singapore’s Internal Revenue Authority would win my nomination, hands down!!


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