Address by Mr. Raymond Lim, Minister, Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and Foreign Affairs, at the 35th Study Group On Asian Tax Administration And Research (SGATAR) Meeting, 21 November 2005, 12.05pm, Swissotel The Stamford21 Nov 2005
Honourable Commissioners,Distinguished SGATAR Delegates and Observers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Welcome to Singapore. I am delighted to be with you this afternoon to open the 35th meeting of SGATAR.
2. Since its inception in 1970, SGATAR has served as a regular platform for its 13 members to share their best practices and experiences in tax administration. The annual SGATAR meetings have enabled tax administrations to deepen their understanding of one another's operating principles and constraints, and glean ideas for improving the integrity and effectiveness of their own systems.TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
3. The topics for discussion in this year's meeting reflect the interests and concerns of all SGATAR members. Allow me to touch briefly on them:
4. The first topic, "Cost Efficiency in Tax Administration", is of core interest not just to SGATAR members, but to tax administrations around the world. Every tax administration has to continually innovate to achieve greater cost efficiency while maintaining the high standard of services that taxpayers have grown to expect, and effectiveness in preventing abuse of tax laws and catching tax-evaders. I hope that your discussions will help to generate fresh ideas on this evergreen issue.
5. The second study topic focuses on the "Relationship with Taxpayers and Tax Agents". In the past, dealings between tax administrations and taxpayers and their agents have tended to be adversarial. However, many administrations are increasingly recognising the benefits of working together with tax agents as partners. These links enhance mutual understanding of tax concerns and evolving issues, foster high standards of integrity and competence in tax agents, and lower the incidence of tax evasion. At this meeting, SGATAR members will share how they have strengthened their relationship with taxpayers and their agents.
6. The third study topic is on the "Tax Treatment of Benefits-in-Kind". Employers have taken to providing a broad range of benefits-in-kind as an additional means of rewarding employees. Although such benefits are taxable as part of employment income, their non-monetary nature, compounded by their ever-increasing variety, present a challenge to tax administrations in establishing taxability. I am sure you will gain new insights as you share your approaches to resolving some of the practical constraints and limitations encountered in taxing benefits-in-kind.
7. Given the breadth and depth of knowledge and experience among the delegates gathered here, I am sure you will find your discussions helpful and insightful. But I do hope you will also be able to squeeze some time to sample the diversity and richness of multi-cultural Singapore, and take away with you fond memories not just of the people in this room but of the people and sights of this city.
8. It is now my pleasure to declare this meeting of SGATAR open. I wish one and all fruitful discussions, warm company and an enjoyable stay in Singapore.Thank you.