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Speech By Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister in Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and Transport, At "GIRO Your Tax And Win Cash!' Campaign

07 Oct 2010

Mr Moses Lee,
Commissioner of IRAS,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1      I am pleased to join you today for the launch of the campaign organised by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, titled 'GIRO Your Tax and Win Cash!'

2      Earlier this year, the Government has identified productivity as the key driver of sustainable economic growth in Singapore.  A S$2 billion National Productivity Fund has also been set up to support nationwide initiatives for productivity over the next decade.

3      There are many ways a company, big or small, can look into ways to improve its productivity - through innovative work practices, better and increased use of technology to improve existing processes, or training for workers to raise their level of skills.

4      The public sector, too, needs to continually examine its processes to see how we can be more productive. For IRAS, a quantum leap in productivity can be achieved if it can persuade more taypayers to pay their bills and taxes through GIRO. It may sound like a simple enough task but in fact, it is not.

5      GIRO, as we know, is an electronic payment mode that allows payers to pay their bills via a direct deduction from their bank accounts. GIRO brings benefits both ways. To the billing organisation, such a paperless clearing system can reduce administration costs, eliminate the need to physically process cheques, and speed up the transaction. For those paying the bills, GIRO enables them to save time by doing away with the need to remember to write the cheque to meet the billing due date or queue up at payment kiosks.

6      For IRAS, GIRO is the most cost-effective collection mode, enabling a higher certainty of tax collection and greater efficiency. This improved efficiency also benefits taxpayers – instead of having to pay their taxes in full within 30 days of the notice of assessment, IRAS' GIRO Scheme allows taxpayers to enjoy up to 12 interest-free instalment payments.  In terms of refunds, taxpayers on GIRO will also obtain them faster, as the refunds can be credited directly to their accounts instead of having to wait for the cheques to arrive in the mailbox.

7      Over the years, IRAS has made commendable effort in encouraging taxpayers to pay electronically by providing them multiple modes of e-payment for their convenience. Of the 72 per cent of taxpayers who pay electronically, 51 per cent pay by GIRO and another 21 per cent pay through other e-payment modes.  I am pleased to know that IRAS is now making another concerted push to raise the GIRO participation rate as part of the national effort to raise productivity. By 2013, IRAS targets to raise the GIRO participation rate to 70 per cent, which works out to an additional 400,000 income tax or property tax GIRO sign-ups.

8      As part of this initiative, IRAS will be embarking on a publicity campaign that includes road-shows and visits to companies to create awareness of the benefits and advantages of GIRO. IRAS will also return to taxpayers what it saves from GIRO through $360,000 worth of lucky draw prizes over the next three years to incentivise individual taxpayers to pay their taxes through GIRO.

9      With all the benefits of GIRO, it is then a surprise that only about half of taxpayers are on the scheme. The most commonly cited reason by taxpayers for not joining GIRO is the fear of losing control over their money. There is no fear of this happening. Taxpayers can be assured that they maintain full control over their money at all times, even when they take up the GIRO scheme. A taxpayer who wishes to adjust or cancel his GIRO arrangement can simply make a telephone call to IRAS.  And it is this message of how convenient it is that IRAS wants to get through to the public.

10      In closing, I strongly encourage taxpayers who have not gone onto GIRO to sign up now and enjoy its benefits. Thank you.