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Speech by Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister in Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and Transport at the Launch of the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals

07 May 2010

Dr Ernest Kan
Chairman of the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals and President of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore,

Mr Moses Lee
Commissioner of Inland Revenue,

Mrs Chia-Tern Huey Min
CEO of the Tax Academy of Singapore

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.   I am happy to join you this morning at the official launch of the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals, or in short, SIATP.

2.   The setting up of the SIATP is an important milestone for the tax profession and accountancy sector in Singapore. Set up by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore, in collaboration with the Tax Academy of Singapore, the institute is the first accreditation body in Singapore for tax professionals.

Global Megatrends

3.   The setting up of the SIATP comes at an opportune time. The changing ecosystem in which professionals work has been molded by several megatrends and emerging issues in the past few years.

4.   First, increased connectedness of markets around the world has facilitated globalisation, which in turn, has made individuals, corporations and nations more competitive internationally. There is increased movement of individuals, goods and services and even corporations. Suitably-qualified individuals are now truly mobile. Businesses can source competitively-priced supplies and sell them to the most lucrative markets regardless of location. Corporations can locate themselves in any parts of the world that can best cater to their needs- be it proximity to their customers, suppliers or to be in a jurisdiction that accords them the best financial incentives and a stable pro-business environment. In this regard, the tax professional has a vital role to play in helping to bridge the different needs across tax jurisdictions. Be it the high net-worth individual seeking financial planning advice, businesses needing advice on transfer pricing or companies needing advice on their tax obligations, there are many opportunities for the tax professional to venture into.

5.   Second, the advent of technology has opened up new dimensions for economic growth. It has spawned new products and services, opened up more channels of development, production, and different marketing and distribution methods. This rapid pace of change requires the tax professional to not only keep abreast of changes, but also to constantly look beyond his or her horizon. A strong base of knowledge in tax law and practice, coupled with a continuing professional development regime, will enable and equip the tax professional to be better prepared for future challenges.

6.   Third, rapid advancement in technology and increased globalisation also brings about increased complexities in doing business. With new products, services and methods of production and delivery, business advisors, accountants and other professional service providers will now have multi-lateral issues to consider. For instance, how can an author of an eBook protect his intellectual property and how much tax does he need to pay on the royalties he earns from all over the world? Or how does he ensure that his publisher pays him the agreed-upon royalties? As the issues become more complex, there will be increased demand for the expertise of the tax professional.

Development of niche specialisation pathways

7.   With more cross-border businesses and transactions comes an increasingly complex tax environment, and this is where the demand for tax professionals in niche areas will increase. Multinational corporations, for example, place a higher value on an accountant with professional expertise and knowledge of the tax regimes in the countries it operates in. The Asia-Pacific, in particular, will see a huge demand for professional accountancy services and talents, with the market for accountancy services forecasted to reach US$38.3 billion by 2013. We can capitalise on the growth in the Asia-Pacific to build Singapore into a global accounting hub, particularly in the tax sector. There is great potential for us to be a leading regional tax hub and a centre of excellence in tax education, and one key area to explore is to develop deeper professional expertise in tax advisory work, to service the increasing cross-border investments and transactions within the Asia-Pacific region.

Final Report of the Committee to Develop the Accountancy Sector (CDAS)

8.   The establishment of the SIATP is thus a timely one. It also complements the recommendations made by the Committee to Develop the Accountancy Sector (CDAS). The CDAS was tasked to conduct a holistic review of the Singapore accountancy sector and profession, with the aim to position Singapore as a leading international centre for accountancy services and professionals. The CDAS submitted its final recommendations to the Ministry of Finance on 12 April. I am pleased to announce that my Ministry has accepted all the broad recommendations made by the CDAS.

9.   Moving forward, given the wide scope of the CDAS recommendations, the Government will be working together with the various stakeholder groups to implement the recommendations. These implementation plans will be rolled out in phases. The Ministry of Finance is currently studying the list of possible candidates to chair and form the Pro-Tem Singapore Accountancy Council (SAC), which will be responsible for spearheading the implementation of the CDAS recommendations prior to the formal establishment of the SAC. The members of the Pro-Tem SAC are expected to be determined by July this year. The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) will also be reviewing the rules and regulations governing the ownership of public accountancy entities.

10.   It is heartening to note that organisations such as ICPAS and IRAS have taken it upon themselves to set up the SIATP, which directly supports the CDAS’ recommendation to position Singapore as a Centre of Excellence for high value-adding professional expertise and the development of niche specialisation pathways in areas such as international tax expertise. As the upgrading of the tax profession is a salient component of the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore’s (IRAS) tax compliance framework, I am pleased that IRAS will be lending full support to the institute.

11.   The SIATP aims to promote the standards of tax practice, as well as the technical competence and capability of tax professionals. The institute will also play an important role in thought and practice leadership for the tax profession. Applicants will need to fulfil robust accreditation requirements that centre on having acquired approved practical experience in tax practice and/or having completed relevant examinations. Additionally, they are required to fulfil a minimum number of Continuing Professional Development hours annually, to ensure that they are kept abreast of the latest tax changes. These are all important criteria to ensure that the members of SIATP are equipped with the knowledge, experience and necessary skill sets to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex tax environment.


12.   As companies start to ride the wave of recovery in the global economy and adapt to global megatrends, Singapore must continue to invest in the quality of our workforce and position ourselves as the business and knowledge hub for the region. Continuous learning and attaining a certain level of proficiency in their field will help tax professionals reap productivity gains in their professional work. Assur ing professional standards locally through accreditation, and equipping our professionals with skills for international tax work, are imperatives in a globalised tax environment. This initiative signifies that tax practice and compliance standards will be raised even higher.

13.   On this note, I congratulate the SIATP on its official launch and wish you all of you an enjoyable morning.

Thank you.