MOF INVITES THE PUBLIC TO GIVE FEEDBACK ON CHANGES TO THE INCOME TAX ACT
1. The Ministry of Finance (“MOF”) is conducting a public consultation on the draft Income Tax (Amendment No. 2) Bill 2016 from 1 to 18 March 2016, and invites the public to give feedback on the draft Bill. The proposed amendments to the Income Tax Act (“ITA”) allow Singapore to implement the Common Reporting Standard (“CRS”) with effect from 1 Jan 2017. This is necessary before Singapore can carry out her international commitment to commence automatic exchange of financial account information (“AEOI”) under the CRS in 2018.
2. As conveyed on 3 Nov 2014 , Singapore will commence AEOI under the CRS in 2018. Such information exchanges will be carried out on a bilateral basis with jurisdictions which Singapore has signed Competent Authority Agreements (“CAAs”) with. This will be subject to the following conditions:
a) There is a level playing field among all major financial centres, including Hong Kong, Dubai, Switzerland and Luxembourg, to minimise regulatory arbitrage;
b) We will only engage in AEOI with jurisdictions that have a strong rule of law and can ensure the confidentiality of information exchanged and prevent its unauthorised use. This is particularly important as AEOI entails the transmission of sensitive taxpayer information which should be safeguarded;
c) There must be reciprocity with any future AEOI partners in terms of information exchanged.
3. In this regard, Singapore will prioritise AEOI of CRS information with jurisdictions with strong rule of law, such as UK and France.
4. In line with our 2018 international commitment to commence AEOI under the CRS, MOF has proposed amendments to the ITA. Salient aspects of the draft legislative amendments are as follows:
a) The draft Bill makes clear that existing AEOI provisions in the ITA, which were earlier introduced to implement the Singapore-United States Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act Intergovernmental Agreement (“FATCA IGA”) , are applicable to any other AEOI agreement that is in accordance with the CRS. This will enable Singapore to sign CAAs with other jurisdictions to implement AEOI under the CRS.
b) The draft Bill requires and empowers all FIs to collect and retain the CRS information for all non-Singapore-tax-residents, instead of only from tax residents of jurisdictions with which Singapore has a CAA. This is known as the “Wider Approach”. This approach is cost efficient for the industry since FIs would not need to repeatedly review the same accounts to re-establish whether the accounts are reportable each time Singapore enters into a new CAA. The Wider Approach has also been adopted by many jurisdictions such as the UK, Sweden, Japan and Korea. FIs will only need to transmit to IRAS the information relating to tax residents of Singapore’s CAA partners, for IRAS to implement the AEOI under the CRS accordingly.
c) The draft Bill vests in IRAS the necessary powers which include mandating the electronic filing of returns and information, to implement AEOI under the CRS effectively.
5. Please refer to the draft Income Tax (Amendment No. 2) Bill 2016 and its accompanying Explanatory Statement for details.
6. Other than amending the ITA, IRAS and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”) will be introducing draft regulations for public consultation by the second quarter of 2016. The regulations will include the proposed list of Non-Reporting Financial Institutions and Excluded Accounts, the due diligence and reporting requirements to implement the CRS.
7. We would appreciate your support and participation to ensure that the consultation exercise is productive and focused. Respondents are requested to observe these guidelines:
a. Please identify yourself as well as the organisation you represent (if any) so that we may follow up with you to clarify your comments, if necessary.
b. Be clear and concise in your comments.
c. Focus your comments on how the legislative amendments can be better written to make them clearer and to make compliance easier, or on how the policy changes can be improved.
d. Use the prescribed template provided to organise your feedback.
e. As far as possible, please explain your points with illustrations, examples, data or alternative formulations of the amendments.
8. This draft legislation is released only for the purpose of consultation and should therefore not be used for individual or business decisions as it does not represent the final legislation. All comments received during the consultation exercise will be reviewed thoroughly and if accepted, will be incorporated in the Bill for introduction in Parliament.
PERIOD OF CONSULTATION
The draft Income Tax (Amendment No. 2) Bill 2016 is available for public consultation from 1 to 18 March 2016
. We regret that comments received after 18 March 2016 will not be considered
as they will not be in time for incorporation in the Bill.
We encourage all interested participants to submit your comments via our online submission form. The online submission form is the easiest and quickest way for your comments to reach us. You can also send us your comments, using the prescribed template
a. email: firstname.lastname@example.org ; or
b. fax: 6337 4134; or
Ministry of Finance
100 High Street, #10-01
Attention: Tax Policy Directorate
SUMMARY OF RESPONSES
11. We will publish a summary of the main comments received on the Ministry of Finance’s website , together with our responses, by the end of April 2016. The identities of respondents will not be disclosed in the summary.
DOCUMENTS TO DOWNLOAD
12. For reference, please click here to download the relevant documents for this public consultation exercise.
ABOUT “COMMON REPORTING STANDARD” (CRS)
 AEOI refers to the regular exchange of information between jurisdictions for tax purposes, with the objective of detecting and deterring tax evasion by taxpayers.
 A CAA, which can be either a bilateral or multilateral agreement, specifies the information to be exchanged and deals with administrative arrangements such as the time and format of the information exchange.
 FATCA is a US law that requires Foreign Financial Institutions worldwide to report to US Internal Revenue Service information on bank accounts maintained by US Persons. Singapore and the US signed a FATCA Model 1 IGA on 9 December 2014.
The CRS is an internationally agreed standard for AEOI, endorsed by OECD and Global Forum for Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes (“GF”). The CRS sets out the financial account information to be exchanged, the financial institutions (“FIs”) required to report, the different types of accounts and taxpayers covered, as well as the customer due diligence procedures to be followed by FIs. More than 90 jurisdictions, including major financial centres such as Dubai, Hong Kong, Luxembourg and Switzerland, have endorsed the CRS and will commence AEOI in either 2017 or 2018.
The FIs covered by the CRS include custodial institutions, depository institutions, investment entities and insurance companies. The financial information to be reported with respect to reportable accounts includes interest, dividends, account balance or value, income from certain insurance products, sale proceeds from financial assets and other income generated with respect to assets held in the account or payments made with respect to the account. Reportable accounts include accounts held by individuals and entities (which include trusts and foundations). More information about the CRS can be found at http://www.oecd.org/tax/automatic-exchange/