Proposed enhanced powers for Iras tweaked after public feedback
An upcoming Bill to allow the taxman to investigate serious crimes will be tweaked to clarify how these powers can be used, following a recent public consultation.
The earlier version of the draft Goods and Services Tax (Amendment) Bill included allowing Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) officers to forcibly enter premises and conduct body searches.
They also would have been able to arrest people suspected of having committed serious tax crimes without a warrant.
Now, the proposed changes to the Goods and Services Tax Act will state that such arrest powers will apply only to people with no reasonable excuse to resist officers from taking any document or items for investigation purposes.
The Ministry of Finance (MOF) said yesterday: "We note that individuals may, in limited circumstances, have valid reasons to refuse handing over documents or items to Iras officers for investigation."
This might occur, for example, when the data requested by the Iras is subject to legal privilege.
The taxman will also provide more information about the other powers on body searches and entering premises if the amendments are passed in Parliament.
The MOF said: "The proposed powers are to be exercised only when necessary, such as to secure evidence for the investigation of tax crimes.
"In addition, these powers can only be exercised by designated tax investigators who have received training."
It added that the Iras will have clear guidelines and operational protocols on when these powers can be used.
These will be taught to investigators, similar to the process at other law enforcement agencies.
The Ministry also rejected several suggestions relating to the GST on imported services that kicks in on Jan 1, 2020.
The draft Bill seeks to impose an Overseas Vendor Registration regime on business-to-consumer imported services, such as video and music streaming, apps, listing fees on electronic marketplaces, software and online subscription fees.
A reverse charge system will be used for businesses-to-businesses imported services like marketing, accounting, IT and management services.The Bill is slated to be introduced in Parliament next month.