Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore
Feature | Organisation

Paying IT Forward

Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore
Behind the austere facade of the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) lies a close-knit community driven by technological innovation and social purpose.

Taxation is a cornerstone of Singapore’s fiscal policy. It is the main source of revenue for the state, used to promote economic development, support social goals, and fund public expenditure for essential goods and services such as education, healthcare, infrastructure and housing.

Playing a critical role to ensure a firm but fair tax administration is IRAS. To this end, IRAS has built a team of competent and committed officers, all of whom stand by the core values of integrity, professionalism, fairness, teamwork and innovation.

Infocomm is in Their DNA

Two such officers are Jonathan Yee and Mervyn Lim. Both IRAS scholars, they are putting their undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Accountancy and Business respectively to good use at work.

Mervyn, who works in the Corporate Tax Division, explains, “I manage tax assessments for medium-sized corporations that receive tax incentives. My work revolves around audit reviews and helping these corporations resolve issues related to corporate returns.”

Working in IRAS means that officers can expect to be challenged in various tax-related roles, from ensuring compliance by taxpayers to formulating tax policies. But it is not all tax and figures – Infocomm Technology also plays a major role in the heart of IRAS’s operations.

That is something Jonathan can attest to. With the Infocomm Division, he works on developing IRAS’s computer system, the Inland Revenue Interactive Network (IRIN), and maintaining it for day-to-day operations.

“Few people realise that IRAS has an Infocomm Division, and fewer people realise that we are almost 200-strong!” he quips with a laugh.

Unlike the more frontline roles in IRAS, Jonathan works quietly behind the scenes, ironing out any technical kinks to ensure that IRAS’ systems function smoothly. He also built solutions, such as the web service for the Property Tax Division, so that commercial developers like CapitaLand could receive consolidated tax statements for their properties.

“Recently we also revamped the IRAS website to make it fully functional on a smartphone. That is a big milestone,” he adds. “We are also looking into building an intelligent chatbot to engage the younger tech-savvy generation.”

“I guess you could say that we are in the business of making people’s lives easier. We harness technology to build better services for taxpayers.”

Jonathan Yee Shengli

Jonathan Yee Shengli 
IRAS Overseas
Undergraduate Scholar

Senior Infocomm Officer, Infocomm Division

“We harness technology to build better services for taxpayers.”

Opportunities for Development

IRAS officers find their work rewarding and yet challenging. Mervyn admits, “Taxpayers have high expectations towards the public service, and rightly so. As they become increasingly sophisticated, we have to engage them more and look at ways to maximise our value to the public.”

To that end, lifelong learning is deeply engrained in IRAS’s culture. Mervyn and Jonathan point out that colleagues and bosses are consultative, always ready to offer a second opinion, and there are often forums for officers to discuss issues or share learning points from case studies.

In addition, IRAS officers are constantly exposed to various opportunities to develop their personal skills.

For example, Mervyn provided secretariat duties for the IRAS Board and was in the frontline team handling taxpayer enquiries. He also went through a useful internship at the Revenue and Accounting Branch, during which, he saw first-hand the difficult trade-offs made during IRAS’s push to implement the GIRO scheme for taxpayers. That experience taught him to appreciate “how government decisions are often, not easy to make”.

“All the deliberations were very measured, and as a young intern it was invaluable seeing the intricacies of making these policy decisions,” he recalls.

Jonathan, on the other hand, went a step further by taking up a temporary position in IRAS prior to studying overseas. For six months in the Infocomm Division – the same division he is in now – he worked on the Tech Refresh project, from programming to design to mapping out how the system revamp would look like.

It was a fulfilling experience, he says, and “it is great how some of the friends I made then are still here today.”

Jonathan credits his friend’s father, who has worked in IRAS for 27 years, for inspiring him to take up the scholarship. “He convinced me that IRAS is a good place to grow, to make lifelong friends, and to find meaning in the work you do.”

Mervyn Lim Ding Yan

Mervyn Lim Ding Yan 
IRAS Merit Mid-Term Undergraduate Scholar

Senior Tax Officer
Corporate Tax Division

“All the deliberations were very measured, and as a young intern it was invaluable seeing the intricacies of making these policy decisions.”

Driving Social Change

As the state’s tax regulator, IRAS provides service in administering, assessing, collecting and enforcing payment of taxes. More importantly, taxes collected go towards supporting economic and social initiatives to build a fair and inclusive society.

This spirit to serve the community is evident in how IRAS’s officers are active in volunteerism on top of their regular work, through the Inland Revenue Recreational Club (IRRC). When Mervyn was the IRRC’s Community Involvement Secretary, he organised the President’s Challenge and regular volunteering sessions at various voluntary welfare organisations, such as the Willing Hearts soup kitchen.

“Serving the less-fortunate in society was not only an eye-opening ‘journey of self-discovery’, it also inculcated a stronger sense of community and social purpose,” Mervyn says. Not just for him, but also for his fellow officers. He proudly points out that all volunteering activities are not management-led but initiated by IRAS staff.

For aspiring scholars looking to join the IRAS family, the duo has some final words of advice.

“You must able to uphold the Public Service values - integrity, service and excellence” notes Mervyn. “You also need to have a good heart to empathise with the cause you are serving,” adds Jonathan. “IRAS is not just an organisation that cares about auditing and collecting tax. Ultimately, as individual public officers, we want to help Singaporeans and serve the greater good.”