Left: Aaron Ng looked into law violations as a Principal Tax Investigator before he took on an IRAS Post-graduate Scholarship.
He has a Bachelor of Accountancy from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and is now pursuing a Master of Science
in Information Technology, also from NTU.
Right: Benjamin Aw conducts audit reviews for medium-sized companies as a Senior Tax Officer (Corporate Tax—Medium Corporations). He is an IRAS Overseas Undergraduate Scholar and holds a Bachelor of Science (Economics) from the London School of Economics as well as a Master of Science (Computing Science) from Imperial College London.
What’s striking about Benjamin Aw, Senior Tax Officer (Corporate Tax – Medium Corporations) and Aaron Ng, Principal Tax Investigator, is how much they seem to enjoy working at IRAS.
The general perception about tax administration probably isn’t an exciting one, but Ben and Aaron would beg to differ. Apart from an uplifting work environment, there’s plenty of opportunities to do challenging and meaningful work, ranging from investigating tax cheats to helping smaller SMEs by streamlining tax processes.
What made you consider the IRAS scholarship?
Aaron: We typically have opportunities to rotate through different divisions in IRAS so that we can try new areas of work.
I’ve been at IRAS for five or six years before I took up the IRAS Post-graduate Scholarship. This scholarship actually offers me alternative fields that I can explore. I studied accounting so my starting point would be audit or tax. I did auditing before I came to IRAS. Here, I started with tax investigations. I was considering my career options when I saw HR’s announcement on the IRAS scholarship application. My bosses were also supportive and they felt that I needed to go out of the division and expand my horizons.
Benjamin: IRAS, being a tax administrator, focuses more on the economic side of things and this aligned with my undergraduate studies. When you choose a scholarship, you also choose the organisation and the career you want to have. The career in this case was about the economics of tax policies in Singapore. Tax is actually quite a crucial aspect of the economic foundations of Singapore, so it was something I was looking for.
Economics as an academic discipline really appealed to me and part of that was because of the policy foundation underlying economics. We don’t just study what is, we should also consider what it should be, and how it should grow. In a way, tax is a very crucial aspect of that and that was also why I chose to take on the IRAS Overseas Undergraduate Scholarship and work for IRAS.
What are your long-term objectives and how do you see yourself growing?
Benjamin: On a personal level, firstly, understanding the different aspects of being a tax administrator. Secondly, managing (in) a large organisation like IRAS. Tax is a very niche field – I’d like to be more conversant, not just in the technical aspects of tax, but also in computing. There is a lot of potential when it comes to automation and computing, and how it can help the public service improve its efficiency.
Aaron: My goal is to broaden my perspective in IRAS. Although I’ve only been in the Investigation division, I’ve been involved in a few other projects across IRAS as well but I want to go deeper. I want to know about the other aspects and from there, that will form my basis for enriching my career.
What is it like working at IRAS?
Benjamin: “IRAS has got a collaborative culture. People not only do their job well, but they also ensure that other people do their jobs well. I would say I am quite thankful for having supportive colleagues.
Aaron: Having come from the private sector, I feel that the culture here is much more welcoming. The management is very close to us and they give us a lot of guidance. It’s a very warm experience. Even my wife – I met her here. It has been life-changing, I must say. We encounter a lot of different challenges at work but at the same time, it is very heartwarming when you have your colleagues and friends fighting alongside with you. We face the challenges that come together. The team spirit is there, the teamwork is very strong.
Who do you think should consider a career at IRAS?
Aaron: Anyone who is interested in building a career with IRAS. We have a lot of other aspects of work like corporate services, backend processing and information technology. Anyone who is interested in challenging themselves and establishing a long-term career should consider a career with us.
Benjamin: In a nutshell, someone who likes applying his or her mind to both macro and micro issues. On a corporate tax level, when we’re dealing with the micro transactions of a company, you really need to pay a lot of attention to detail. At the same time, you also need to be able to look at the big picture about the things that they are doing; whether they’re beneficial for the entire organisation, whether they’re beneficial for Singapore’s economy among other things.
What advice would you give to those who want to try for a scholarship with IRAS?
Aaron: I think the most important thing is to be themselves and try to find opportunities to showcase their skills and abilities.
Benjamin: For anyone who’s applying for an IRAS scholarship, it’s important to not just know that one field you’re in, whether it’s economics, accounting, or computer science. You should be aware about how the business environment is really changing, from a corporate tax angle. So read widely, understand how businesses work, understand whatever you are learning and apply that to your knowledge of tax issues. Do remember to take the initiative as well.