Left: Rex Chua is a Senior Manager who is leading a Data Analytics Team. He holds a Bachelor of Business from NTU and a Master of Science in Business Analytics from NUS, which was supported by IRAS.
Right: Irene Kuek is a Senior Associate at the Litigation Division. She is a recipient of the IRAS Undergraduate Scholarship, and she holds a Bachelor of Laws from University of London (LLB) and a Master of Laws (LLM, General) from New York University.
We can all agree that Singapore has enjoyed sustained economic growth and prosperity since its independence. Its people and enterprises are supported via a range of support schemes and nation-building programmes. These initiatives would not be possible without the pivotal work done by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS), the Singapore Government agency responsible for the administration of taxes and enterprise disbursement schemes.
While the mandate of IRAS is mainly of a fiscal nature, the organisation is made up of people with varied academic backgrounds and skillsets. This collective knowledge allows IRAS to approach challenges holistically and devise policies that are fundamentally sound and future-proof.
For one, Irene Kuek provides legal advice involving various areas of law necessary for IRAS' functions. She also represents IRAS at court hearings. Rex Chua leads the Data Analytics team as a Senior Manager, supporting the branches that have been handling different national pay-out schemes.
Here, Irene and Rex give us an insider's perspective on what it is like to work for Singapore's tax authority and shared with us how their varied roles and responsibilities contribute to IRAS' mission and objectives.
Rex and Irene, tell us more about your roles and responsibilities at IRAS!
Rex: I am currently in the Revenue & Corporate Services Division and my responsibilities span across a few branches within the Division. My primary role is to drive the use of data and analytics in the division's work and the automation of processes for more effective performance. I have also led the implementation of Government Payout Schemes administered by the Enterprise Grant Management Branch lending my expertise to help develop and manage the Anti-Gaming model used to detect payout frauds.
Irene: I am part of the Advisory Branch in IRAS' Law Division, where we provide legal advice to various tax management divisions in IRAS. We review and advise on legal documents such as contracts that IRAS will be a party to for its projects or operations and assist with legislative drafting when new tax rules are being introduced or existing ones are being refined.
I was recently attached to the International Tax and Relations Division, where I was also able to gain deeper insights to cross-border trade and investment activities involving Singapore, as well as political aspects of taxation in the international arena.
Irene, how did you develop an interest in pursuing law?
Irene: It stemmed from my studies! Although I took both arts and sciences in my pre-tertiary studies, I was inclined to pursue law as I enjoyed reading and writing more.
Conversely, Rex, you deal with numbers. What got you interested in Data Analytics?
Rex: It all started with Netflix and YouTube! I was intrigued by how those services were able to deliver highly relevant content to me, based on the data they've collected about my media consumption habits. At work, in IRAS' latest transformation journey, there is a strong drive to leverage big data and AI to deliver better solutions for our taxpayers. Hence when the opportunity arose, my top choice for my post-graduate studies was in the field of Data Analytics.
Irene, you joined IRAS via the Undergraduate Scholarship. How did you discover it?
Irene: I recalled reading an interview featuring a scholar working in IRAS' Law Division in BrightSparks magazine. To this day, I still keep the printout of this interview and quite providently, she is now my colleague and a good friend! Based on what she shared on the nature of work and the work culture at IRAS, I felt like it was something I could imagine myself doing after graduation.
We're glad that BrightSparks was able to help! How did the scholarship support your academic pursuits?
Irene: I pursued a Bachelor of Laws at the University of London from 2014 to 2017. Then, I completed a Master of Laws at New York University from 2017 to 2018. Both degrees were fully supported by IRAS.
Since joining IRAS after your scholarship, how has your working experience been so far?
Irene: It has been great and has connected me to many opportunities! Before I even started university, IRAS linked me up with mentors who had encouraged me in my academic pursuit. Beyond this, the mentoring by friendly colleagues and bosses continued when I officially joined IRAS and it greatly helped to ease the learning curve. I also had opportunities to work with colleagues from different divisions and ministries which greatly expanded my learning horizon.
As for you Rex, how has the organisation supported your professional development over the years?
Rex: IRAS invests in its people and I have been very privileged to have been rotated across several functions within IRAS. The experience I gained is invaluable as each posting gave me a different perspective of the work I have done previously and broadened my understanding of the various functions within IRAS and across the Whole of Government. Personally, I was also blessed with the opportunity to further my studies in 2020 with a Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) degree from NUS, which was a meaningful and enriching experience for me.
Any tips or points to note for people interested in joining IRAS?
Rex: Every day at IRAS is different as the requests and challenges faced by individuals and businesses take on different forms and sizes. My job is never dull as we are constantly adapting to the changing needs of the industry and customers, alongside developing innovative solutions to enhance the tax experiences. If you love a good challenge and have the passion to make a difference in the lives of individuals and businesses in Singapore, join us! Other than tax work, you will also have the opportunity to gain exposure in fields such as IT, Data Analytics, Behavioural Insights and Design, Strategic Planning, Service Delivery as well as Operations Management. While IRAS' work is always challenging, above all, our strong camaraderie allows us to help one another whenever we face difficulties at work.
Irene: IRAS is very invested in the development of staff – be it through cross-division or inter-agency projects, training programmes or job rotations.
The law division at IRAS offers a diverse portfolio of work such as litigation, advisory and prosecution, and this can be very valuable for young lawyers who are keen to try different types of legal work to find where their interests and talents lie. As IRAS recognises the importance of increasing the competencies and exposure of its people, there might also be opportunities to undergo attachments outside of Law Division to acquire other types of skills and competencies!