Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore
Feature | IRAS

Thriving as a Data Scientist at IRAS

The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) has been leveraging analytics, design and digitisation to continually transform - to deliver quality tax services and foster a competitive tax environment for our nation’s social and economic growth. Meet Nicholas Sham, Director of Insights and Solutions Branch, who is part of the Data Science & AI community that strives to leverage digital tools and use data intelligently to re-engineer business processes and produce insights for smarter decision making.

Nicholas Sham is the Director of Insights & Solutions at IRAS. He graduated with a Master of IT in Business (Analytics) from SMU under the IRAS Postgraduate Scholarship Programme.

Nicholas Sham

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Nicholas Sham

In the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS), data is applied in tax administration to augment decision-making, make processes smarter, and enhance taxpayers’ and staff’s experiences. Our data science journey started more than 10 years ago and the developments have been exciting.

The Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (DSAI) field is intellectually challenging and analytically demanding. I am at the forefront to research, review and recommend solutions or interventions to solve complex problems faced by the taxpaying community and IRAS staff. This makes the job interesting and I get to learn new skills and keep tabs on the new advances in technology. For example, we are looking at how to employ more machine learning techniques such Natural Language Processing and Knowledge Graph in our data science solutions. In respect to the IT infrastructure, we are also moving towards cloud-native technologies.

As Director of the Insights and Solutions Branch, I work with cross-functional teams of Data Scientists and Data Engineers to anticipate needs, experiment, innovate and co-create real-life applications to solve business problems. We also partner external stakeholders to keep abreast with the fast evolving and emerging Data Science & AI technologies.

Our Data Scientists and Data Engineers come together to collaborate and develop cutting-edge data science applications that heavily automate the data crunching to provide deep customer insights or intelligence to improve existing workflows in the organisation. An area of focus is fraud detection, where we worked with our other IRAS counterparts and developed machine learning models to identify potential fraudsters and syndicates for tax audits, compliance and investigations.

My job is different every day. On some days, I may be involved in charting out the Data Science and AI longer-term strategies for the organisation. On other days, I may partner external bodies or even Institutes of Higher Learning to co-develop data science and AI programmes or initiatives to further build the data science capabilities in the organisation.

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Through the IRAS Postgraduate Scholarship Programme, I took up a Master of IT in Business (Analytics) at SMU to deepen my knowledge in this field. Together with the DSAI community in IRAS, we research on emerging technologies to shape and grow data science and AI capabilities in the organisation.

IRAS believes that our people are our core assets and hence we place strong emphasis on training and development. A fresh graduate will join us as an Analyst and he/she will be exposed to a wide range of work, including the opportunity to partner with a Data Scientist to co-develop machine learning models, as well as IRAS-wide activities to cultivate a data-driven culture in the organization. We have a dedicated training roadmap which includes AI certifications as well as cross divisional postings to enable our DSAI talents to fulfil their aspirations as a Data Scientist or as a Data Engineer.

IRAS also believes in applied and peer learning. We have an internal Analytics Network which includes experts, data analyst and officers from various divisions in IRAS who are interested and passionate about analytics. The network has organised various activities such as a staff hackathon to encourage colleagues to use data to resolve business problems and even a virtual escape room on Data, Behavioural Insights and Design.

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Working at IRAS has been enjoyable. It’s a forward-thinking organisation and you have ample opportunities to be exposed to new areas of work. There is a collaborative and supportive work environment that is focused on people development with many opportunities to work on a variety of data science projects.

Come and be part of the IRAS DSAI community where you have the space to explore rich data sets to create and deliver impactful solutions across the organisation and the nation.