SPEECH BY ER DR LEE BEE WAH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, AT THE SECOND READING OF THE GOODS AND SERVICES (GST) AMENDMENT BILL IN PARLIAMENT
Goods and Services (GST) (Amendment)
Mr Speaker, Sir,
Easing business compliance is one of the keys towards encouraging business development and start-ups in Singapore, and I am pleased to note that the authorities are constantly trying to clarify and simplify procedures to make the process a smoother one. Additionally, as we strive towards our goal of a Smart Nation, with digitisation as one of the keys to achieving this, we should encourage and empower businesses to make use of existing technologies for administrative procedures.
The Prime Minister’s National Day Rally speech has sparked much interest and discussion about going cashless. This reminds me that years ago we started our pursuit for a paperless society, when consumers were encouraged to switch to receiving their bills in digital formats. This was not only to support environmental conservation, but also to make retrieval of records and transactions much easier for both consumers and business entities. Today, numerous apps have been created for the convenience of checking bills and even paying them.
If consumers can benefit from going paperless, certainly so can businesses. Having tax notices in digital formats will make record-keeping more secure and manageable. Meanwhile businesses may still opt out of receiving their tax notices in digital formats if they prefer hard copies. This offers flexibility for those who may require time to adapt to the technology. Understandably, making physical copies an opt-out option is a move to push businesses towards the digital format. However, I have reservations for SMEs and micro-enterprises. Some of these firms hire administrative employees who wear several hats. And, some of these employees are elderly, or even foreigners, and they may not be tech-savvy or know enough English to manoeuvre the digital options, or choose to opt out. With many other administrative matters to cope with, they may then overlook the matter of paying taxes. Another concern is that with the rise of scam and fraudulent activities on cyber platforms, such as emails, this could lead to another problem among those who are less informed.
This then brings me to the next matter – the monthly penalty of $200 for late submission of GST returns. Previously, this penalty was imposed on outstanding returns starting from a month after the filing due date. With the amendment, the penalty will commence immediately after the filing due date. I would like to ask for the rationale behind this enhanced penalty, especially together with the change to an opt-out system? What are the companies that have been falling behind payment? If they are mainly SMEs and micro-enterprises, this will become an undue burden for them. Aside from higher penalty, we should find out the reasons for the late payments, and see what can be done to help companies improve on this aspect. These companies may be facing financial challenges for example.
Having worked with as well as interacted with employers and employees in many SMEs, it is quite apparent that they have to deal with many challenges in these rapidly changing times. From labour crunch to digitalization to administrative matters, these companies are facing pressure from multiple angles, and they are struggling to stay afloat, let alone profit. For all the schemes that are available, some companies continue to be left behind. To create an inclusive and welcoming business environment, we really have to do more outreach and display more empathy.
In Chinese please. 这次修法，把电子通知改为默认的通知方式，同时又把迟报税的一个月宽限期去除掉。这样一来，一些中小企业是否会忽略了来自税务局的通知，因而被罚呢？请部长透露，历年来迟报税的公司是否大多是中小企业，在去除宽限期之前，当局是否可以用别的方式帮助他们准时报税。
Ultimately, the amendments are clearly designed for greater convenience of businesses, with their long-term interests in mind. I believe that many of the affected businesses will eventually ease into the changes, and hence, Sir, I support the amendments. Thank you.