Sir, this Bill gives effect to the measures announced during this year’s Budget Statement. The amendments will encourage businesses to engage in research and development, and develop their capabilities through the Enterprise Innovation Scheme. Through tax incentives, they will also encourage family offices in Singapore to base their philanthropic operations in Singapore.
The amendments also change the WMCR from a percentage of earned income to a fixed dollar tax relief.
I have two points of clarification to raise. My first point is about the WMCR. I have spoken up many times pushing to extend the WMCR to single unwed parents who are parents too and should not be discriminated against.
I understand that the WMCR is to “encourage married women to remain in the workforce after having children”. This is what is stated on the IRAS website but it is not accurate as the relief is provided for divorcees too, rightly so. But again why are single unwed parents left out?
There is actually a loophole here. A giant loophole. To be clear, single unwed parents can get the relief if they just marry the father of the child and then file for a divorce. They then qualify for the WMCR. But why make them jump through so many hoops to get something they should get in the first place?
We want to encourage mothers to return to the workforce but why not encourage single unwed mothers to return to the workforce too?
For single unwed mothers who do return to the workforce despite the absolutely difficult circumstances they are in, should we not support them and provide them with the WMCR?
This policy is not cast in stone and we are amending it now to provide more Government support for eligible lower- to middle-income working mothers. We should provide support to single unwed mothers too.
I know the reply will be that we do provide support to single unwed parents and the Senior Minister of State might list the range of support provided. I agree that some support is there but this push for providing the WMCR is also about being fair and being inclusive. It is about making sure single unwed parents do not feel discriminated against.
Single unwed parents have written to me, come to my Meet-the-People Session and speak to me during my home visits. I hear them, I feel the stigma they face and the discrimination they endure daily.
One single unwed parent wrote to me with regard to the WMCR and said, “Why the unfair treatment and discrimination for single mothers?” and “Many grievances ever since my baby was born and I am ashamed to be a Singapore citizen who is left out in the system.”
Let me stress that the appeal here, like the appeal to provide the single unwed parents with the cash component of the baby bonus and the parenthood tax rebate, is not about providing single unwed parents with more support.
The appeal is that they be treated equally and be provided with the WMCR like how it is provided to married, divorced and widowed working mothers.
My second point is on growing Singapore as a philanthropic hub. The pilot tax incentive introduced by the Bill offers Family Offices a 100% tax deduction for overseas donations.
I applaud the move to take an international perspective in growing Singapore’s philanthropic work. However, this should not be limited to the top tiers of society.
Philanthropic giving should be encouraged across the whole of society. However, the 80:20 fund-raising rule still requires 80% of funds raised for foreign charitable purposes to be applied towards charitable purposes in Singapore.
As we look to grow Singapore’s presence as a regional or even global philanthropic hub, will the Government consider what other tax measures can be used to encourage different forms of giving to local, regional and international causes?
For instance, can we look into how tax incentives can support individuals who wish to contribute to regional humanitarian causes? Helping to alleviate humanitarian crises contributes to regional stability, which in turn benefits Singapore as a country dependent on stable relations and predictable relations with her neighbours. So, notwithstanding these clarifications, I stand in support of the Bill.
Watch the speech here.