Singapore to have own accountancy qualification. Why?

who says accountants are boring?

What will be happening in 2011?

Singapore will soon have its own post-university professional accountancy qualification.

The Pro-Tem Singapore Accountancy Council is currently developing the programme with the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore (ICPAS) in consultation with accounting bodies in the UK, Australia and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

Why is described as “post-university… qualification”?

The certification process will be open to GRADUATES from non-accountancy backgrounds and foreign students. Theoretically a history graduate could go through a “bar exam” before being officially conferred the title of being a “qualified accountant”. [ACCA has done that for me and probably for majority of the accountants in Singapore ie. allows an Economics graduate to become a trained accountant which is internationally recognised.]

Why are we doing this?

Firstly, this is supposed to help Singapore to achieve a leading global accountancy hub status in Asia Pacific by 2020.

In the words of Second Finance Minister Lim Hwee Hua, she said accountancy professionals here and in the region will have an avenue to develop their careers by obtaining credentials that are globally recognised. [Singapore should become the top of mind place to get an accounting qualification that would be recognised by countries in the region.]

She said: “The objective is to develop accounting professionals who are not just deep problem solvers in the core area of accountancy. We also want our accountancy professionals to be equipped with the skills to interact with other specialists and understand technical issues from a wide range of disciplines and functional areas.”

Secondly, the Pro-Tem Singapore Accountancy Council is also looking into alternative niche areas for accountants here to specialise in instead of just focusing on the traditional areas of auditing, accounting and tax.

“We’ve already formed a committee to look at the different specialisation pathways in terms of risk management, for instance, development of CFOs (Chief Financial Officers), internal audit, valuation, taxation. These will be the specialisation, so called qualifications, that we can look at,” said Bobby Chin, chairman of Pro-Tem Singapore Accountancy Council.

Other areas of specialisation such as management accounting or forensic accounting may be introduced later.

Singapore wants to achieve the status of being a talent hub where “travellers from universe can land in Singapore and seek the necessary talents to perform whatever tasks needed”. Remember Han Solo in Star Wars? So if you are looking for a pilot to fly a interglactic spaceship or people to value a tree or to perform due diligence on a nuclear plant acquisition, we should have them here.

Source – / Jonathan Peeris

Exposure Draft on Deferred Tax

Current practice
Companies must state if they intend to rent out or sell the property in future. Appropriate taxes are then applied ie. 17% deferred tax on rental income or 0% on capital gains from disposal of properties.

Proposed change
The respective country’s capital gains tax would be applied to all properties.

Assessed impacts

  • Since Singapore has no capital gains tax, past and future deferred tax provision would not be necessary before the end of 2010. 
  • Net asset values of property firms could go up by 5 to 8% as per Mr Choo Eng Beng, PwC. Share price of property firms could subsequently go up too due to higher valuation.

Can I have a Partnership with one Partner?

Dear friends,

Consider ths situation.

You started a partnership with a friend and you named it “Ah Kow & Partners”. For some reasons, your friend decided to leave the partnership and you continue to run the “partnership” singularly and without a change in business name. Is this acceptable by law?

The Court of Appeal ruled as follows in Orix Capital vs Chor Pee and Partners:-
a) Requested the Law Society to be more transparent about law firms and partners operating which each firm given existing rules within legal profession forbid firms from using names that are misleading and;
b) Chor Pee and Partners was found to be not liable for the debt of $263,000 to Orix Capital as the contract was deemed to have been signed by an individual ie. Lim Chor Pee and NOT by the partnership.

I am wondering why registration of law firms is not under the jurisdiction of ACRA ie. just like any other business entities in Singapore. Please note that the above could be peculiar ony to law firms and not those partnerships under the ambit of ACRA. (I am speculating here. Can someone correct me if I am wrong.)

Bottomline – You cannot have a partnership of one person. But who should make sure this happen?

ACCA Conference 2010 – Cheong Pui Yuen

Pui Yuen’s mentor

Mr Cheong Pui Yuen presented an interesting and honest paper entitled “Transforming the Public Accounting Profession – A Practitioner’s Perspective”.

He attempted to outline some ideas of how we (as an auditng entity, as a member of the public accountants, as customers/clients to audit firms and as accountancy body like ACCA) can respond to the impending changes as highlighted in the CDAS report.

As an auditing entity, you may to seriously think about the following:-
a) expanding scope of services offered;
b) consider gaining scale by working together in local and regional markets
c) explore increasing its capital base given the relax rules governing ownership
d) scenario planning with different audit exemption threshold ie. what if the threshold is increased current $5m to $10m etc
e) scenario planning with increased costs from higher quality expectation (and possibly with limited price increase)

As for customers/clients of auditing entities, Mr Cheong advised as follows:-
a) expect higher service quality;
b) pay a fair fees for service rendered;
c) don’t encourage fees cutting;
d) work with progressive/quality audit entities;
e) and lastly and very checkily he said, “pls don’t take away our resources unnecessarily”.

For accountancy bodies like ACCA, he opined that it should continue to step up its profile, collaborate with other entities from government, trade, other accountancy bodies etc etc. He stressed that it is very important for ACCA to differentiate itself so as to give a reason for its members to continue renewal of their membership.

ACCA Conference 2010 – Tim Hird, Robert Half International

Dear friends,

Tim Hird presented his findings of a joint ACCA/Robert Half research entitled “Talent and Skills in Finance & Accounting Survey 2010 – Uncovering the Challenges”.

May I highlight some of his main points:-

Skills that are lacking in finance & accounts related staff are:-
a) management and leadership skills;
b) interpersonal skills / ability to work within a team and;
c) communications skills.

For employers, the top three retention strategies for staff are:-
a) improve salary package;
b) offer promotion or better career development and;
c) offer flexible hours / work from home.

I understand that the full report will be released by end of month.

Burger King vs Sinar Mas/Golden Agri over green issues

In today’s Sunday Times, I read that Burger King cancelled its contract to buy palm oil from Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology (SMART). This is said to be a move to protest over Sinar Mas not adopting sustainable farming practices and destroying rainforests in generating the palm oil.

This is a timely reminder of the importance of “Green Reporting”/sustaintability reporting and SGX’s recent issuance of guidelines (ie. non manadatory) on disclosure of social and environmental aspects of business.

Boards and management of companies are slowly and surely being made accountable to all stakeholders. Many years ago, they were said to be only responsible to shareholders for financial results. Now given emphasis on sustainable reporting, management are now being queried on how they achieve those results and the impact they have on the communities within which they operate in.

While I personally hope for such information to be made available on a statutory basis, I am however happy that SGX has taken the first move to “encourage” such reporting.

Bursa Malaysia is ahead of SGX when it legislated (ie. by law) that such reports be made compulsory back in 2007!!! According to ACCA survey as reported by Darryl Wee, CEO of ACCA Singapore, 49 companies in Malaysia generated sustainability reports in eight years. In comparison, Singapore lagged behind with only 21 companies.

P/S – SMART operates all palm oil plantations for Golden Agri Resources, a company listed in Singapore Exchange.

Biggest GST fraud in Singapore

$5,695,823.65 being the tax undercharged.
Then multiply that amount by 3 to arrive at $17,087,470.95 penalty payable.
In return for that “contribution”, the person responsible gets 54 months of free food and free lodging in prison.

Who gets such “honours”?
The man is none other, Mr Mahesh Sukhram Daswani.
He was in the business of trading mobile phones. He subsequently found it more lucrative to “manage” (ie. forge) his business records very aggressively.

First;y, he under reported his sales ie. collected output GST from his customers and decided to keep a lot for himself.
Secondly, he kept himself busy with creating detailed but “fictitious” purchases. He probably used photoshop (just kidding) to digitally alter zero-rated suppliers’ invoices to standard-rated. He then directed his staff to include those invoices in the quarterly claims.
Thirdly, he had to go create export documents to show that the mobile phones had been exported. Export sales, remember is zero-rated. I guess he was trying to show how he was able to dispose off millions of dollars of phone purchased.

The trickeries of Mahesh are not new but definitely not sustainable.

1. IRAS would definitely be paying attention to who have been issued millions of dollars of refund cheques. A request for audit of the respective taxpayers’ books would be good practice.
2. In the press release, it was specifically highlighted that IRAS has used a lot of technologies to nab Mr Mahesh. Phrases such as “advanced computer forensics techniques”, “computerised analysis programmes” and “specialised computer forensic tools” were deliberately informed to public. Perhaps IRAS colleagues have exchanged notes with their colleagues in Commercial Affairs Department.

The moral of the story (as always) – Please don’t try to muck around with your GST returns.

Property tax today and 2011

Marina Bay’s construction from my car

On the 13th July in The Straits Times’ Forum, Ms Deanna Choo, Director (Corporate Communications) of IRAS responded to Mr Paul Chan’s misconceptions (3rd July) below:-

1) He thought IRAS estimates the annual value of properties based future market trends.
2) He also felt that increases in the annual value of a property based on market rentals were not right for owner-occupiers.

IRAS responded as followed:-
1) “The property tax is pegged to the annual value of the property, which is determined based on market rentals of similar properties prevailing at the time of assessment. It does not take into account any forecast or estimate of future movements in market rentals.”

2) Property tax is a tax on property ownership ie. regardless of whether the property is tenanted. Income tax is imposed levied on rental income from properties that are rented out.

IRAS is of the opinion that property tax calculated against current market rentals (as against transacted property prices) is relatively more stable to homeowners.

Question for IRAS – Can share with us on how you collect information on current market rentals?

Future changes
The Government introduced in Budget 2010 a progressive property tax schedule for owner-occupied residential properties from 1 Jan 2011.

Currently, home owners who are eligible for the owner-occupier concession pay property tax at a flat rate of 4% on the Annual Values of their properties. Owners of non owner-occupied residential properties and other properties are taxed at 10%.

Will you as a homeowner be expected to pay more or less on property tax?

Based on IRAS estimates, all HDB flat owners and the vast majority of residential property owners will enjoy an effective property tax rate lower than 4% of annual value under the new method. IRAS has done some calculations to demonstrate how and why most of us would be paying less property tax in e-Tax Guide cited below.

For owner-occupied properties,

  • If your annual property value is $6,000 or less, you pay nothing under existing and new 2011 law.
  • If your annual property value is $24,000, you would enjoy $240 tax savings.
  • If your annual property value is $80,000, you would pay $60 more than under current law.

IRAS e-Tax Guide –
The Straits Times, July 13, 2010

Company director jailed for GST fraud

What happened?
Tang Ee Boon (“Tang”), 32, the managing director of V-Teb Services Pte Ltd (“V-Teb”) was convicted of GST fraud amounting to $327,837.49 and was sentenced to 12 months’ jail. Tang was brought to court for 21 charges of making inflated and false claims of GST refunds for the period 1 Jan 2004 to 30 Jun 2007.

GST-registered businesses can offset the GST they pay on their purchases (input tax) against the GST they collect from sales (output tax), and pay the net difference to IRAS. If a business incurs more GST on purchases (input tax) than it collects from sales (output tax), it can claim the difference as GST refund from IRAS.

What went wrong for Tang’s ploy?
V-Teb provides cleaning services locally. By nature of his business, the company is not expected to claim GST refunds.

However, IRAS’ tax auditors noted a pattern of submitting increasing amounts of GST refund claims in the GST returns on a frequent basis. IRAS actually verifies the value of V-Teb’s taxable purchases with the alleged suppliers.

What did Tang get for his mischiefs?

Tang pleaded guilty to a total of 14 charges of evading GST,

  • comprising three charges of understating output tax,
  • eight charges of overstating input tax, and;
  • three charges of making false entries in V-Teb’s GST returns.

In addition to the jail term, the court also ordered Tang to pay a penalty of $983,512.47, which is three times the amount of GST undercharged.

Source – – Edgar basically paraphrase/paragrapg the original article.

Proposed changes to Accounting for Leases

it pours and pours

What is the proposed change?
For lessees, FASB and IASB believe that all lease contracts should be treated in a manner similar to the treatment of finance leases. Thus removing the existing requirement for lessees to differentiate leases as finance or operating leases.

Why the proposed change?

  1. Firstly, current rules which determine lease classification may result in similar transactions reported very differently, leading to lack of comparability and significant amounts of off balance-sheet finance not being recognised.
  2. Secondly, the right obtained by the lessee in a lease contract is the right to use the leased asset during the lease term. This right meets the definition of an asset. The lessee incurs an obligation to pay rentals in a lease contract, and that this obligation meets the definition of a liability. (“Right of Use” model)

Details of proposed change for LESSEE under “Right of Use model”

  • Leases would be measured at cost initially ie.the present value of the lease payments, including initial direct costs incurred by the lessee.
  • Present values would be calculated using the lessee’s incremental borrowing rate as the discount rate.
  • Expense to lessee would be interest expense on instalments paid. (Existing treatment is rental expense.)

Possible consequences

For the lessees, interest expense would thus be higher in the early years of a lease (compared with the current straight-line treatment for rent expense) ==> impact on accounting ratios / loan covenants / profitability / credit ratings and other external measures of financial

For the lessors, a significant chunk of their business could disappear overnight if the lessees decide to buy the assets themselves instead trying to rent.

Source – Accounting and Business Singapore 06/2010