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Singapore's MoF Introduces Information-Sharing Legislation

by Mary Swire, Tax-News.com, Hong Kong

17 September 2009


Singapore’s government has introduced the Income Tax (Amendment) (Exchange of Information) Bill, which seeks to bring local tax laws in line with the OECD standard for the exchange of information for tax purposes.

The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has said that the changes contained in the bill will enhance the level of assistance Singapore can provide to foreign jurisdictions under bilateral double taxation agreements. For example, the new bill lays out documentary requirements to ensure that requests for information are “clear, specific, relevant and consistent” with internationally-agreed standards and provides procedures for access to information held by banks and trust companies.

During a consultation period before the bill was placed before parliament, one of the suggestions received by the MoF was that the taxpayer and the bank or trust company involved be notified of a valid request for such information, and that the taxpayer be given the right of appeal. The MoF has recognized that notification of taxpayers and the right of appeal are consistent with the principle of respect for taxpayers' rights under the OECD standard. That suggestion has therefore been incorporated in the revised bill.

In response to another suggestion to simplify the process of obtaining information held by banks and trust companies, the bill has also been revised to remove the need for Singapore’s Inland Revenue Authority to seek the Attorney-General's consent before it can make an application to the High Court for a court order.

A comprehensive report in our Intelligence Report series, examining in depth the situation of offshore transparency and secrecy in a number of the most prominent jurisdictions, is available in the Lowtax Library at http://www.lowtaxlibrary.com/asp/subs_reports.asp and a description of the report can be seen at http://www.lowtaxlibrary.com/asp/description_report2.asp

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