A Fine Balance of Work and Play
If you think working in the tax sector is a dreary proposition, these two versatile, energetic IRAS officers will certainly change your mind.
By Becky Lo
To most people, taxation is a subject they rather not deal with, let alone talk about. Yet, chatting to Goh Pei Shan and Loh Sok Fang is such an interesting and enjoyable experience; you will almost forget that you’re actually talking about taxation.
These two young ladies are clearly in their element at the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS), their eyes sparkling when they share their experience working at the Singapore’s tax authority.
Beginning with a bang
Looking back to her past three years at IRAS, Pei Shan has nothing short of fond memories. After graduating from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Pei Shan joined the organisation as one of the faces of its Corporate Tax division – a Tax Officer.
She dealt directly with small companies, helping them with the tax issues that they have with their businesses.
Pei Shan recalls how she went through a baptism of fire when she first joined, which coincided with the 2008 financial crisis.
Despite being only a few months into her new environment, she was roped into the Jobs Credit Scheme, which provides assistance grants to businesses to help them preserve jobs in the downturn.
“It was like a real-life induction course into the organisation,” the Economics major muses. “I watched many divisions working together on the scheme. The teamwork and flexibility of the organisation left a deep impression on me.”
Always something new
Sok Fang’s route was slightly different, though no less difficult as compared to Pei Shan. She was first assigned to the Customer Service Team within the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Division, helping taxpayers with e-filing procedures.
Within a short period of three months, she was posted to the New Registrant Team, where she was entrusted with the responsibility of handling new GST-registered businesses. Her job was to mainly educate these businesses about the terms of the auditing and interviews involved.
“I actually prefer taxation, particularly GST, to accounting,” the Accountancy major from NTU confesses.
“GST is a transactional-based tax type which means each case I handle is different. It’s hard to be bored by it as the work process is more flexible. There is always something new to find out and more things to see and learn,” she elaborates.
Continual growing and learning
Now, both Pei Shan and Sok Fang have moved on to new challenges in their careers. Pei Shan is now a Senior International Tax Officer in the International Tax Branch in Tax Policy and International Tax Division, while Sok Fang has taken up a different role in the GST division as a Senior Tax Auditor.
Together with her team of five, the 26-year-old Pei Shan juggles double taxation issues and transfer pricing policies to make sure that companies are taxed fairly in the course of their businesses. In her course of work, she works closely with multinational companies, external government agencies and foreign tax authorities.
With her easy and contagious laughter, it is hard not to believe her when Pei Shan shares that all this work and pressure can actually be fun.
“There are a lot of things going on, issues to resolve and challenges to overcome, but you know your team is always ready to support you. That, together with the sense of satisfaction from a completed task, is what really keeps me going,” she says.
Looking at a bigger picture
Sok Fang shares Pei Shan’s enthusiasm in working to make the tax processes easier for businesses. While she mainly deals with GST refund reviews and compliance, she is also part of the e-tax Internal Feedback Panel which evaluates the reader-friendliness of the e-tax guide.
However, when asked about her most memorable project, Sok Fang cites an experience which demonstrated to her the full landscape of taxation.
The 24-year-old attended a meeting that discussed the Mirrlees Review, an internationally-recognised report which identifies the characteristics of a good tax system, as well as assesses the extent to which the UK tax system conforms to these ideals.
“It truly made me see the bigger picture,” Sok Fang explains eagerly.
“I can now understand the successes and failures of a tax system, as well as what other countries are doing, and in comparison, evaluate whether Singapore is going in the right direction.”
While both Pei Shan and Sok Fang are fruitfully engaged in their work, they are not mindlessly absorbed by it. Both of them feel personally enriched by the nurturing environment that provides each IRAS officer the room and opportunity to pursue their passion.
IRAS also allows its employees to apply for postings to different departments based on the employee’s interests and capabilities.
For Pei Shan, the learning culture and supportive team mates give her the perfect platform for further growth and development.
“I personally think that it’s easy to attract talents but not easy to retain them. I first joined IRAS purely out of my interest for taxation, but what makes me choose to stay on is the organisation’s culture and people,” Pei Shan concludes.
Sok Fang agrees, “Even after one year into the working life, I don’t drag myself to the office.”
The epitome of balance
Being an active community volunteer, work-life balance at IRAS is a very attractive plus point for Sok Fang.
Besides having leisure time to volunteer in grassroots activities like packing goodie bags for the less fortunate, Sok Fang is part of the IRAS Recreation Club (IRRC) and contributes to the organisation’s commitment for a holistic work-life balance.
The IRRC adds more fun and enjoyment to the work environment by organising various Social, Welfare and Community Involvement events such as Family Day, in-house bazaars and charity drives for staff to participate in.
While within the branches, branch outings are organised. Employees get to hang loose and interact with officers from different teams to create strong bonds.
For fresh graduates looking for a similarly meaningful work life, Sok Fang advises, “You must enjoy what you do every day. Go for a career that you love, like what I did.