Do More, Learn More

Before you shudder upon hearing the word 'taxation', hear what two scholars from IRAS have to say about the organisation – it definitely offers more than just taxing work!

By Lim Yan Wen

If your knowledge about taxation is limited to the Benjamin Franklin quote “In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes”, it might come as a pleasant surprise that there is much more to the business of taxation in a modern economy such as Singapore's.

Just ask Accountancy graduate Linda Cheng. The 23-year-old, who graduated from the Nanyang Business School in Nanyang Technological University (NTU), chose the course based on advice from her cousins. “I have cousins who are auditors and they suggested that I could try this field, and I do not regret my choice,” the Raffles Junior College alumnus says.

Today, after joining IRAS for over a year, Linda is a Senior Tax Officer working in the Corporate Tax Division. She feels that she was very fortunate to have been able to start her career in the Corporate Tax Division; previously, it had been next to impossible for fresh graduates to jump right into the deep seas of corporate tax affairs. “It's been a very steep learning curve, but I'm thankful for this opportunity to learn so much. Also, the seniors have been most helpful,” Linda says of her working environment and colleagues.

Learning on the go
The IRAS Local Undergraduate Scholarship supported Linda financially through the three-year direct honours programme at NTU, and also gave her plenty of learning opportunities. She is now serving out a four-year bond, and she looks forward to being rotated to new departments in the future.

Besides her daily work, Linda also has a chance to author papers that examine ways to increase the rate of electronic filing for corporations. “I think everyone here is given lots of opportunities to learn, it just depends on whether you make use of it. I find my job satisfying and I'm quite happy with what I'm doing right now,” she says.

Presently, Linda is based in the Medium Corporations Branch under the umbrella of the Corporate Tax Division. “We look at the accounts of companies and see if they under-declare or over-claim certain expenses. We also do education work such as organising seminars to interact with taxpayers to understand their problems and ensure they are voluntarily compliant and know how to file their taxes,” Linda explains.

For all the theories and readings she has been exposed to, Linda is glad that her Accountancy training has served her well. Nonetheless, she reckons that nothing beats on-the-job training and learning from practical experiences. “You have to do more to learn more, and you shouldn't see opportunities as a burden or extra liability,” Linda reflects.

People Power
“I realised that work in IRAS involves much more than complex tax technicalities. Employees are inculcated with a strong sense of social responsibility that goes beyond a results-oriented work philosophy,” the NTU alumnus says.

Good work ethics and a sense of social responsibility are also important, as undergraduate scholar Xu Ding Jiao realised after interacting with the Human Resource personnel of IRAS to understand the organisation better.

The 21-year-old is currently pursuing a double degree in Economics and Operations Research and Management Science in the University of California, Berkeley. “Economics fascinates me with its marrying of the expediency and logic of the sciences, and the beauty of the arts. More importantly, it has given me a better understanding of the world in an economic context and today’s socio-political landscape that economics ultimately shapes,” Ding Jiao elaborates.

Ding Jiao found out about the IRAS Overseas Undergraduate Scholarship from the organisation’s website, and she will be bonded to IRAS for six years after graduation. At the moment, she is keeping her options open about which department she would like to join upon graduation.

“I just hope to be able to apply the knowledge I have gained in university to my future work in IRAS,” she says. Ding Jiao has hopes of contributing to IRAS by making life easier for taxpayers. “Ultimately, I want to play a part in making tax processes and policies more efficient and less complicated for taxpayers,” she explains.

Managing the tax system of an entire country is certainly no small feat, which is why her people are of paramount importance at IRAS. After being with IRAS for over a year, Linda has come to appreciate that everyone is important in the company, from the top management to the support staff.

“I think everyone here in IRAS has an important role to play. For instance, when we do assessments, we might need to retrieve certain information from some years back; the support staff provide much assistance here,” she says.

More than just Work
While the work can certainly be very challenging and taxing sometimes, it's not all stress and no enjoyment. Linda shares with us her more memorable times with her colleagues at IRAS, when she was put in charge of costumes and make-up for the IRAS musical, which was staged at the annual Dinner and Dance last year. “I thoroughly enjoyed going through the rehearsals and preparations,” Linda recalls.

To potential scholars looking to join IRAS upon graduation, Ding Jiao reckons that qualities such as discipline, self-motivation and strong ethics are important in helping one to succeed. “Work hard in what you believe in and have passion for the work, and you will ultimately be rewarded for your efforts,” she advises.

Linda also points out that the work IRAS does is meaningful and vital to Singapore’s progress. “When everyone complies with the tax regulations and the rules are clear, the economy and tax structure will be stable. Thus, we play important roles in shaping the country and the economy.”

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