Even Dead Men Must Pay The IRAS
Changi General Hospital (CGH) recently found themselves in a PR nightmare after hiring debt collectors to recover $37 from a patient. That particular incident drew the ire of netizens, with many labelling the act as heartless. For most, it also reinforces their belief that Singapore is a cold place lacking empathy and compassion.
Unfortunately, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) has now perpetuated that image, after it sent a letter demanding that a dead man’s tax of just $58.74 had to be paid.
Dead But Debtee
Mr KD Rooban, chief executive of software development company iKloudIT, posted that photo of a letter sent to him by the friendly national tax collector on his Facebook page.
“Mr Garbrel”, who is presumably someone close to Mr Rooban, had just died, and IRAS, being the nice guys that they are, sent him a letter offering their condolences.
We are sorry to hear about the demise of Mr Garbrel. We extend our condolences to the family. We understand that this has been a difficult time for the family.
Hang on, don’t the government agency have better things to do? Since when did they start writing condolence letters to their “customers”? Is Mr Garbrel some kind of big shot?
As it turns out, Mr Rooban is the appointed legal personal representative of the dead guy.
And the IRAS letter’s sympathetic opening lines were just a facade. They quickly got to the true purpose of the letter:
However, it is our duty to inform the Legal Personal Representative (LPR) that the late Garbrel has an unpaid Income Tax amounting to $58.74.
At the LPR, your role includes filing of any outstanding tax return and settling the unpaid tax of the late Garbrel from funds or assets available in the estate. These refer to money, property or any other assets of the late Garbrel.
Please use the enclosed payment slip to pay by 24 May 2017. If there are insufficient funds, please complete and return the enclosed Statement of Assets/Liabilities by 24 May 2017.
They even offered a helpline in case Mr Rooban ran into trouble.
If you need any clarification or assistance, please contact us on 6356 7012.
Worse Than Ah Long?
Isn’t it comforting to know that Singapore’s public institutions are steadfast in their duties, even when we’re dead?
Till death DO NOT us part, when it comes to Singapore’s civil service.
Unsurprisingly, Singaporeans are not happy. It’s bad enough giving away a chunk of your wealth when you’re living, but to be forced to even after you pass on must feel absurd.
And especially cutting was the fact that the sum owed was just $58 plus. Not as if it was $58,ooo.
Some questioned the legal implications, or lack thereof.
Others compared IRAS’ efficiency to their Malaysian counterparts.
A few played devil’s advocate and supported their actions.
There were some passive-aggressive suggestions thrown in for good measure.
Not the first time this has happened?
Furthermore, this episode comes on the back of an ill-timed investment by state-owned fund management company GIC, where losses are estimated to be around US$7 billion (S$9.7 billion).
Some folks were quick to associate the two events.
Course Of Action
Theoretically, it is perfectly within IRAS’ rights to recover the taxes, since they were incurred when Garbrel was alive. However, could things have been handled better, perhaps by waiting for a few more months before making the request? After all, most Singaporeans seem to be angry at the lack of sensitivity rather than the act itself.
Rules are rules, but to hide behind a veil of sympathy while chasing over $58.74 is a social media disaster waiting to happen.
Hopefully, organisations can learn from the CGH and IRAS incidents and exercise a bit of common sense, and more importantly, compassion, in the future.