Singapore boosts measures against global tax cheats

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 May, 2013, 9:40pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 May, 2013, 9:40pm


Singapore said on Tuesday it will implement new measures that will make it easier to share information with other countries on cross-border tax evaders trying to hide assets in the city-state.

The move comes as the United States and developed countries in Europe intensify efforts to ferret out citizens who avoid paying taxes by parking their money in offshore financial centres like Singapore.

Officials said Singapore plans to reach an agreement with the United States that will enable financial institutions to comply with a US law requiring them to share information on Americans’ overseas accounts.

It also aims to amend its laws so that the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) will no longer need a court order to get information from banks on accounts of suspected tax dodgers at the request of a foreign government.

From July 1 it will be a criminal offence in Singapore to handle proceeds from tax evasion.

“There no conflict between high standards of financial integrity and keeping our strengths as a financial centre for managing wealth,” Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in a statement.

“Singapore will continue to be a vibrant wealth management centre, with laws and rules that safeguard legitimate funds and reject tainted money.”

The joint statement by the finance ministry, central bank and IRAS said Singapore had already been able to respond promptly to most requests for information from foreign governments.

But removing the requirement of a court order will “further streamline” the exchange of information, it said.

Singapore will also sign an international convention on mutual assistance in tax matters and increase the number of countries with which it is able to exchange information for tax purposes from 41 to 83, including the United States.

The statement said the necessary legal changes would be made this year.

French authorities recently said they would seek Singapore’s help with an international probe into suspected tax fraud by a former budget minister.

Jerome Cahuzac stepped down in March after prosecutors announced there would be a full criminal inquiry into allegations that he had an undeclared bank account in Switzerland.

The 60-year-old is also suspected of moving assets to Singapore to hide them from the tax authorities.

Assets managed by fund managers in Singapore stood at S$1.34 trillion (HK$8.39trillion) as of 2011, with over 70 per cent coming from overseas, according to central bank data.