The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) has implemented the Tax Governance Framework (TGF) and Tax Risk Management and Control Framework for Corporate Income Tax (CTRM), which aim at encouraging companies to voluntarily adopt good tax governance principles and practices and offering benefits in return. The two frameworks target large companies with complex structures/business models, such as publicly listed companies and other multinationals. Considered in conjunction with the Goods & Services Tax Assisted Compliance Assurance Programme (GST ACAP), the TGF and CTRM provide companies with the relevant tools to holistically step up their tax governance.
TGF is a voluntary framework featuring broad principles and key practices that a company should incorporate into its tax governance policy for effective management of corporate income tax risk. The TGF addresses areas such as risk management, internal controls, tax compliance and tax planning. A company can apply for TGF status with IRAS by publishing its tax governance policy on its corporate website or in its annual report and confirming compliance with the IRAS’ guiding principles and key practices.
The benefits of adopting TGF include a one-time extended two-year grace period to voluntarily disclose any corporate income tax and withholding tax errors. The two-year period starts from the date IRAS approves a TGF application.
TGF status remains valid as long as the company keeps the tax governance policy on its website or in its annual report and the tax governance practices remain in place. IRAS may periodically request confirmation of tax governance structures.
It should be noted that a company can apply for TGF status even if it is part of a multinational group, as long as the group’s global tax governance policy is in line with the TGF, and the Singapore entity has put in place a tax governance structure that adheres to the TGF and provides details on its tax governance structure and practices as these may not be reflected in the global tax governance policy. In lieu of publishing the Singapore tax governance policy, the entity should indicate on its website that it adheres to the global policy and provide the source.
CTRM is a voluntary compliance initiative open to companies that can demonstrate that they have good tax governance and tax risk management processes in place. The CTRM framework is designed to assist entities in conducting a self-assessment of the strength and efficiency of their internal control procedures used to manage corporate income tax compliance risks.
To apply for CTRM status, a company must have three levels of controls in place: a tax governance structure, entity level controls and tax reporting controls, and it must fulfil the following conditions:
- Have a “clean” auditor’s report, i.e., the statutory auditor’s opinion of the previous three years’ financial statements is unqualified;
- Not be undergoing a corporate income tax audit for tax avoidance or an IRAS investigation;
- Have good corporate, withholding, GST and property tax compliance records for the previous three years and no outstanding tax liability with the IRAS as at the date of the application; and
- Appoint a qualified CTRM reviewer to conduct the review.
To obtain CTRM status, the company must submit an application to IRAS once IRAS confirms the company’s eligibility to participate in the CTRM programme. CTRM status will be granted if IRAS determines that the company’s internal controls for corporate income tax compliance purposes are adequate and effective, and that the company’s compliance risks are low. CTRM status is valid for three years and may be renewed.
A company granted CTRM status can enjoy the following benefits:
- A one-time waiver of penalties for voluntary disclosure of prior years’ corporate income tax and/or withholding tax errors made within three years from the date CTRM status was granted (except for noncompliance involving tax avoidance or tax evasion); and
- A step-down, i.e., a reduction of corporate income tax compliance audits for the following three tax years.
In line with transparency towards environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies, Singapore’s TGF and CTRM frameworks are timely. By participating in these programmes, companies may initially have to invest additional time and resources in their tax compliance matters. However, in the long run, TGF/CTRM status companies would give assurance to IRAS of their effective tax risk management, robust tax governance and transparency in tax matters. Overall, quicker finalisation of tax assessments and a reduction in tax compliance costs can be expected.
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