Tell us about your organisation and your role.

IRAS has transformed the nature and scope of tax administration in Singapore – moving from being a tax collector to a trusted partner of taxpayers in community building.

I am the Assistant Commissioner of the Taxpayer Services Division with the Inland Revenue of Authority of Singapore (IRAS). I work with my team to spearhead the formulation of IRAS’ service strategies. Concurrently, I am also overseeing a transformation office responsible for redefining taxpayer and staff experiences using analytics, design and digitalisation.

What were the exciting projects for IRAS in 2017?

2017 has been both a very busy and fruitful year for us in IRAS. Some of the exciting projects we embarked on in 2017 include:

a) Anticipating Needs

Adopting an ‘Outside-In’ approach, IRAS intensified its efforts to understand taxpayers’ needs. Service design projects were completed for 3 taxpayer segments covering individuals, property owners and businesses.

IRAS launched the first public API Marketplace in March 2017, which serves as a platform for the community to co-create and develop digital services with IRAS. For instance, employers can now submit their employees’ salary details directly to IRAS with just the click of a button.

b) Connecting Digitally

We adopted User Experience Design (UXD) in the re-design of our e-services portal for taxpayers, myTax Portal. Responsive Web Design (RWD) was also adopted to ensure that our digital services are kept mobile-friendly.

90% of surveyed taxpayers no longer have difficulty accessing IRAS’ e-services and gave positive feedback, compared to 30% before the revamp. In addition to the positive feedback received from taxpayers, the project was also awarded the “GovInsider Innovation Award 2017 for Best Use of UI/UX Design”.

c) Using Data Intelligently

IRAS uses analytics to sift through collected data to identify meaningful patterns to support decision-making and prioritise its resources. We are among the first in Singapore to invest in Social Network Analysis (SNA) capabilities, which has enhanced its ability to uncover wilful tax fraudsters who conceal their identities behind complex layers of structures and networks.

d) Building an Adaptable and High-Performing Workforce

We aim to become a Nimble IRAS – one that is not afraid to experiment with new initiatives, innovations and ways of working. One of the tools we were excited to adopt was the use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which is the use of software agents to carry out business processes that would normally be done by humans, bringing about significant cost savings, efficiencies and process improvements.

e) Achieving high levels of voluntary compliance
With IRAS’ continuous efforts in simplifying tax filing, tax season in 2017 was a breeze for taxpayers. The No-Filing Service (NFS), for instance, has rendered annual tax filing a non-event for most individual income taxpayers. 96% paid their taxes on time!

What are the greatest challenges for IRAS in 2017?

Digital transformation is more than defining strategies and bringing in new technologies – it also involves how an organisation implement the ideas. The key to successful innovation is therefore proper implementation.

Within the organisation, stakeholders need clear communication to understand the rationale for the need to change, as well as the changes to their work processes before picking up new digital capabilities and taking on new roles.

If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2017, what would it be?

The future is now. Be prepared to challenge status quo and eliminate doubts. Start small by demonstrating with quick wins, before permeating change through the rest of the organisation.

Communicate, communicate and communicate to get stakeholder buy-in, and leverage your organisation’s strategic thrusts – in our case being Analytics, Design and Digitalisation (ADD).

What book did you read in 2017 that most interested or inspired you?

I read a number of books in 2017 covering digital transformation, leadership, communication and life skills. I would like to share 2 books written by 2 women authors – Unsinkable by Sonia Ricotti and Presence by Amy Cuddy.

Unsinkable provided me with practical steps to stay calm in the midst of the day to day challenges and be able to bounce back quickly. To challenge the status quo and turn obstacles into opportunities. Presence inspired me to be myself, take power poses and bring my boldest self to achieve the biggest challenges.

Who inspired you in 2017, and why?

The singers in Singer 2017 had inspired me with their tenacity, their determination to seek breakthrough, their creativity and their professionalism to bring the best experience to their audience. They have shown me what it takes to excel and I have learnt many good qualities from them.