Is IRAS too much?


On every 23rd of the month is ‘Pay Day’ in my company. Every staff looks eagerly forward to this day. After all, everybody working day and night precisely just for this day of the month! If it falls on weekend, Pay Day will be earlier on the Friday before the 23rd of the month.

I just met Train Officer ‘Kakak’ at the platform when he took over from me. He was looking grouchy and moody. He was foul temper when everyone was smiling happily.

Why? I asked him. My pay kena tahan or freezed he said. What happened?

It seems that early in the morning, Train Officer Kakak tried to withdraw his salary from the ATM but no money came out. Called up the bank and he was told that IRAS – Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore held his full month salary.

Kakak panicked and called up his wife to check all correspondence from the government. The wife informed that there was a letter from IRAS asking for payment of $110 property tax. Kakak had overlooked. It’s now overdue.

When kakak called up IRAS, the officer confirmed that his pay was frozen. It will only be released after the payment made. It would take three days.

Kakak was furious. He demanded to speak to a higher officer since that officer speaking to him can’t change the policy and can’t do anything except to confirm his predicament. The higher officer told Kakak that if he agreed to allow IRAS deduct the $110, his salary would be returned to him after 5pm today! Of course, Kakak agreed to their demand.

Question is why did IRAS freeze Kakak’s more than $2,000 salary when he only owed them a paltry $110? Kakak told me he need the money to pay his multitude of bills i.e. utilities, conservancy, handphone etc, family grocery, for his children’s, wife’s and parents’ allowances etc

Kakak just happened to be careless and overlooked paying his property tax resulting in so much stress in our already stressful living when every payday is bills paying day. Majority of us depend on our monthly pay to survive. We are living on peanuts from hand to mouth with no extra cash so to speak.

He said he doesn’t mind at all if they just deduct the $110 owed to them and return the balance to him. He also doesn’t mind if they even charge him for late payment interest or fine or whatever – up to them lah! He need the salary for his family and his living expenses.

Kakak says those people got no family? No compassion? Cold hearted! He was obviously very pissed off. Take money from the government is not easy but they can just ‘hijack’ your pay like that.

Is it not an act of “overkill”? Killing an ant with an axe? Overbearing beyond any sense of proportion?

Imagine if Kakak and his wife about to pay for their marketing in a supermarket via Nets – would it not be humiliating for them if there is no money inside his bank account and would have to leave empty handed avoiding all the stares with the cashier having punched in all the items? Langgar Tiang right?

It is the sacred duty of every citizen to pay taxes but certainly not under such humiliating circumstances. How would you feel if you were Train Officer Kakak caught in such a bind? Langgar Tiang right? Pray tell me if I’m talking nonsense here? I would like to hear from you dear readers.

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About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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30 Responses to Is IRAS too much?

  1. Zack Ali says:

    If they can get hold of your money for 3 days jus like that..perhaps they could also get hold of your wife or worst daughter for a night…

    • Hi Zack,
      I understand that IRAS would only ‘hijack’ your money if it’s a DBS or POSB bank account. Other banks no way. It seems that many already kena the same treatment when I spoke to them. Really langgar.

  2. I can’t imagine if Kaka had much more money than that “frozen” because of an outstanding $110 to IRAS, but that’s more or less how our highly efficient bureaucracy works. Fast, furious and without exceptions.

  3. Toothfully,
    Train Officer ‘Kakak’ is his nickname. ‘Kakak’ in Malay means sister. Actually it shld be ‘Kakak Punya Laki’ meaning sister’s husband. One of our Train Officer’s wife is the sister of Kakak! He is the brother in law to a TO. Over the yrs, we just call him ‘Kakak.’ Like I say it is the duty of every citizen to pay tax. No issue with that. But to hold a person’s salary upon payment of tax – in this case $110, not every one has got that kind of money esp end of month. What I’m saying here is pls have a sense of proportion. Think of the poor chap like in the scenario of shopping on a pay day when there is no money left in his account. Embarrassing right. Langgar!

  4. ape@kinjioleaf says:

    Were there reminders sent out? Were there warning letter sent out? If IRAS has the muscle to order a bank to freeze a person’s account without going through court, I’m sure they have the ‘muscle’ to get bank deduct that sum directly. However, is this the right thing to do? And how the hell did IRAS get his bank account details?

  5. Ape,
    This practice by IRAS has been going on quite some time. You see they just don’t bother. They just want you to pay within certain dateline same goes with workers’ levy, HDB rental, Fines, CPF contributions etc. all govt depts in fact. You have to pay means you have to pay. How you pay is not their concern. In other countries esp Japan, I was told govt officials will investigate and look into individual cases. If your company really faces financial problem they even inject funds into your company instead of threatening to haul you to court over non payment. Here the culture is different. They only look after their books. You shld know that keying in your NRIC into the system whatever your timeline they will know. Your past criminal records, how many times u kena fines or issued warnings and yes your bank accounts all they know. Now you know why our filthy rich prefer to park their money in UBS Swiss bank than in our local four big banks. In that sense, UBS must not collapse at all costs or the repercussions will be severe! I don’t want to go further than here. You know what I mean?

  6. agongkia says:

    Shhh….Very very Lau Kwee for me to say that I am also one of the victim lah.But Kakak is better than me many times because he still have money to deduct.
    I am totally broke and this freezing of account is nothing unusual to me.I once borrow from Ah L…..just to pay them immediately to activate my account as I need some transaction urgently.My friend nearly ended in divorce because he face the same situation.Walao Oy …They deduct from his wife’s account because he has his name in his wife account .Quarrel 3 days 3 nights because of S$110.I have to become a kaypoh just to help to reduce divorce rate.

    Another way that they will do is to ask our employer to be the agent and collect on their behalf.This one also problem .

    Many will say they forget and kpkb now when being freeze but when they got their workfare ,they will say Garmen is good.So I hope you can be a good citizen.Let it be and dun lanngar anymore.I never had workfare before but I know when to keep quiet.I dun want to be bankrupt .They are kind enough to me till now.

    • Hey agongkia,
      I spoke the truth. I’m not afraid to langgar if it’s the truth. They can always call me up to investigate. If its the truth in what I reported I will stand by it. We need to speak up if it’s too much. There are 101 ways to make citizens pay up their taxes. No need to frozen the pay at all. The point is they just don’t bother. It’s not their concern. You die your business. Why shld they bother? People’s servant? My foot! What they know about those commoners’ problem living from hand to mouth? Theirs is an iron bowl. How could they feel for poorer folks like us? Really langgar.

  7. Lohcifer says:

    Moral of the story: Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. “Forgot to pay” is no excuse. That’s the way it is.

    • Yelp forgot to pay is no excuse. One day someone chops off your hands for stealing. So stealing is no excuse! Who asked you to steal? It’s an unforgivable crime. Even if you need to steal to eat and survive? After all both options also die (steal or not steal), might as well take the chance. This is how it is as some see it. This is the kind of society we living. We whack you hard if you go off the line. Just make sure you stay within the line. No ifs and buts! Is it not langgar? Gone were those good old days where the tax man will look for you after years of owing tax. You just can’t run away but at least they didn’t ‘chop’ off your hand then!

  8. Teck says:

    How long was the bill overdue? From what I read here: , I’m guessing your colleague is a few months overdue, not a simple being forgetful. After a first bill sent, one month is given to pay the amount. After that, demand notes will be sent with another month given to pay the bill.

    Maybe you would like to check with your colleague again how many months he is overdue? It is best you can verify by checking his first bill received.

    Greece is currently in its predicament is partly due to its citizens evading and not paying taxes.

    I know Kakak is your friend and you want to defend him but please defend him without biasness. Under the eyes of law, democracy and fairness, it is our responsibility as citizens to pay our taxes on time.

    • “I know Kakak is your friend and you want to defend him but please defend him without biasness. Under the eyes of law, democracy and fairness, it is our responsibility as citizens to pay our taxes on time.”
      Agreed. I did take pains to emphasize that pay tax is “sacred duty” of every citizen if u care to read carefully. Even if there are reminders etc, what I’m saying is sense of proportion. In this case, it’s too overbearing to hold a person’s salary for such small amt. it’s just like u steal something which is wrong and a crime but does it warrant you to behead him? That is the issue. It’s not about paying tax or even about Greece cuz I totally agree that all citizens must pay tax. BTW, Greece problem is much more complicating and worst. Not as simple as citizens not paying tax.

      • Teck says:

        Yes, I read the part where you wrote paying tax is “sacred duty”. I’m just reemphasizing. Like I said, if Kakak did not pay his taxes after many reminders, what would you suggest IRAS do? Like you said, if it is a small amount, Kakak should have paid on time in the first place. I believe this is a last resort that IRAS took. Everything would have been settled if he paid on time. Would you like your company to pay your salary late?

        With regards to Greece, I know that the problem is more complicated. But Greece’s problem has been exacerbated by the her people not paying taxes.

        • I not too sure about the reminders part. I suspect that he might have got them but cant be bothered or ignored them. I am not sure. I agree with you that if he had paid then this problem would not have cropped up. I said he was careless and the bill overdue. Well I still feel that only required amount be deducted or held – not the entire salary shld be more appropriate. That is the bone of contention. That is the issue. If they are not empowered to deduct a person’s salary then change the law. If they can hold your pay I see no reason why they cant deduct the required amt or hold the required amt. Hope you see my point of view. Thks.

    • agongkia says:

      Ah Teck Ah.
      No one is complaining about paying taxes here.Its the way it is being handled .Besides this ,there are many other high handedness that many do not know.Gintai brought up this case because he know of such case.Not because he want to defend him.

      Luckily,Gintai haven’t heard of other cases or he will also blog here,like those small time towkay who do not know how to do e submission for cpf or taxes can also be fine and penalise,cannot continue business if they have no money to pay their own medisave,no job credit for them if they cannot pay their staff cpf in time.Fine them and make them poorer instead of helping employers who are struggling.And kay kay say Singaporean got no entrepreneurship…

      We expect citizen to pay up in time,but some Organisation take months to pay its contractor who are also citizen.They can delay and citizen cannot. That why now they prefer to award to big contractor and claim small contractor got no standard.They can tahan delay mah.

      • Oh I do know about cases of small time HDB shopkeepers who are ‘harassed’ by govt officers ie HDB, CPF, IRAS etc for late payment or non payment. They are already struggling trying to survive yet kena fines and threaten with court action etc. Even we sometimes receive a summons notice telling us to pay up by certain date or you will be charged in court. It is always charging you in court if u miss the dateline etc They never bother to find out if you are in Sg or maybe due to some other reason like shifted Hse and slow in changing add etc They always assume that it’s always the case you refuse to pay up so I must charge you in court and send you to jail! That’s their built-in mentality. That group think in the entire govt machinery. They do not offer creative solutions to solve these problems. In such an environment and culture those newly set up enterprises will surely die under their hands. They only see money but nothing else. You die your own business and you better arrange your own funeral! I have lived long enough in this country to see their shift in their changing mindset from “negotiable” to extreme obsession with money and payments – even in our govt hospitals keep worrying about how are you going to pay the bills? It is this extreme obsession with money, profits, bottom line, cheap, cheaper and cheaperest, more costs cutting, more reserves and more money, more GDP growth at all costs that alienated an entire 40% (and getting more) disenchanted citizens! When so many citizens are kpkb about 3-2 millions population composition they still insist more. When some academics openly declare our wages too low they refuse to listen. Now they got no choice and relented to a miserable $50 increase in pay. But when they increase the fines it can be from $100 to $200 or $300! If u are observant you will know what I’m talking about.

        This is always the PAP formula. Give grants and subsidies etc and they say based on market prices. I would prefer to have all grants and subsidies removed and give me COSTS prices. Govt shld not be making profits out of its own citizens. They shld not be thinking like a business enterprise and keep taking about market prices. As simple as that. Sometimes they just increase prices suka suka. We know that most of the fresh water (until recently) and electricity supplied by Sg to Johore. Why is it that their utilities bill is so much cheaper than us here. They use less, more frugal than us or what? U think we are stupid that we can’t see what’s going on around us. Maybe some of us really can’t see at all cuz it doesn’t concern them directly.

  9. Cannot continue business because they have no money to pay outstanding Medisave. Yes, how silly, but that’s the way it works and unfortunately, self-employed people are still in the minority as far as the electorate is concerned. And how many small businesses are facing cash flow problems while tens of thousands of dollars are locked up in Medisave. Langgar.

    • Toothfully,
      I am a bad influence on you. You are speaking like me lah. I love to use “langgar tiang” when I watch soccer. I will shout langgar tiang if the ball hits the goal posts and can’t go in! Really langgar tiang dah!

  10. agongkia says:

    OkOk.Gintai,buy you liang teh if I have a chance one day .
    Remember the one that you blogged on Upper Changi Road and I said that there is a shortage of bins that result in citizen littering?
    This morning I was there again and is glad that they have placed more bins .This time I will be their witness if anyone is found littering there.
    Give them some time.I believe they are thinking of the best solution.

    • Agongkia,
      You owe me how many liang teh already? Hope they improve on that. We can wait but not forever lah. You also can’t expect a girl to wait for you forever if you are really interested in her right? If you keep waiting she will ran away with another guy right? Same thing here.

  11. wah piang, iras cannot just call and tell the fella, pay up or i will freeze your account lor. save everybody more time right. but sometimes must be more harsh on some of these businessmen lah, they play punk and try to siam everything. i got a distant uncle doing quite well and pay very little income tax cuz his accountant help him to siam. think his cpf is quite empty but money with wife and children and overseas bank accounts lor.

  12. Pingback: Daily SG: 24 May 2012 « The Singapore Daily

  13. SL says:

    I understand that IRAS would only ‘hijack’ your money if it’s a DBS or POSB bank account. Other banks no way…..

    If this is true, then you should check if what IRAS or DBS doing is legal, else the rest of the banks should be doing the same.

  14. ape@kinjioleaf says:

    The crux of the matter here is the proportion of action taken to address defaulters.
    Is what IRAS and the bank involved doing legal? Anyone knows? Assuming it is, did the law makers give it due considerations. What happens if a person who has his account frozen under such circumstances was unable to pay his bills, insurance, installments etc? Who will pay for the extra charges for late payment. How do we resolve the insurance coverage should he miss just one payment because his account has been frozen for failing to act on one notice…just one notice… unintentionally.
    I agree with everyone here it is our duty to pay tax duly. But no reminders? Not even once? What if the tax payer was hospitalized? What if he was away for extended period of time? People at home are illiterate? Didn’t know that’s a tax to be paid?
    Anyway, I shall not comment further as I do not know the circumstances relating to ‘kakkak’ but I do hope the lawmakers take these into considerations if they have not done so.

    • On behalf of TO Kakak, I thank you for your comments. He is touched by so many ppl or stangers supporting him. He got back his pay on the same day ie 23/5/12 in the late evening after allowing them to deduct the amt owed. He is back to his normal cheerful self again. When I told him that this post hits 1,395. He said he will buy 4D and if strike, he will pay IRAS credit in advance 10 yrs! In that way, he pay will never be frozen for the next 10 yrs. I agree with his plan! BTW, Kakak is one of pioneers having served my company for 26 yrs. He is already a grandfather. Lol!

  15. John says:

    Do not bank with banks that TH has interest in. Change it to some foreign banks- Maybank or
    Stanchard etc and they can’t do anything except to serve you reminders or legal letters

  16. agongkia says:

    Whatever bank ,I have no money in it and I am also not one to want to evade tax.
    Can consider to deduct tax from my CPF or not?Maybe for exceptional case like mine.

  17. C K Tan says:

    did you guys see the taxman’s statement on why bank account might be frozen? seems this happens when citizens fail to pay despite several reminders? See this line from the reply letter by IRAS – A taxpayer who does not pay by the deadline will receive a Demand Note, informing him of a 5% late payment penalty and asking him to pay within a given time frame. If he still does not pay or does not contact (IRAS) for a payment arrangement, IRAS will seek to recover the taxes through other means, including appointing his bank or employer as his agent to pay the outstanding tax to IRAS. The agent is required, under section 57 of the Income Tax Act, to pay over the amount of tax owed to IRAS from the money held for or on behalf of the taxpayer. This form of recovery of overdue taxes is commonly practised by many other tax authorities.

    22 Mar 2012

    We refer to Ms Ng Lee Koon’s letter ‘Can banks pay Govt bodies without one’s knowledge?’ (12 Mar 2012). We have since written to Ms Ng to clarify on the issue of appointment of banks.

    A taxpayer may sign up for a GIRO instalment plan to have his taxes deducted on a monthly basis via his bank account. If he does not have such plan, he has to pay his taxes within one month from the date of the income tax notice of assessment (NOA).

    A taxpayer who does not pay by the deadline will receive a Demand Note, informing him of a 5% late payment penalty and asking him to pay within a given time frame. If he still does not pay or does not contact us for a payment arrangement, we will seek to recover the taxes through other means, including appointing his bank or employer as his agent to pay the outstanding tax to IRAS. The agent is required, under section 57 of the Income Tax Act, to pay over the amount of tax owed to us from the money held for or on behalf of the taxpayer. This form of recovery of overdue taxes is commonly practised by many other tax authorities.

    We send out letters to taxpayers who do not pay on time to remind them of the possible tax recovery actions that may be taken by us. When we appoint banks or employers as agents, we also inform the taxpayer of such appointment. Whether the appointed agent informs the taxpayer depends on the practices of the agent. In Ms Ng’s case, we understand that DBS Bank had informed her of IRAS’ appointment, and that it is the standard practice for DBS Bank to inform their customers of such appointments.

    We encourage taxpayers to pay their taxes via GIRO to enjoy 12 months of interest-free instalment payment and avoid missing payment dates. Taxpayers may also sign up for SMS alerts at myTax Portal ( to receive alerts when their NOAs are issued.

    We thank Ms Ng for the opportunity to clarify.

    • Just dont play around the taxman. Evading tax can land you in court and jail! Just pay on time to avoid all these problems lah. Thks.

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