Tax haven? Singapore is 'just efficient'

Tax haven? Singapore is 'just efficient'

SINGAPORE - Just because Singapore is the fourth-largest fund management centre in the world does not mean it is a haven for tainted funds, says a top tax expert.

Speaking to The Straits Times in the aftermath of information leakage from a trust company based in Singapore, tax lawyer Gurbachan Singh said the wealthy simply prefer countries like Singapore because "we are efficient".

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists last month named Singapore's Portcullis TrustNet in an expose on tax dodgers and their offshore accounts.

Mr Singh, managing partner at KhattarWong, sees the saga as yet another attempt by Western economies to "get as much money back to their own countries as possible", and to stem further capital outflows.

"They have social security schemes, free education, health, employment benefits... living on credit, spending tomorrow's money today," Mr Singh said.

Over the years, and especially after the 2008 financial meltdown, companies and individuals "are taking money and putting them in efficient, protective and secure environments".

"No one supports tax evasion," said Mr Singh. "But there's nothing wrong with tax planning. It's perfectly legitimate.

"If you want to put money in banks that are strong and stable, instead of those which have been rescued by governments, there's nothing wrong with that either.

"An efficient tax regime does not equate with tax haven," he added. "Low tax is not no tax."

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