Low tax rates should spur giving culture

Last Saturday's commentary ("Please be fair, raise our taxes") gives a refreshing perspective on the tax system as a contributing factor in social development. It also surfaced a plausible motivation for people and companies to want to be socially responsible.

In developed countries in the West, where tax rates are high, governments spend tax revenues on social services and national infrastructure.

In Singapore, where corporate tax rates are relatively low, corporate social responsibility (CSR) involvement is a choice for companies to make.

For most businesses, CSR is about how profits are spent to help others. For some companies like social enterprises, it is about how profits or surpluses are made while helping others.

The same situation may be true for individuals. Many people who donate to charities or volunteer for charity work do so only after they have reached a comfortable income level or have accumulated sufficient wealth.

Perhaps more companies here could consider the relatively low corporate tax as a compelling reason to support the CSR cause, by integrating it in their businesses or contributing more to the community and the environment.

Similarly, individuals who have more means at their disposable could choose to contribute more to society.

I have had the privilege of interviewing various Singapore companies and writing their CSR stories for a book. I was deeply impressed and inspired by their leaders' passion for their business, their compassion for people and their care for the environment.

The company founders or chief executives had either chosen businesses based on CSR and sustainability principles, or decided later to adopt CSR practices as a way to give back to society or the environment. Some of them also practise personal social responsibility outside of work.

If more companies and individuals emulate them, we can expect to become a more compassionate and more caring society.

It has been said that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. For the socially responsible, happiness is not about having more, it is about giving more.

Joachim Sim


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