Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Filing my first GST return

I "volunteered" to be a GST-registered business. I had to file my first GST return by end January (deadline has since passed). I had a difficult time.

I had a lot of trouble to figure out the complexity of classifying my sales into three categories - taxable, zero-rated, exempt. I also had to figure out which of my purchases are allowable to be deducted. I had to fill in figures into 13 boxes. They are explained in a 8 page Guide.

Finally, I got the figures sorted out. I tried to lodge my return last week, before the deadline (failing which I had to pay a fine).

I found that I could not file my GST return as IRAS insisted that it has to be done by e-filing. Sorry, I need to apply for an "access code" which would be sent by mail to my registered office in 4 days time. The mail did not arrive and I had to call IRAS to check. Finally, it arrived at my registered office , which is different from my operating office (sorry, cannot send by e-mail for "security reasons"). I had to authorize my registered office staff to open my mail and send the access code to me by SMS. Forget about security!

I tried to submit my GST return today, and it was "hell". I had to navigate through a complicated IRAS website. I found "myTaxPortal", which asked for my NRIC, company GST ID and IRAS PIN. I tried a few combinations and failed. I had to call the IRAS helpline.

Well, you know about IRAS helpline. You had to listen to a few minutes of automated messages, before you get to talk to a person. Often, you are unsure if you can ever get to talk to a person!

Finally, I talked to a person. She guided me through the complicated IRAS maze (sorry, website). It was impossible for an ordinary person, like me, to ever get through this maze on my own. She led me through one click and another. Finally, she said, "Can you click on the form called GST return". There was no such form.

Sorry, she had to check and call me back. She did. Another round of guiding through the IRAS maze. Got stuck again. A document that was supposed to be there could not be found. She said that it must be "intermittent" problem.

I asked her, why can't IRAS allow the taxpayer to fill up a form and fax it to IRAS? Surely, it is not expensive for IRAS to employ people (and there are many unemployed people keen to have a job) to do data entry? Why force the taxpayer to go through this type of trouble in submitting a GST return?

IRAS insisted that a volunteer GST taxpayer has to attend a 3 hour course. I was registered for the next course due in a few days time (i..e. after the deadline for submission has passed). I could not attend an earlier course as it was fully taken up.

I hope that the government officer who monitors this blog will take this feedback and pass it to senior people in IRAS and Ministry of Finance.

Tan Kin Lian


Falcon said...

Computerisation has been abused by organisations! I was trying to claim my reward points from my credit cards online but unknown to me my online banking has been unilaterally terminated because I did not use it for some time. I have to re-register which would need a pin number. To get the pin number I have to fill up a form and wait for days for it to be approved before a pin is sent to me.
The often used "for security reasons" is strange reasoning when measures to prevent burglary results in the owners not being able to gain access to his own house. The problem by my reckoning is due to computer minded people calling the shots because machine friendly people do not know what is needed for user friendly interface.
Mr Tan, it actually shortens our lives when we are constantly being faced with such frustrations as we aged. This is the reason why I try to minimise any interfaces like operating a business which entails such frustrating and mindless procedures like what you have written here.

Anonymous said...

Now you know why the Minister pay is so well paid. Spent lots of tax payer money into doing up a complicated spiderweb. Even their own people can not navigate and worst, ask the "trained" person to attend to the helpline and help those who cannot navigate. End of the day,

i) Very frustrated customer/user
ii) Clueless customer service personnel
iii) Wasted customer service training

iv) Wasted money on creating a impressive but not user friendly website

The best part is the Minister and the top management don't even know that their website is not working and users & their staff don't even know how to navigate.

Money well spent..... into the drain.

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