A few years ago, I spoke to a Singaporean about our German tax system. I have to admit that after such a long time abroad I certainly don’t know exactly anymore how the system works. However, I deduce from my old experience in Germany that nothing changes really quickly. The chance of catching German tax officials red-handed while improving processes is certainly quite small. I think.
I explained to my friend that whole armies of Germans work as tax consultants. He didn’t understand. When I had to tell him that many Germans pay for the tax consultant every year, he became very curious. He said it was the tax office’s job to explain the tax system – and pay for it. He’s definitely right about that.
There are around 103,000 tax officials in Germany. There are also around 86,000 tax consultants. I think if the government officials were doing their job, 86,000 accountants would be out of work. They could then pursue a job that really creates value. The tax office in Singapore has around 1,800 employees. They do their job so that the tax consultants have no right to exist.
For comparison: every year on a Sunday afternoon in April I need about 20 minutes on the computer to create my tax assessment. I have never had to consult the tax office or a tax advisor. The latter are not needed in Singapore. There natural breeding ground is in Germany – and many other habitats.
We have been working on a project in our tax office for more than three years. Before the start of the project, I wasn’t very euphoric. Who would want to deal with dry tax auditors and teach them how to work innovatively? Can they think creatively at all? Are they interested in improvements? We had our doubts.
However, I have often been taught in the past, that our small island is different in many respects!
In the meantime, our job in the tax office has blossomed into our favourite pastime. We’ve worked with hundreds of mid-level tax officers and haven’t encountered the dry, unwilling types. They probably do not exist. Almost without exception, the topics of our work revolve around further simplifying the already short process for taxpayers. A few years ago, our tax office issued the motto “No service is the best service!”. This motto, which at first seems a bit strange, has an impressive background: “Our tax system must be so simple that nobody has to call, write or visit us. Every request is a testimony that we didn’t do our job well.”
And our tax officers are very serious about this motto. Terrific!