You know how I’d give out the PIC grant? I’d only give it to businesses that are especially unproductive or unoriginal. That way, it’ll be a big middle finger to those companies. And the money would go where it’s desperately needed. “Uh, it’s not supposed to be a mark of shame.” Neither is being a Maths Olympiad, but that’s just how some awards play out. Besides, some PIC applicants have managed jail time. Talk about shame:
What is the PIC?
It’s a Productivity & Innovation Credit (PIC) Grant, which provides tax breaks and cash payouts. Besides encouraging start-ups, this grant is supposed to incentivize innovation and productivity upgrades in SMEs, because history has shown many times that creativity can be bought with taxpayer dollars.
Visit the good folks at IRAS for more information.
In fact, it’s a good idea to contact them directly with PIC questions. Because some 60 cheating cases have already been identified – and three of those have resulted in fines / jail time.
What gets people in trouble with the PIC grant are:
- Trusting “Consultants” with PIC Packages
- Inflating / Minting Invoices
- Creative Interpretation of Equipment / Training
- Faking the Employees
1. Trusting “Consultants” with PIC Packages
- The PIC grant provides cash payouts and grants for equipment and training.
- Many vendors who provide equipment and training now market themselves as PIC grant experts.
Unless you’re the sort who needs instruction manuals to wear pants, this is an obvious connection: To some vendors, the PIC grant means the government is “discounting” their product / service to their clients.
As such, these vendors aggressively push prospects to “Buy, and we’ll get the grant for you! You’ll practically get it for free!”
Some of the vendors also charge additional fees to handle PIC paperwork.
The problem with these “consultants” is that they’re not really experts – they’re nothing more than vendors who are helping you with the PIC paperwork. If they package products / services not covered by the grant, or if they lie on the forms (remember, they get paid if you get the grant), you’ll answer for it.
It’s safest to get a consultant who is not also a vendor for the product or service, or one with the right certification (e.g. Practicing Management Consultant certificate).
Actually you know what? Just call IRAS and have them walk you through the procedure. It’s not that hard.
2. Inflating / Minting Invoices
Besides a 400% tax deduction, the PIC grant can also include a cash payout, and a dollar-for-dollar match on approved expenditures (up to $15,000). Visit their site for specific details.
In order to get the full $15,000, some vendors and business owners team up in inflating invoices.
So even if the vendor gets software that came from a Challenger discount bin for $5, and the cashier laughed and said just take the damn thing, they might still bill the business owner $15,000 for it.
When the grant money comes in, the business owner and vendor might split the excess between them.
Alternatively, a business owner might just create fake invoices, and claim the expenditures have already been made.
If that sounds like a sweet deal, you’ve never met IRAS investigators. Those people find tax scammers faster than a compass finds north, and their meticulousness is one psychiatrist away from being a diagnosed disorder.
Get caught and you’ll pay up to four times the amount claimed, plus a fine of up to $50,000. Luckily, you’ll also get up to five years in prison (the free food and lodging should make up the cost).
3. Creative Interpretation of Equipment / Training
Rumor has it that someone tried to claim for her kids’ swimming lessons, and someone else wanted one of those mechanical foot massage rollers.
The PIC grant covers six main areas. Due to the impossible range of products and services out there, each area is now about as well-defined as 5th century religious scripture. You will almost definitely be calling IRAS to check.
Don’t try and avoid that, because most mistakes in this area are from carelessness or misunderstandings. But those aside, there’s always temptation to get creative.
After all, you could try to argue that your Foosball betting table is an Analogue Probability Simulator. But do you really want to risk the wrath of a whole government arm for these small perks?
Be especially careful of vendor -consultants (see point 1), who might fancy up their products or services in name.
4. Faking the Employees
You need at least have three Singaporean employees, to get the PIC grant.
Some people will start paying CPF to relatives or friends, who agree to pose as employees (business owners trying to cheat the foreign worker levy do the same thing). Wiser – but no less criminal – business owners use more nuanced methods; methods like hiring three people, making all possible claims, and then firing the employees after the grant money’s in.
(If you were ever employed for an unusually short time, in a really dodgy company, you now have a possible explanation).
Business owners who do this aren’t just messing with IRAS. They may be treading on the toes of other government arms, like the Ministry of Manpower. Random spot checks do happen (e.g. physical visits to check if said employees are present).
Have you ever had issues with the PIC grant? Comment and let us know!
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