15 May 2012
Mr Desmond Tan Hock Heng (陈福兴, 24 years old), a property agent, was jailed 12 weeks today after he pleaded guilty to five charges involving the use of counterfeit stamp certificates. Another three charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.
Desmond Tan cheated the Commissioner of Stamp Duties of $3,694.00 using eight counterfeit stamp “certificates” in seven property rental transactions.
This is the first case where a property agent has been charged under the Stamp Duties Act for passing counterfeit stamp “certificates” off as genuine.
Stamp duty is a tax payable on documents or agreements relating to properties, such as tenancy or lease agreements, Option To Purchase, and sale and purchase agreements. Upon payment of stamp duty, a stamp certificate will be issued to certify that a certain amount of stamp duty has been paid relating to the particular document or agreement.
Deleted Counterfeit “Certificates” but Uncovered by IRAS’ Forensics
Desmond Tan was a property agent with the Dennis Wee Group (DWG) in 2008. He joined the HSR Property Group (HSR) from 7 Jul 2010 to 14 Apr 2011. He subsequently re-joined DWG on 19 Apr 2011 but left again in Aug 2011.
Using a genuine stamp certificate obtained from a previous property transaction he had handled in Jan 2011, Desmond Tan forged eight stamp certificates by altering property details such as the addresses, names of the landlords and tenants, stamp duty amounts, stamp certificate issued dates, and dates of documents.
He used these eight counterfeit stamp “certificates” for seven rental transactions that he handled by presenting the counterfeit stamp “certificates” to the landlords, agents of the landlords and tenants of the properties. They were unaware that Desmond Tan had not stamped the tenancy agreements and that the stamp “certificates” they received were fake. In addition, the tenants were ignorant of the fact that Desmond Tan did not pay over to the Commissioner of Stamp Duties the stamp duties they had paid to him.
Although Desmond Tan deleted the original and counterfeit stamp certificates, we were able to leverage on our forensic capabilities and tools to successfully recover these “certificates” from his desktop computer and laptop.
Tax Crime Involving Non-Stamping or Stamp Duty Fraud
IRAS takes a very serious view of non-stamping and stamp duty fraud. In this case, Desmond Tan’s clients had trusted him, a property agent, to pay over their stamp duties to the Commissioner of Stamp Duties. Instead, he had not only let his clients down, he had defrauded the Government of taxes.
Any individual or business that deliberately counterfeits stamp certificates and knowingly misrepresents that such counterfeit stamp “certificates” are “genuine” will have to face penalties of up to $10,000 and/or up to three years’ imprisonment. Stiff penalties of up to four times the stamp duty may also be imposed for late or non-stamping of documents.
Online check on Stamp Certificate Authenticity
Members of the public can go to the e-Stamping website https://estamping.iras.gov.sg (“Stamp Duty Resource” > “Check Stamp Certificate Authenticity”) to check on the authenticity of the stamp certificates in their possession. If the stamp certificates are authentic, the full details of the stamp duty payment, including the document description, property address, stamp duty amount and the date of document will match those shown on the website. If no details can be found on the website, or if there are discrepancies in the details, please contact IRAS to have the authenticity of the stamp certificate verified.
Reporting Suspected Stamp Certificate Forgery
Should you suspect that you have been presented with fake stamp certificates, please send an email to IRAS at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 6351 3697/3698 immediately.
Should you know of any stamp certificates fraud, please also contact IRAS immediately. IRAS will ensure that your identity is kept confidential.
Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore