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Baker Tilly's Anand Chelliah delves into navigating the fine line between tax optimisation benefit and compliance

Learn about effective tax strategies, financial management, CSR integration, and technology adoption as we delve into Anand Chelliah's expert insights.

By Business Editor

 Picture: Anand Chelliah, chair of Baker Tilly International’s Asia Pacific Tax Committee and board member of Baker Tilly Global Tax Solutions Limited

In an era characterised by dynamic changes in the business landscape and an increasing emphasis on international collaboration, effective and strategic management plays a pivotal role in guiding businesses towards success.

Anand Chelliah, chair of Baker Tilly International’s Asia Pacific Tax Committee and board member of Baker Tilly Global Tax Solutions Limited, offers valuable insights into various aspects of financial management, tax optimisation, and corporate social responsibility.

Chelliah graduated with a Diploma in Accounting and Law from Sunderland Polytechnic University in the UK and further honed his skills whilst training with a London-based public accounting firm from 1980 to 1989. He holds professional qualifications from the UK and is a licensed Chartered Tax Practitioner and Tax Agent under Section 153 of the Income Tax Act 1967. His accolades include being a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and a member of the Chartered Tax Institute of Malaysia.

With numerous speaking engagements and contributions to articles on taxation, Chelliah is widely recognised as a leading authority and expert in the field of taxation.

In an interview with Asian Business Review, key strategies for tax optimisation, the significance of international collaboration in addressing financial challenges, amongst others. critical financial management practices,

Optimising tax positions whilst staying compliant

Like many tax practitioners in Malaysia, Chelliah emphasised the importance of tax optimisation as a strategy for businesses.

He noted that, whilst tax authorities might misconstrue it as aggressive planning or avoidance, the key lies in organising tax affairs in a beneficial yet compliant manner. “This is not a view I subscribe to as it is incumbent on any business to organise its tax affairs in a beneficial manner whilst remaining compliant of the tax laws,” he said.

His recommendations for key strategies include a deep understanding of the Malaysian tax landscape, embracing good governance in tax practices, planning with good form and substance alongside supportable documentation, and securing tax savings when the approach is demonstrably sound.

Chelliah also underscored the role of advisory firms, such as Baker Tilly, in addressing regional and global tax and financial challenges. Collaboration ensures that clients receive cohesive and consistent support when dealing with cross-border challenges, ultimately offering a positive and efficient experience.

Integrating CSR into financial strategies, leveraging tech for financial management

For Chelliah, certain financial management practices are critical for business success. These include a commitment to corporate culture, identity development, sustainability, and governance. He also stressed the importance of attracting and nurturing talent and being purpose-driven as an organisation.

With such strong attributes, an organisation will lay the groundwork for strong leadership succession to sustain continuity and growth,” he noted.

Chelliah highlighted that CSR and philanthropy should not be seen as obligatory actions but rather as ways to give back to society.

He suggested that businesses first establish strong financial models and business plans for earning their revenues, believe in their corporate identity and develop its own “brand value”, and inculcate strong enterprise governance and internal controls over all aspects of the organisation, amongst others. Once these foundations are laid, CSR and philanthropic efforts can enhance the corporate image and reputation.

In the digital age, Chelliah views technology as inseparable from financial services and management. Technology, in his perspective, is the cornerstone for automating and digitalising processes to achieve business objectives effectively. He advised finance professionals and businesses to embrace technology in their financial practices and decision-making.

As a judge at the Malaysia Management Excellence Awards, Chelliah prioritises several key attributes when assessing organisations. “I would firstly review and critically examine the particular organisation’s growth cycle, the stage it is at in that cycle, and the efforts and initiatives management has undertaken with respect to its financial practices and management philosophies for growth and sustainability. This can be judged by management’s acumen and long-term vision, its commitment to ESG from the onset, and the culture of governance and ethics that support such a commitment,” he said.

Chelliah's insights reflect a deep understanding of the complex and evolving landscape of business, finance, and taxation. His expertise in tax matters, international collaboration, and financial management practices, along with his role as a judge, positions him as a valuable source of guidance and wisdom for businesses and professionals striving for excellence in Malaysia and beyond.

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