An Accountant for Life – Tan Sri Lim Leong Seng

Date Published: September 19, 2016

Tan Sri Lim Leong Seng turns 100 years old today, September 19, 2016, and the Institute would like to pay tribute to him for his dedicated years of service to the Institute, and for embodying the values of an accountant of integrity.   Read on to know more about this distinguished accountant.   Happy Birthday, Tan Sri!

The Institute was extremely honoured and delighted to have its oldest surviving member, Tan Sri Lim Leong Seng attend its recent Annual General Meeting on June 25, 2016.  At 99 years of age, he is even more fit than most of us with his twice-daily exercise routine which keeps him healthy and flexible.  An even more startling fact is that he had just relinquished his position as Financial Administrator of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur last November after more than 26 years of voluntary service.   He still finds himself driving to the office from Mondays to Fridays out of habit.   His faithful service to the Church has earned him two Papal Awards, including the Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great which carries the title “Sir”.

Like many accountants in the profession, his excellence in Mathematics during his school days was a precursor to him taking on accounting as a career.  He had initially started off in his first job as a teacher at St Michael’s School in Alor Setar, Kedah in 1934 and 1935 after he had completed his Senior Cambridge Examinations, but with a salary of just $30 a month, he decided in the following year to return to his hometown in Penang in 1936 and joined the newly-established government commercial day school where he learned accounts, typewriting and shorthand.

From embarking on honing new skills to equip himself for an accounting career, sitting for his professional examinations over World War II and working as an accountant during the Japanese occupation, his passion for the profession grew out of his natural ability to provide sound advice and problem-solve, and he has indeed helped many a client with these skills over the decades.   He saw the introduction of income tax in Malaya in 1948 and the following year, he joined the Income Tax Department as an Examiner. In 1967, he was appointed as the first Malaysian Comptroller General for what is now known as the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) and held this position till September 1971 when he reached the compulsory retirement age of 55.  It was a significant appointment because up to that point, the post of Comptroller General was held by expatriate Income Tax officers from Great Britain or Australia.

With his wealth of experience and knowledge in Tax, the then Finance Minister Tun Tan Siew Sin created the post of Tax Advisor to the Treasury in 1971 to retain his expertise in Income Tax.  In 1974, he was invited to join the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as Tax Administration Advisor to the Ministry of Finance in the then Hindu Kingdom of Nepal.  There, he cheated death when the motor vehicle he was traveling in was involved in an accident which took the life of his Nepali colleague who was seated between him and the driver.  Tan Sri Lim himself ended up with a broken collarbone which till today bears a reminder to him of God’s providence on his life.

After completing his stint with the IMF, he returned to Kuala Lumpur and was appointed as Special Commissioner of Income Tax till he retired from civil service in 1979 at the age of 63.  That same year, he joined the private sector, taking up the role of Tax Consultant at Price Waterhouse.  From 1982 to 1992, he was with Price Waterhouse Tax Services as an Executive Director and then Tax Advisor.

It was in 1990 that Tan Sri Lim took up the position of Financial Administrator for the Catholic Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur.  He has also been very active in social work where he has contributed considerable time and expertise to organisations like the Holy Rosary Church, Assunta Hospital, the Association for the Promotion of Higher Education in Malaysia and Hospis Malaysia.

A MICPA member of 45 years, he joined the Institute in 1971 and was elected to the Council in 1975.  He served on the Council for 18 years until his retirement in 1993.  During this period, the Institute benefitted greatly from his wealth of experience, guidance and advice.  He chaired the Taxation Working Group for 10 years and represented the Institute in dialogues and meetings with the Government on policies and legislation relating to taxation.  Tan Sri Lim also served on the Institute’s Disciplinary Committee and Examination Committee.  He was awarded Life Membership in January 2011.

Tan Sri Lim was conferred Kesatria Mangku Negara (KMN) in 1963, Johan Mangku Negara (JMN) in 1968 and Panglima Setia Mahkota (PSM) which carries the title ‘Tan Sri’ in 1970.  The conferment of these honours is testament to his outstanding service and contribution to the nation.

In sharing his view of life, he quotes “Life is just a small hyphen joining two eternities – the eternity from which we came, and the eternity to which we are going.”  He strongly believes and lives by the principle to “Ask not what society can do for you but what you can do for society.” He also personifies his motto to “Never ever stop working, otherwise we will deteriorate physically and mentally.  We should realise that every day that we wake up to is actually a bonus bestowed upon us, so we should wake up happy and be grateful to God for His Divine Gift of another day.”

(Article first published in The Malaysian Accountant, Journal of The Malaysian Institute of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA) – July – August 2016 issue)

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