Couple behind famous Kay Lee Roast Meat jailed and fined for tax evasion

Kay Lee

They found fame as the couple who sold off their roast meat business for $4 million two years ago.

But they are in the news now because they have been convicted of evading taxes before they sold the business.

They will be spending four weeks in jail and were also fined $164,751.45 each, said Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) yesterday.

Ha Wai Kay, 64, who was sole proprietor of Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint, was found guilty of evading $54,917.15 of income taxes for year of assessments 2010 and 2011.

His wife, Kong Kuee Chin, 69, then owner of Wan Tat Eating House, was also convicted of helping him.

An investigation report by Iras showed that Kong was responsible for recording the total amount of sales for both Kay Lee and Wan Tat.

She would hand-record the total daily sales for Wan Tat and Kay Lee Roast. At the end of each day, she would add up the daily cash collection and outgoing expenses in her diary.

She would then provide a total monthly sales income to the couple’s accountant who helped prepare their statement of accounts and income tax returns.


Investigations revealed that for the year of assessment 2010, which measures the total sales for 2009, Kong had knowingly provided Kay Lee’s total sales income as $531,924 to their accountant, when the actual sales income was $693,839.

For the next year of assessment, Kong had provided Kay Lee’s total sales income as $665,413 when the actual sales income was $829,335.

This means Ha had under declared his income by $161,915 in 2010 and $163,922 in 2011.

Ha was undercharged for income tax by a total of $54,917.15 for the two years and was fined thrice that.

In 2014, Kong had told The New Paper that the roast meat business had been good for her and her husband. They had carried on the legacy of her father-in-law, who came up with the recipe in the 1950s and set up a Chinatown stall.

She was then driving a Mercedes-Benz E Class and lived in a freehold bungalow (valued $1.8 million 20 years ago) in Upper Paya Lebar Road.

The couple had decided to sell the business because age was catching up with them and their children were not interested in it.

Kong said that her son, then a 31-year-old accountant, had settled down in Brisbane while her daughter, then 26, was a teacher in a special needs school.

Ha and Kong had initially put a $2 million price tag on their business in 2012 but eventually sold it for $4 million in 2014 to conglomerate Aztech Group.

Accountant: Use cash register to track transactions

He may whip up a claypot of his famous Kim Keat Hokkien Mee in under 30 minutes.

But when the time came for Mr Lee Eng Keat, 56, to file his taxes earlier this year, he had to take more than three days off work to sort them out.

“I realised my receipts and accounts were all in a mess,” he said.

Mr Lee sells up to 35kg of noodles each day. On top of whipping up pots of hokkien mee, he has to ensure general housekeeping of the stall is done and oversee deliveries of grocery.

He said: “Sometimes the deliveries come while I’m busy cooking, so I simply sign without keeping track of where I put the receipts.”

After his filing troubles earlier this year, Mr Lee bought a cash register to help him keep tabs on his daily expenses.

He has also decided to hire an accountant to help him with tax filing next year.

Ms Fione Chua, managing director of FC Accounting, a firm specialising in providing services to food and beverage outlets, said it is advisable for hawkers to hire an accountant to keep track of their accounts.

“A lot of petty cash is involved in hawker dealings. Sometimes, hawkers pay for invoices using their own money and forget about them,” she explained.

“In such cases, it is impossible for the auditor to trace those receipts.”


Ms Chua added: “The best way for food and beverage business owners to maintain accurate sales records and avoid committing tax evasion is to invest in a good cash register system or accounting software to track all their financial transactions.”

An owner of a noodle stall on Tanjong Katong Road, who declined to be named, said he minimises mistakes by using a cash register machine.

“The cash register machine tallies the daily and monthly receipt print-outs, so we cannot fake the records,” he added.

“Just declare accordingly and there will not be any problem.”

He also hires one of his friends, who is an accountant, to help him keep track of his store’s sales.

Ms Chua said that hiring an accountant is also the best solution for hawkers who find the process tedious.

“Not only will certified accountants advise on a system of records that will meet the individual needs of different businesses, they will also ensure all transactions are recorded and reported according to Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore specifications,” she added.

* This post originally appeared on

1 thought on “Couple behind famous Kay Lee Roast Meat jailed and fined for tax evasion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *