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Revenue chief scotches VAT rise talk

Jun 01. 2018
Ekniti Nitithanprapas, newly appointed director general of the Revenue Department
Ekniti Nitithanprapas, newly appointed director general of the Revenue Department
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THE new chief of the Revenue Department plans to add artificial intelligence (AI) to the agency’s arsenal for tax collection and has dismissed rumours of a planned increase in the value-added tax (VAT) rate.

The department would not propose a rise in VAT from 7 per cent as has been widely speculated on social media, Ekniti Nitithanprapas, the newly appointed director general of the department, said yesterday in his first media briefing.

The VAT rate would hold at the current level as the tax should not rise during the country’s fragile economic recovery, he said.

The department would next week propose to the Cabinet that the VAT rate be left unchanged, he said. The Revenue Department routinely makes a proposal on the tax rate every year; otherwise, the rate would automatically rise to 10 per cent.

However, for the tax collection target of Bt1.9 trillion and Bt2 trillion for this fiscal year and the next to be met, respectively, the department has to increase the efficiency of tax collection, Ekniti said. The department would apply Big Data analytics and AI machine learning to assist the tax officials to collect more taxes. About 10 million of the 38-million-strong workforce file tax forms each year. And only about 3 million of this group actually pay annual personal income tax. There is room to expand the tax base, Ekniti said.

The department will also strictly investigate whether companies have fully paid their corporate income tax obligations, said Ekniti, referring to the many firms that still use multiple accounting books in order to evade tax payments. 

From January, banks will consider lending to companies based on the financial information in the accounting books submitted to the Revenue Department, he said.

 Asked to respond to criticism of the newly introduced cryptocurrency tax, Ekniti said he would look into the details of the legislation and consult with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Elsewhere on the taxation front, he said the department will impose tax on foreign companies that sell goods and services to Thailand-based customers, in an apparent reference to e-commerce and social media companies. “We will strictly punish tax evaders while providing better services for good tax payers,” he said.

Several governments have run fiscal deficits for many years since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. This has caused public debt to rise. The current government plans to cap debt at no more than 60 per cent of gross domestic product. 

Meanwhile, the Public Debt Management Office yesterday reported that the country’s public debt outstanding on April 30 was Bt 6.5 trillion - equivalent to 41.04 per cent of GDP. Of this amount, domestic debt accounted for about 96 per cent, while long-term debt represented about 91 per cent of the total public debt.


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