E-business tax to be levied in 2018
Move touted to create level playing field
An e-business tax, a levy on any online transaction that takes place in Thailand regardless of the e-commerce operator's location, is expected to come into force next year, says the Revenue Department's chief.
A draft bill on the e-business tax sets a ceiling rate of 15%, but the actual rate will vary depending on the nature of the business, said Prasong Poontaneat, director-general of the department.
The bill will levy a withholding tax on all online transactions occurring in Thailand, he said, though the tax will not have to be tacked onto an operator's taxable income calculation.
Given that online purchases are gaining momentum and the Finance Ministry is recording lower tax revenue contributions from traditional sellers, the government is seeking to increase revenue from foreign online vendors who do not sign up to conduct business operations in Thailand.
The department already held its first public hearing on the tax law, covering overseas operators who earn revenue from digital service transactions in Thailand, such as digital marketing, advertising, music and software application downloads.
The department recently said the draft bill will require financial institutions, which now act as intermediaries for money transfers, to withhold tax for online purchases and advertising fees on social media networks, sending the tax to the Revenue Department.
The department hopes that the e-commerce tax will create a level playing field in the online world, as several online firms based abroad earn revenue from Thailand and are not subject to tax. Mr Prasong earlier estimated the value of online purchases in the trillions of baht, while online advertising is valued at 10 billion baht.
Mr Prasong said the draft bill will supersede the double-tax agreement, which stipulates that those who are liable for tax payments in any country must have a permanent presence in those locations.
The draft bill on e-business tax will also annul the Revenue Department's value-added tax (VAT) exemption for online shopping on goods worth less than 1,500 baht that were purchased from foreign vendors outside of Thailand. The move is intended to pave the way for the department to tax all online purchase transactions.
At present, purchases from foreign e-commerce vendors outside of Thailand are subject to a 7% VAT only if the value exceeds 1,500 baht.
Shopping online for products worth up to 1,500 baht from overseas sellers without an office in Thailand has become ubiquitous, with the revocation of the VAT exemption intended to create a fair playing field for local vendors who must charge VAT on all purchases, regardless of value.