Tax operations tweaked for new world order
Ekniti Nitithanprapas discusses changes in the Revenue Department's work format.
The Revenue Department, responsible for tax collection under the Finance Ministry, is adjusting its operations to prevent digital disruption as technology and innovation penetrate the business world, director-general Ekniti Nitithanprapas told the Bangkok Post in an exclusive interview.
The department has tried to adapt to economic changes at the national and international levels.
"If the Revenue Department does not adapt, the future will be difficult. This is because businesses have drastically changed their work format," said Mr Ekniti.
"More businesses have gone online. Multinational companies, who contribute a large portion of the tax base, have begun to withdraw their operations in line with changes in the global supply chain."
Internally, the Revenue Department has changed its attitude on taxpayers, taking a more friendly approach instead of chasing after them to willingly comply with tax liabilities, he said.
Operations-wise, the department has adjusted measures to become more compatible with ongoing changes.
With the pandemic crisis more than likely lasting into 2021, the Revenue Department is accelerating the development of the "Tax From Home" system as a means to capture an opportunity in a time of crisis, said Mr Ekniti.
The Tax From Home system is a measure the department believes will help businesses and the public access tax transactions of all dimensions as easily as possible, from anywhere.
For instance, e-registration for tax filing on the internet allows taxpayers to submit documents via email swiftly.
They no longer have to travel to submit tax filings in person at Revenue Department branches.
E-filing of tax liabilities, e-payment of taxes and e-refunds from tax returns are other examples of incorporating digital components into all tax-related procedures.
This also covers e-donation, which eliminates the need for donors to collect evidence of donations for tax refunds. The donations can also be channelled directly to recipients, such as temples or foundations, without any leakage in the flow of money.
The department is also preparing the "My Tax Account" site, a list of tax deductions and benefits to facilitate individual taxpayers in checking the eligibility of their tax deductions.
These deductions cover health insurance premiums, donation information completed via the e-donation system, as well as contributions made to the Government Pension Fund and Social Security Fund.
This should reduce the burden of document storage and makes it easier to file personal income tax returns and receive refunds more quickly, said Mr Ekniti.
Recently the department implemented the e-withholding tax system to make filing tax documents more convenient.
Taxpayers usually have to submit tax filings along with prepared documents as evidence for an intermediary, such as financial institutions, to conduct the withholding tax process.
The e-withholding tax system makes it more convenient and cheaper for users by eliminating document delivery and storage needs, as well as reducing the steps in processing various tax-related operations, said Mr Ekniti.
The payee will make payments via one of the 11 banks, who are service providers, along with required information.
Once the bank receives the payment, it will issue an electronic invoice for both the payer and payee, with the withholding tax applied to the payee.
The withholding tax amount will then be delivered to the Revenue Department within four working days after the bank receives the money. The Revenue Department then issues an electronic receipt to the payer.
If the department had not adjusted its operations, it is believed a considerable bulk of revenue would be lost as a result of multinational corporations relocating because of changes in the global supply chain and the country's ageing demographics causing private consumption to dwindle, said Mr Ekniti.
As a large government entity tasked with 70% of total tax collection, and a revenue target for fiscal 2021 set at 2.1 trillion baht, the department has to re-skill its employees continuously to ensure staff can adapt to constant changes in technology, he said.
Mr Ekniti said the department is trying to create an internal environment to facilitate innovation and work with other organisations to help with creativity.
For instance, the department provided an opportunity for startups, such as iTax and Noon, to participate in an Open API system that links with the department's internal IT system.
The move allows greater flexibility in filing and paying taxes through the online system.
In addition, the Revenue Department has tried to develop an artificial intelligence system to help taxpayers.
The department's Aree Chatbot system has been developed to answer taxpayers' questions through processing questions made to the department's call centre.
In the future, the department aims to integrate a self-learning ability for Aree Chatbot to better respond to pertinent questions.
- Ekniti Nitithanprapas