Govt rushes to snag tax from Thaksin

Statute of limitations expires in 18 days

Some members of the government contend that ex-premier Thaksin owes 12 billion baht in taxes he avoided illegally when he sold Shin Corp to the Singaporean investors Temasek. (File photo)

Pressure is mounting on the government to find ways to collect 12 billion baht in taxes from former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra over the Shin Corp stake sale as the deadline for collecting the amount draws close.

The statute of limitations in the case expires in only 18 days.

While the government is struggling to explore all possible legal avenues to collect the tax, it has insisted the all-powerful Section 44 will not be used in this case.

Also on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the government would not invoke Section 44 of the interim constitution to obtain the tax from Thaksin over the sale of shares in Shin Corp to Singapore's Temasek Holdings a decade ago.

He made the remarks after a meeting with officials handling the case including Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong, Auditor-General Pisit Leelavachiropas, Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission secretary-general Prayong Preeyajit, and Anti-Money Laundering Office secretary-general Pol Gen Chaiya Siri-ampankul.

Before the meeting, Mr Pisit told the media he would propose using Section 44 to extend the five-year statute of limitations, set to expire on March 31, to 10 years.

However, after the meeting Mr Wissanu said the National Council for Peace and Order would meet Tuesday to issue some orders under Section 44, but it would not be used to deal with the tax case.

The government will not do anything that goes against the rule of law, Mr Wissanu added.

Pol Gen Chaiya also said the meeting had reached a satisfactory conclusion. He declined to elaborate, saying the prime minister would provide details.

Meanwhile, Mr Apisak on Monday said the Revenue Department must provide the ministry with reports on the tax collection from Thaksin no matter what the outcome of their attempts to obtain the money.

He added that the department never presented any report informing the ministry if it could collect the tax from Thaksin.

Revenue Department director-general Prasong Poontaneat could not be reached for comment.

A source at the Revenue Department said Monday that Section 3 of the Revenue Code authorised tax authorities to extend the time frame of tax evaluation, but it cannot be applied to this case because the section is intended to help taxpayers, not punish them.

The source said that tax laws are public laws designed to limit the state's authority so as to ensure the public can proceed with their normal lives.

Regarding the Office of Auditor-General (OAG)'s proposal to use Section 61 of the tax code, the source said this section could not be used again because the department already cited it in a case in which the Central Tax Court ruled in favour of Thaksin's children.

The section indicates assessment officials have the power to assess and charge the amount of income tax that is payable by people whose names appear in important documents showing they are the owners of properties which generate assessable income.

Previously, the Finance Ministry's tax committee, chaired by deputy permanent secretary for finance Prapas Kong-ied, indicated people who have incorrectly submitted their annual earnings for tax evaluation would no longer be required to resubmit them once a five-year time frame has passed, and the time frame could not be extended.

The decision concerns the case where Thaksin's children, Mr Panthongtae and Ms Pinthongta, purchased 329 million Shin Corp shares at a price of one baht each from Ample Rich, an offshore holding company controlled by the Shinawatra family.

The pair later sold the Shin shares in their name to Temasek through the Stock Exchange of Thailand for 49.25 baht each, reaping a capital gain of nearly 16 billion baht. The tax on the capital gains along with the fines for not paying it totalled about 12 billion baht.

The case went to the Central Tax Court which ruled in the siblings' favour and the Revenue Department did not appeal against the ruling. According to the court, the real owner of the shares was Thaksin, not his two children.

Based on the ruling, the OAG requested the Revenue Department collect the 12 billion baht in tax from Thaksin instead, saying the revenue law has room for the department to extend the five-year time frame.

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