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New tax law prompts suspicions of snooping

Online, bank transfers to be scrutinised

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has passed a bill meant to ensure more effective tax collection, especially from e-commerce businesses.

Under the bill proposed to the NLA meeting Tuesday, financial institutions will be required to report transactions of customer accounts which receive either more than 3,000 deposits and money transfers a year or more than 200 deposits and money transfers with a total value of at least 2 million baht a year to the Revenue Department. The bill amends the Revenue Code.

From now on, if you do this 'too often', the banks will report you and the government will investigate.

Lawmakers later agreed to redress Section 3(2) to increase the threshold from 200 to 400 transactions a year with a total value of at least two million baht.

Deputy Finance Minister Wisudhi Srisuphan, who chaired of the NLA committee vetting the bill, insisted the obligation is "not too coercive", saying it would make sure the tax collection would be done more effectively.

It would also comply with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's remarks that he wants the Revenue Department to consider ways to collect tax in a sustainable manner.

"This is not aimed only at levying online traders, but enhancing tax collection and making it more effective," Mr Wisudhi said.

According to him, of the 10.7 million Thai people aged 30-39, 8.2 million have a monthly salary and 520,000 of them were found to have filed individual tax returns.

He said 2.4 million people are not in the salary system while 310,000 of them were found to have submitted individual tax returns.

Of 640,000 juristic persons subject to tax payment, 420,000 were found to have filed tax returns.

"On the positive side, it will facilitate scrutiny and help thwart those running grey businesses," Mr Wisudhi said, insisting the legislation will have no impact on the use of bank accounts.

During the bill debates, various legislators voiced opposition to the bill and asked for additional amendments, saying the public hearings on the bill have not been thorough enough and the legislation is likely to put an excessive burden on people.

According to them, NLA members could also be affected as they receive money transfers for their meeting allowances and other incomes.

Vorapol Socatiyanurak, a lawmaker, expressed his disapproval of the measure that requires the reporting of bank accounts, saying this would enable the government to use excessive power and unnecessarily burden people.

He said existing laws already allowed officers to scrutinise the money trails of their targets.

He said the public hearing on the issue online was inadequate and more than 300 people had voiced their disagreement with the bill through the channel.

"I believe the bill will have an impact on all sectors, including NLA members who receive perks and meeting allowances in more than 200 money transfers a year," said Mr Vorapol.

He said the measure means all people who fall under the criteria will be swept into the documentation requirement, noting the government had better check those who avoid paying taxes.

He said the threshold of 200 money transactions with a total value of more than 2 million baht must be revised up.

He said the Association of Thai Securities Companies and the Association of Investment Management Companies, which could be affected by the law, have written to the NLA chairman to ask about the new rules in order to get prepared.

Tuang Untachai, a legislator, also opposed the bill, saying the NLA members could also be included in such a requirement since meeting allowances and donations in connection with the thod kathin robe-offering ceremony are also wired through bank accounts.

The debate was said to have included a 45-minute meeting break to give ways for lawmakers and members of the panel vetting the bill to discuss solutions.

During the third reading, the NLA voted 139-0 in favour of the bill with seven abstentions.

Legislators also agreed with the bill-vetting committee's recommendations that the Revenue Department must improve its work to ensure people are not discriminated by rogue officers.

Permanent secretary for finance Prasong Poontaneat said the bill requires the financial institutes to report bank transactions that meet the threshold to the Revenue Department.

The information will be used to examine tax obligations and check possible fraud, he said.

According to the Finance Ministry, the new law is expected to be enforced next year.

The Revenue Department has been pushing for several taxes and laws to manage digital platforms and online vendors.

The cabinet earlier this year approved an amended Revenue Code related to VAT collection from e-business operators with a physical presence outside of Thailand, while the Revenue Department is drafting a bill on the revocation of the value-added tax (VAT) exemption for online purchases of goods worth less than 1,500 baht from vendors outside of Thailand that are shipped by mail.

According to the department, there are around 500,000 online vendors, of which 350,000 are based in Thailand and the rest are foreign-based operators.

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