Digital tax developments in South-East Asia: Thailand update

Taxamo rounds up the latest developments in relation to potential digital tax rule changes across the South-East Asia region.

Aug 27, 2019

Thailand is moving closer to taxing e-commerce in 2020 with the director-general of Revenue Department quoted as saying that the country aims to collect between 3 billion and 4 billion baht (circa USD$98m to $131m) per year. Thailand's Council of State and Revenue Department are already deliberating over a new e-commerce tax bill that, if passed, will come into effect on January 1, 2020.  

Since Japan (October 1, 2015); South Korea (July 1, 2015), followed by Taiwan and India less than two years later (May 1 and July 1, 2017, respectively), more and more countries in Asia, particularly South-East Asia, are investigating the possibility of extending their consumption tax rules to cover supplies from foreign digital service suppliers. Singapore and Malaysia have confirmed plans to start taxing cross-border digital service supplies from the start of 2020 with Vietnam set to do so from July 1, 2020. 

Here we round up the latest developments as they relate to digital taxation across the South-East Asia region.

Thailand

Potential implementation date: January 1, 2020
A Reuters report in August 2019 quoted Ekniti Nitithanprapas, the director-general of Thailand's Revenue Department, that a VAT on electronic businesses would be introduced in 2020. There was no elaboration on the exact date of such an introduction. 

According to a previous report - in The Bangkok Post back in April - a draft bill aimed at taxing "digital platform operators" is already being deliberated by the Thai Council of State and the Revenue Department.

If passed this bill would come into effect on January 1, 2020. 

Back in April 2018, Thailand’s Revenue Department started the process of communicating with stakeholders who provided important feedback to a public hearing held in relation to the proposed legislative change.

Malaysia

Implementation date: January 1, 2020 

Malaysia introduced a digital tax in its 2019 budget on November 2. 

Malaysian finance minister Lim Guan Eng announced the changes during his 2019 Budget speech saying: “For imported online services by consumers, foreign service providers will be required to register and remit related service taxes to the Malaysian customs, effective January 1, 2020.”

The country's new Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah had previously indicated such a move at the launch of a new World Bank report titled 'Malaysia's Digital Economy: A New Driver of Development'. At the launch Amiruddin Hamzah stated: “This will definitely be a matter that we will look into deeply. We will come out with a new mechanism, but we are still studying it and we will impose something for them. If we put this matter (digital tax) aside, I think the nation will be losing revenue.”

More here.

Singapore

Implementation date: January 1, 2020 
From January 1, 2020, foreign-supplied digital services will be subject to Singapore GST. The extension of Singapore’s GST system to cover these services will have a significant impact on foreign-based service providers with customers in Singapore. From the start of 2020 these providers will need to collect and settle Singapore GST.

From this date, these cross-border B2C and B2B digital service supplies will be subject to Singapore GST. In implementing these rules Singapore will mirror popular tax rule changes that have been introduced across the globe as the taxation of the digital economy gains popularity.

More here.

Vietnam

Implementation date: July 1, 2020 
In June 2019 Vietnam adopted the Law on Tax Administration. Contained within this regulatory update are plans for foreign e-commerce companies to register for Vietnam VAT purposes. These plans are due to come into effect on July 1, 2020.

The place of consumption rule is already in place in Vietnam. However, VAT is currently withheld at source by the Vietnamese party to the contract. This applies unless the foreign contractor has registered for tax purposes in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese Government has already stated that they back the OECD’s BEPS proposals and their next step is to choose their approach.

According to various reports the Vietnamese tax agency has liaised with other entities, such as banks, to obtain information about unreported transactions by non-resident digital companies. The targets of this particular move are social media sites and messaging services.

Indonesia

Back in February 2017 the Indonesian government revealed a draft regulation designed to tax non-resident OTT (Over The Top) digital service suppliers to level the playing field between domestic and international OTT service suppliers.

More recently, at the March 2018 G-20 gathering in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Indonesia’s Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati urged international cooperation in attempts to tax digital giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Uber, Lazada and Grab.

Sri Mulyani also raised the issue of unfair competition between digital companies, particularly in e-commerce, and conventional ones, particularly in terms of tax treatment.

“All finance ministers face similar technical issues on how to collect {…} fair taxes in the digital economy,” she said.

In April 2018, at the 32nd ASEAN Summit in Singapore, Indonesia’s Minister of Trade Enggartiasto Lukita followed up on his colleague’s G-20 urgings by proposing a tax on goods and services offered through electronic commerce. According to Antara News the goods and services mentioned will include (among others) “e-books, digital music, accounting services, and architecture services.”

It is clear that Indonesia is on the cusp of introducing a tax on the digital economy. We will, of course, keep you updated on all developments there. It remains to be seen what plans will emerge since the Indonesian elections on April 17, 2019. 

Philippines

In mid-February 2016 it was revealed that the Philippines Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) was drawing up plans aimed at taxing the digital economy.

The services covered in any potential piece of legislation would attract value-added tax (VAT), the current VAT rate in the Philippines is 12%.

The BIR has been set the task of collecting P2.026 trillion (circa USD$42.6 billion) in taxes this year, P2.315 trillion (circa USD$48.6 billion) in 2017, and P2.558 trillion (circa USD$53.8 billion) in 2018.

Taxamo content is created for guidance only, please consult your local tax advisor.

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