Revenue Department launches web scraping initiative

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The Revenue Department will look to use webscraping techniques in order to increase revenue from online vendors who may be avoiding paying tax. The aim is to put online vendors on the same tax footing as traditional bricks and mortar or physical vendors.

As part of this drive, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has approved a new e-payment law that will go live on 1st Jan 2020 to help with the tax collection of on line vendors in particular.

The new law will require financial institutions to report the transactions of customers that have more than 400 money transfers a year totaling over 2 million baht, or more than 3,000 transactions per year without a monetary threshold.
These levels will help to determine who the active online vendors are, and will enable the Revenue Department to asses the relevant amount of tax payable.

As for the web scraping itself, this will help the Revenue Department to collect vendors’ basic information such as email addresses and other contact details. Web scraping can also go further and can provide details of the location of the operators and the number of visitors that a website receives.

Web scraping can be done manually and by and large has been a manual task for the Revenue Department to date, but automated tools will be used in the future to speed up the process and gather far more information than can be collected manually. Data can be reviewed and then screened for further processing either manually or by additional automated processes.

Web scraping isn’t new and you may have heard of it in previous times when spammers used web crawlers and web scrapers to collect email addresses in order to build an email list to send unsolicited email to. However, with spamming laws having been tightened up, and recent data protection laws coming into force, web scraping activities on the part of spammers has declined due to the fact that the lists of emails that are eventually obtained have little or no value.

Yet, the revenue department will be able to use more advanced web scraping methods to identify vendors and this can be done on a large scale.

Overall the Revenue Department is in the process of a more widespreaddigital transformation that will use technology to help make paying tax more convenient. As an example of how new methods will be used, the department is studying how to implement blockchain technology in the VAT refund service.

In the first two months of the fiscal 2019 tax year, the Revenue Department collected 274 billion baht, some 34 billion baht or fourteen per cent more than from the same period in the previous year. It was also 27 billion baht or eleven per cent above its target.