The Revenue Department of Thailand

The Problem

“Happy Tax Refund Project” integrates a range of IT initiatives that help facilitate tax refund process, improve online services and support Revenue Department (RD) officials’ functions. The aim is to fasten the refund process as well as minimize inconvenience and costs borne by both taxpayers and RD resulting in better and more efficient services.
The project is part of e-Filing Project (launched in 2002). And it is designed to overcome taxpayers’ difficulties in dealing with tax refund procedures and RD administrative problems. These could be caused by ‘e-Filing Campaign’ to have faster tax refund for online filing. In Thailand, we use self-assessment system and since there are several tax privileges, a large number of taxpayers requested for tax refund. The campaign is an incentive for taxpayers to use online services especially when they claim for tax refund, leading to a massive tax refund requests during the 3-month period of filing. In addition, there is evidence showing that there are fault tax refund claims. Thus RD officials have to request for additional information to prove whether taxpayers are entitle to tax refund.
Before the initiative, a taxpayer could submit the requested information by post, or fax, or self-submission at corresponding area revenue office, and check tax refund status by making phone calls to the corresponding area revenue office or to RD Call Center. However if the calls did not get through, then taxpayer would resend the information.
Moreover the received information was not transformed into electronic form. Therefore it would take a lot of time for officials to search for taxpayer information, also it might be the case that the same information might be requested again in the following years which slowed down the tax refund process. This led to unsatisfaction toward RD service. Also there must be officials appointed to record the information, identify official in charge, and send information to the corresponding official to analyse the case. The process of receiving information alone involves lots of stages and a large number of officials, and sometimes documents might be lost or misplaced during the process. Nonetheless, if documents received were unclear or incomplete, RD official would have to contact taxpayer and request for the same information which would even make the process slower.
Each year, there are more than 6,000,000 taxpayers filed tax returns online and out of this number about 1,500,000 taxpayers requested for tax refund, compared with 600,000 tax refund requests filed at the area revenue branch offices. The evidence clearly shows that the online filing is much more popular than the paper filing. Thus a significant number of our clients got affected from the tax refund process. It also affected RD image under the brand “e-Revenue” to provide efficient IT service and promote “Go Green Campaign”.
Since the initiative was introduced, starting from 2007, we have seen changes how the taxpayers deal with tax refund requests. And, in 2011, the number of calls decreases gradually to about 60% of the total number before the initiative.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
“Happy Tax Refund Project” includes 6 sub-projects aiming to fasten tax refund process, increase taxpayers’ satisfaction as well as promote “e-Revenue” and “Go Green Campaign”.
“SMS Notification on Request of Additional Information” replaced the manual system (notification sent by post). This fastens the process and prevents notification being lost.
“Online Information Submission” gives a more efficient and faster submission process through e-filing and automatic facsimile. This ensures that taxpayers’ information has been received.
“Information Submission Follow-up” allow taxpayers to check tax refund status through RD’s website. This is more convenient for taxpayers and reduces work loads of officials. There will be less number of officials required to answer calls in relation to document submitted and refund status.
“Information Recording” reduces workloads of officials and supports Go Green Campaign. Since the information is transformed into electronic form and recorded in database, there is no need to have large number of officials handling the information which is no longer kept in paper form.
“Notification on Tax Refund Request Status” informs a taxpayer immediately once tax refund has been approved.
For the first 5 sub-projects, the working process has been shortened from 3-7 working days to only a few minutes. Since instead of sending information by post, email, or fax; or calling RD’s offices to ask for information; or manually recording information received, all these processes will then be done online and other electronic services such as SMS and automatic facsimiles.
The 6th sub-project, “Supporting Information on Withholding Tax” creates corporation among RD and persons responsible for issuing withholding tax certificates. This is because to claim for deductions in tax calculation such as dividend tax credit, document such as withholding tax certificate may be required. This sub-project allows those who withheld tax send the information to RD electronically so withholding tax certificate is no longer required. Also it is more convenient for taxpayers since such information will not be requested.
In general, all sub-projects reduce officials’ workloads so that they will have more time to analyse tax refund cases and perform more productive tasks. Less paper will be required during the process of sending and receiving documents, which supports Go Green Campaign. Moreover SMS service follows RD’s strategy on proactive IT utilization. The sub-projects have been developed based on existing IT system. Thus they have been achieved at relatively low cost. This cost effective management also increases value added to RD’s IT system. Moreover, tax refunds could be approved faster since information will be stored in the database which is easier for analysing tax refund cases.
The initiative creates a win-win situation. Taxpayers are happy since they will have better communication in sending and receiving information, bear lower cost and get faster tax refund. RD is happy since the project will fasten tax refund process, require lower number of officials needed to respond to phone calls and data processing, and build a good image of RD.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
RD executives proposed the initiative. The problems were first raised by taxpayers. Officials involving in tax refund process received information, ideas, and suggestions from taxpayers and other parties both within and outside RD. They also gathered all information concerning problems and obstacles occurred in all aspects and proposed the problems to RD executives. After several brainstorm meetings, RD executives viewed that there was possible to improve tax refund process under the existing IT system and proposed new online services in relation to tax refund process:
- To ensure that taxpayers receive notification that they must submit additional information, there should be an online service that sends information directly to taxpayers;
- To ensure taxpayers that additional information has been sent to RD successfully, taxpayers should be able to upload the document or other tool that could save received information into electronic form;
- To ensure taxpayers that their information has been sent to officials responsible for their cases, any progress on the case should be available on RD’s website so that taxpayers could check tax refund status;
- To ensure that the received information is not lost and same information will not be requested again, information should be kept in electronic form and store in RD’s database for reference and future use.
- To ensure that taxpayers receive notification on tax refund request status, again there should be an online service that sends information directly to taxpayers.
These directions were given to all officials involved in the tax refund process and IT officials to frame the ideas for practical analysis.
All RD officials and relevant internal units implemented the new services. Moreover, public relation unit had involved in updating and publishing all information via RD’s website: and other channels. In addition, RD officials and Call Center played important role in giving information of new services to taxpayers. As a result, different targeted groups of taxpayers could receive information they needed.
Taxpayers, other government organizations, and private sector are stakeholders. There are more than 6,000,000 individual taxpayers use e-filing services and about 1,500,000 taxpayers request for tax refund. These taxpayers will receive better and faster service. The project also involves the private sector since RD asks for corporation from those in the private sector who are responsible for withholding tax and issuing withholding tax certificates to send withholding tax information directly to RD. Not only “Happy Tax Refund Project” affects the direct players (RD, taxpayers, and private sectors), it also affects other government organizations. This is because the project follows the “Proactive IT Utilization Strategy”. This IT based strategy is widely introduced in the government sector under the “e-Government Project”. Many government organizations are interested in how RD implements such strategy and use our project as a study project.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
“Happy Tax Refund Project” employs several strategies aiming to have faster tax refund process and minimize inconvenience of taxpayers and unnecessary workloads of RD’s officials.
1. Work Together Strategy
The strategy promotes coordination and integration among all parties involved in tax refund process which are Bureau of Electronic Processing Administration, Bureau of Information Technology, and RD Call Center.
To achieve our goal, we need service system that allows coordination among different units. Work was done based on existing resources. Thus the project was implemented at very low cost. This strategy results in brainstorming solutions to improve efficiency of tax refund process.
2. Taxpayer Centric Strategy
Services are developed based on taxpayers’ need as well as applying Taxpayer Relationship Management which aims to increase satisfaction and build good relationship with taxpayers. This approach requires the need to understand our taxpayers so that problems and expectations will be realized.
There are various steps involved:
(1) Notifying or sending information to taxpayers through SMS
As mobile phones are widely used, sending SMS is modern, fast, and convenient way to reach taxpayers. This approach is proactive and significantly reduces the need to call for information.
(2) Document submitting through file uploading and automatic facsimile via Call Center
This system ensures that taxpayers’ information has been received and reduces the chance of resending the same information or losing information.
(3) Supporting information system
The supporting information on withholding tax has been created by requesting persons who are responsible to withhold tax or issue withholding tax certificates to send information electronically to RD which can be used in analyzing tax refund cases. The system reduces cost and number of certificates which supports Go Green Campaign.
(4) Conducting survey
Evaluation helps RD to check whether the project was designed to serve taxpayers’ needs and ensures Taxpayer Centric approach. Survey was conducted and, average satisfaction level was at 4.01 (ranges from 0 (lowest) t0 5 (highest)).

Both strategies will be repeatedly applied following “Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) Cycle” to improve our services. This is because taxpayers’ behaviour and technology never stop moving, we need to constantly check whether our services fulfill taxpayers’ needs. If not, we have to act accordingly. Plan will be undertaken and implemented. The cycle can be done in consideration with risk and resource management.
The PDCA Cycle is similar to Buddhist’s philosophy: the “Four Noble Truths”. First is to understand “Nature of Suffering”. Here suffering refers to slow and inefficient tax refund process. By understanding the nature of suffering, we can identify causes. This is the second noble truth “Suffering’s Origin”. The third noble truth is to stop suffering “Suffering Cessation”. Here we have to plan how to solve the problems. Finally, the forth noble truth is “The Way Leading to The Cessation of suffering”. That is to implement the plan. And if the service could not solve the problems and suffering persists, then we must go through the whole 4 noble truths again.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
RD set out 5-year Happy Tax Refund Project Roadmap starting from 2007 aiming to achieve 5 groups of services to facilitate the process: Information; Accessibility (Information Submission; Information Recording; Facilitating Stakeholder; and Facilitating Taxpayers.
To create activities listed in the roadmap, the first task is to identify the problems. With respect to taxpayers, most problems were information accessibility problems. For examples, taxpayers experienced inconvenience in sending information and did not know whether
- additional documents were required in consideration with tax refund request;
- RD received the requested information;
- tax refund was approved.
With respect to RD, if taxpayers could not access information, officials will have. For examples, officials were required to handle loads of documents; officials were required to answer phone calls to respond taxpayers’ concerns in relation to the document submitted and tax refund status.
With respect to withholding tax certificates issuers, since information could not be accessed through RD’s website, the withholding tax certificates issuers had to issue loads of certificates and send to taxpayers. However this is an ongoing process since not all relevant businesses participate in the project. Thus in the case where we do not have information such as tax deductions on interest rates and dividend in our database, it is still necessary to make a request to taxpayer.

Identifying working methods and processes, including time needed at each stage
Once policy on improving working procedure is set, the first task is to identify working methods and processes in details which will help analyzing problems at each stage.
Analyzing problems and obstacles occurred throughout the process
Once working procedures are identified, problems and obstacles can be summarized:
- Taxpayers’ inconvenience to access information due to limited number of officials available to answer phone calls;
- Information submission by post, fax, or self-submission required time and expense whereas taxpayers did not know whether the submission was successful.
Considering possible solution and applying existing technology
New procedures have been developed to increase efficiency in tax refund service based on existing technology. For examples:
- SMS service to notify taxpayers upon request will takes only a few minutes;
- Information can be uploaded on e-Filing System or via Automatic Facsimile. These services will be done at real time without incurring high cost to taxpayers;
- Electronic recording system will immediately record the received information and store in our database.

Arranging meetings to improve the working process and system
The meetings aim to analyse problems and obstacles of the existing technology. It is found that there was security problem in relation to system design, resulting in working procedure modification in all relevant units.
Making report for RD’s executives’ considerations
Report on working procedure improvement and limitation will be presented to RD’s executives for considerations which may result in further modification in some working areas.
Developing/ testing/ setting the system
Once the new procedures are approved, they will be applied and tested. Some process may be modified after being used due to feedbacks and suggestions from users.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
To develop the system, the main obstacles were identified as follows:
1. Inadequate technology needed to implement the system, such as SMS service which would limit the number of characters for each message so that RD could not inform all documents required to be submitted to RD within one message. Taxpayers still had to check the list of requested documents again on RD’s website: RD is still under consideration to develop a more appropriate technology to solve the problem. The inadequate technology also includes ability to control and record documents sent through RD’s website. This may result in taxpayers sending incorrect documents to RD.
To overcome the problem, RD has developed information supporting system for tax refund which involves information received from other organizations. Such information will help RD to cross check the accuracy of information received from P.N.D. 90/91 with information stored in the database. This will reduce the need to request additional information from taxpayers.

2. Limited resources. This is because the system has been developed from the existing technology so that the analysis and application of the system must be thoroughly considered to increase efficiency in service provision and security where there is limitation of resources concerning time and the number of RD officials. To prevent too much work load for each official, there is a need to prioritize working stages, including setting a reserved plan to deal with problems which may occur at different working stages.

3. Unfamiliarity of new technology. When RD first introduced e-services, not only taxpayers were not sure how to use the e-filing system, but also RD officials were not familiar with e-services and paperless approach in day-to-day work.
To overcome the problems, RD used proactive approach setting up road shows to meet taxpayers and make sure that they understood how system works and also set up desk help at each of the area revenue offices where taxpayers could ask for help in filing tax returns. For RD officials, RD’s executives initiated to have guideline for officials which later was launched in order to encourage officials to work on e-system and not on paper and organised trainings so that officials understood how to work efficiently on the system.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
Happy Tax Refund Project started in 2007 aiming to fasten tax refund process by using existing resources and technology. This was to make maximum use of existing resources at the minimum cost.
With respect to Human Resource, the project did not require additional staff. RD set up a working group which is responsible for coordinating with taxpayers and relevant units. The working group composes of officials from 4 different units namely: Bureau of Electronic Processing Administration, Bureau of Information Technology, Bureau of Tax Collection Standards, and RD Call Center. The officials in the working group are existing RD staff. Thus to work for the project, they need to reallocate their working time between normal work and the project.
With respect to Financial Resource, the project is developed based on existing technology so it is done at a very low cost. To develop and modify the IT system, we used our in-house IT experts. Therefore the task was done without extra cost. Nonetheless, we requested for a small budget concerning cost of sending SMS to taxpayers. At the beginning, if we did not coordinate with mobile phone network providers, we might have to pay 3 baht for each SMS sent to taxpayers. This would incur a huge amount of expense on SMS alone. However, RD’s executives and mobile phone network providers agreed that RD could launch SMS Gateway Project in order to connect directly to mobile phone networks and send information from RD to taxpayers via mobile phone networks. If we did not have the SMS Gateway Project, RD had to send information to mobile phone network providers and once information was received it would be processed and sent to taxpayers. Such process needed RD officials to send information to mobile phone networks and later networks’ staff would send information to taxpayer. However with the SMS Gateway, RD officials will only send information through SMS Gateway and it will be processed via mobile phone networks and sent to taxpayers: computer-to-computer system rather than manual system. Such development was again done by in-house IT experts. Therefore there was no cost under SMS Gateway Project. Also under the project, sending one SMS will cost only 0.30 baht (thirty satang) which is about 90% reduction in cost compared with the normal charge at 3 bath/SMS.
In addition, due to a continuously increase in number of e-services users, RD needed to increase the bandwidth. Such policy has positive effect on Happy Tax Refund Project. It provides faster service for uploading information. Finally, automatic facsimiles service is a supplementary service set for RD at the time when Call Center’s IT system was developed. Thus most of the services provided under Happy Tax Refund Project did not require extra budget. They were developed from the existing IT facilities. This also allows RD to make greater use of our IT facilities leading to a more efficient IT utilization.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
Various factors show that the initiative has been supported by all the relevant parties: taxpayers, RD’s internal units, other government organizations, and private sector.
Taxpayers’ Satisfaction
RD conducts survey electronically. The survey was also designed to make use of IT system and served the Proactive IT Utilization Strategy. Once taxpayers finished uploading information on RD’s website, there would be a survey pop-up. Thus our survey has been completed by those who actually used our services. Moreover the survey is online and immediate after taxpayers have used our service so it is very convenient to taxpayers and an effective way of conducting a survey. And the statistics shows that average satisfaction level is at 4.01 (ranges from 0 (lowest) t0 5 (highest)).
Low Budget
Happy Tax Refund Project has been developed by RD’s IT experts and existing technology in terms of hardware and software has been used. Therefore there would be no extra budget required on updating technology which normally incurs a high cost. Only a small budget required concerning cost of sending SMS to taxpayers via SMS Gateway (only 0.30 baht per SMS). This low cost will not put huge burden on our annual budget requirement from Ministry of Finance therefore it is unlikely that the project will experience financial problem and would not be able to continue.
Support from Other Government Organizations and the Private Sector
RD’s e-Filing Project including Happy Tax Refund Project has received high interests from government organizations both within and outside Thailand. Each year we receive requests for study visits at least around 50 requests per year. Moreover the project is supported by the relevant private sector such as those who are responsible for issuing withholding tax payment certificates. They are happy to participate in the project since the project will significantly reduce their cost in printing the information to be sent to taxpayers. Having received a lot of interests from other organizations, RD will not only have to maintain our standard and also expand and improve our services continuously.
Applying Taxpayer Centric Approach to Other Projects
Happy Tax Refund Project was developed by using Taxpayer Centric Approach. In other words, taxpayers’ needs are the center of our problems. By identifying the taxpayers’ needs, we will be able to design appropriate solutions to our problems. This approach can be transferable and applied to other projects.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Impact on Society
Happy Tax Refund Project supports e-Revenue and Go Green Campaign. This is in line with environmental concerns in all societies. And by receiving faster tax refund. It also gives good image of RD and emphasizes good relationship between RD and other sectors.
Impact on Taxpayers
Clearly taxpayers are happy since they receive tax refund faster and it is more convenient for taxpayers to use online tax refund service. This could be seen in an increase in taxpayers’ satisfaction.
Lessons Learned
An important lesson learned from the project is that a service provider must not stop thinking and developing its services. As the number of taxpayers increases and behaviour may change from times to times, there are continuous needs to modify our services to be modern, easy and fast, to reduce burden and to better serve taxpayers. Another important finding is that whenever problem occurs, all responsible officials (from practitioner level to high executive level) have to coordinate and together analyse the problem to identify causes and come up with possible solution to solve the problem.
Moreover RD has learned that to solve problems, we have to carefully look at all aspects and consider all the parties involved. The most important thing is to make them happy. If all parties are happy, they will be happy to move forward with us under the slogan “Swift and trusty service for people we care”.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   The Revenue Department of Thailand
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Prowmatr Huntra
Title:   Principal Advisor on ICT  
Telephone/ Fax:   +66 2 272 8636/ +66 2 617 3643
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   90 Phaholyothin 7, Phayathai
Postal Code:   10400
State/Province:   Bangkok
Country:   Thailand

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