Virtual taxman 'Toms' is here to help in Latvia

There's a new employee at the Latvian State Revenue Service who is working 24 hours a day for zero wages and paying no tax. However, rather than being a reason for an urgent investigation into modern slavery, he is hopefully going to provide a valuable service to all honest taxpayers.  

January 2, 2020 saw the State Revenue Service (VID) website launch the test mode of a Virtual Assistant named 'Toms'. 

Toms' task will be to answer citizens' questions that are currently most frequently asked of VID's flesh-and-blood tax consultants.

So far Toms has mastered the basic knowledge of these FAQs, but his training will continue and in future it is hoped he will also be able to tackle more complex tasks, though it is unlikely he will ever manage to make coffee for his colleagues unless he is integrated into a smart espresso machine.

"We encourage citizens to ask Tom a variety of tax questions and send their ratings and suggestions to [email protected] by January 14, 2020," VID said in an outline of Toms' projected career path.

"These are Toms' first days at work, so we encourage you to be patient and understanding if Tom doesn't know how to answer a question or makes you laugh," said VID.

"In addition to learning useful tax information, Toms also needs to adapt to everyday language and expressions. Therefore, the more conversations he has with citizens, the more professional and knowledgeable Toms becomes," VID added.

Lita Marnauza, Deputy Director of the VID Informatics Department saud: "We are pleased to start using the achievements of artificial intelligence and communication technologies in the work of the institution. With the help of a virtual assistant, we can reach people outside of their traditional working hours and places, giving them the flexibility to answer frequently asked questions. "

The virtual assistant has been developed within the language technology platform in cooperation with the Cultural Information System Center and the language technology company Tilde.

"Although we treat Toms as a junior VID employee, with the help of colleagues he will learn and become more resourceful on a daily basis," VID said.

Toms the taxman

At LSM we decided to contact Toms to find out how he is getting on. He was dressed in an open-necked white shirt and has a luxuriant hipster-type beard, though as the image at the top of the page shows, he has a full range of smart casual leisurewear in his wardrobe.

As if the stresses of a new job and having to memorize the tax code are not enough, he told us he is also learning English and Russian.

"There is a lot to learn about taxes and fees and about VID as a whole," Toms told us, with perhaps the slightest hint of resignation in his virtual voice.

Let's just hope he has been programmed to refuse bribes. You can speak to Toms at the State Revenue Service website.

As previously reported by LSM, another virtual assistant named Una is already at work at the Latvian Register of Enterprises. Whether she and Toms will get together at some point in the future remains to be seen.



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