Thailand

General Information Banking
Business Etiquette Tips Embassy Locations and Registration
Employment-Legal Requirements Entry and Exit Requirements
Intellectual Property Legal and Registration of a Business Entity
Safety and Crime Taxes

General Information

ThailandThe country once known as Siam remains a magical home of beaches, national parks, temples, and rainforests despite several recent devastating events. In addition to overcoming both SARS and avian bird flu epidemics and bravely rebuilding following the tsunami of 2004, the country has been experiencing attacks from political extremists in southern regions of the country as well as along the Burma/Thailand border. Extreme caution is advised if traveling to these areas. As a founding member and the current chair of the Association of the South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Thailand is working to structure diplomatic resolutions to settle these conflicts.

Thailand's legal system is a blend of Western law and traditional Thai. The country is a constitutional monarchy with a democratic legal system. The king holds little true power and functions more as a figurehead and symbol of "national identity and unity." Forty percent of the country's economy is based on agriculture, with the United States, Japan, and China being the largest export markets for the country. 

There may be political unrest and/or targeted crime against visitors to the country.  Travelers should check with the U.S. State Department Web site for current travel safety information.

Major Cities Capital:  Bangkok
Major cities: Nakhon Ratchasima and Chiang Mai
Official Currency Thai baht.
Time Zone UTC+7 (12 hours ahead of Washington, D.C. during Standard Time).
Language Official language(s) are Thai and English, with ethnic and regional dialects.


Legal System and Government

Type of Legal System

The Thai legal system is based on a civil law system, with influences of common law. It has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction

Form of Government

Constitutional monarchy

The monarch is hereditary. According to the 2007 constitution a prime minister is designated from among members of the House of Representatives following national elections for the House of Representatives. The prime minister is limited to two four-year terms.

^Top

Banking

Available Banking Services

ATMs
Online banking
Banking by phone
Banking in English
Credit cards
Personal loans
Safety deposit boxes
Money transfers

Bank Holidays

New Year's Day
Good Friday
Easter Monday
Labor Day
Christmas Day
Boxing Day

U.S. and Other Major Banks in Country

(Note: Address and contact information subject to change.)

Citibank NA
82 North Sathorn Road
Bangkok 10500
Thailand
Phone: 66-2-232-2000
Fax: 66-2-639-2560
Web:  http://www.citibank.co.th/global_docs/citith_home_en.htm

Standard Chartered-Thailand
90 North Sathorn Road, 
Silom Bangkok 10500,
Bangrak, Thailand
Phone: +66 (0) 2724 4000
Web:  http://www.standardchartered.co.th/en/

^Top

Business Etiquette Tips

Business Attire

Conservative dress is the norm for both men and women. This means dark colored suits for men and conservative dresses or businesses suits for women.  Accessories should be kept to a minimum.

Business Negotiations

Thais are a social people, and relationships require nurturing prior to conducting successful business negotiations. Expect to spend time getting to know your business counterparts.

Proper Greetings

The most common form of greeting in Thailand is known as the "wai."  The proper way to perform the wai is to join "both hands together as in prayer, with fingertips pointed skyward and lightly touch the body somewhere between chest or the forehead," lightly bending the head toward the thumbs. The more superior the person being greeted is considered to be, the lower the head should be bent. 

Public and Social Behavior

Great emphasis is placed on saving face in all situations.  Public criticism or confrontational behavior is viewed very negatively, and it will have a negative impact on both social and business relationships. 

Scheduling Appointments

Appointments should be scheduled one month in advance and reconfirmed a few days prior. Punctuality is an important consideration, though your counterparts may be a few minutes behind. It is a good idea to provide an outline of the meeting and a list of attendees and their titles prior to the meeting date.

^Top 

Embassy Locations and Registration

Americans living or traveling in Thailand are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department's travel registration Web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Thailand. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

(Note: Address and contact information subject to change.)

U.S. Embassy in Thailand
120/22 Wireless Road
Bangkok, Thailand
Phone: (66-2) 205-4000
Fax:  (66-2) 205-4103
Web: http://bangkok.usembassy.gov/

Royal Thai Embassy in the United States
1024 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20007
Phone: (202) 944-3600
Fax: (202) 944-3611
Web: http://www.thaiembdc.org/

^Top

Employment-Legal Requirements

A written employment agreement is highly recommended prior to hiring employees, and legal advice should be sought prior to drafting employment agreements to avoid future misunderstandings. 

A typical work week consists of a maximum of 48 hours for full-time employees over the course of six days. Overtime reimbursement is paid at the rate of one-and-a-half times regular pay for weekdays and three times regular pay for holiday work. Thai laws permit an employee to decide whether or not they are willing to work overtime, unless the "nature of the work is urgent or requires continuous performance," to prevent substantial damage from occurring. Employment contracts typically include probationary periods of three to six months (with the maximum set at 120 days). 

Terminating Employees

Employment termination with cause (in which event the employer can terminate employment without notice and/or compensation) is governed by the provisions of the Civil and Commercial Code, and includes gross negligence, willful disobedience, dishonesty, or a criminal act. When there is employment termination without cause, the employer must make severance payments (in addition to notice) to the employee according to the length of unbroken service:

Legally Mandated Benefits and Leave

All employers are required by labor law to provide at least 13 official public holidays per year. Apart from salary, all benefits arising from employment are regarded as assessable income subject to withholding tax at a progressive rate.

Annual Leave 6 days (upon 1 year of employment)
Maternity Leave 90 days (half of which are paid 100 percent)
Sick Leave 30 days maximum at 100 percent pay (3 days or more may require medical authorization)
Special Leave Under Thailand labor laws employees must have the right to take sterilization leave, for which period full wage must be paid by the employer.

 

^Top

Entry and Exit Requirements

U.S. citizen tourists staying for fewer than 30 days do not require a visa, but they should possess a passport with six months remaining validity, a round-trip airline ticket, and proof of financial viability for the duration of their stay. Persons entering Thailand without a visa are permitted to stay a maximum of 30 days per visit. The duration of stay in Thailand for persons who enter Thailand without a visa cannot exceed 90 days during any six-month period, counting from the date of first entry. Foreigners residing in Thailand for more than 90 consecutive days must register their current address every 90 days with the Immigration Bureau. This requirement applies to all foreigners, including holders of work permits and long-term visas.  Failure to register can result in substantial penalties.

Nonimmigrant Visa

Foreigners planning prolonged stays or planning to work in Thailand should obtain nonimmigrant visas for all family members prior to entering the kingdom. There are several categories of nonimmigrant visas, and it is important to select the proper one for your individual situation.

Advantages of a Nonimmigrant Visa

Holders are eligible to apply for: (1) a multiple re-entry visa; (2) work permit; and (3) temporary visa renewal while waiting to receive a long-term annual visa, and they may be eligible to receive a permanent residence permit upon approval. 

Travelers are cautioned not to use "visa extension services" as they are illegal regardless of their proximity to immigration offices, police stations, or whether or not they advertise in major periodicals.

^Top

Intellectual Property 

The Department of Intellectual Property regulates intellectual property registration and compliance. The 1992 Patent Act adopted some internationally recognized rules and principles, including those of the Paris Convention, the Patent Co-operation Treaty, the World Intellectual Property Organization Model Law, the Harmonization Treaty, and the Draft Agreement on TRIPs, including Trade in Counterfeit Goods.

Thailand is not a party to the Paris Convention, but the amended Patent Act recognizes priority rights based on filing dates. An application for a patent filed in Thailand within 12 months (six months for a product design patent) after a prior application has been filed abroad will be deemed to be filed in Thailand on the date the prior application was filed. This priority right may be claimed only if the foreign country involved provides reciprocal rights to Thai nationals.

Nature of Rights and Terms

Patents

Invention patents are valid for 20 years from the filing date. Design patents are valid for 10 years from the filing date, and the approximate amount of time to process a patent application is currently five years. 

Copyright Protection

Copyright protection exists throughout the life of the author plus an additional 50 years beyond the death of an author. In the case of a work of joint authorship, copyright protection is extended for the life of the joint authors plus 50 years from the death of the last surviving co-author. Copyright protection for photographic, audiovisual, cinematographic, and audio and video broadcasting works, sound recordings, and works created during the course of employment exists for 50 years from the time of authorship.

Trademarks

Trademark registration is effective for a period of 10 years. Owners of trademarks may file an application for renewal at least 90 days prior to the expiration of their current trademark registration to extend their trademark for an additional 10 years.  A registered trademark retains protection even when it is not being actively used. Nonuse can entitle third parties to challenge the rights of the trademark owner.

Enforcement

The Central Intellectual Property Court is responsible for both criminal and civil cases relating to violations of trademarks, copyrights, and patent laws, and/or the counterfeiting or imitation of trademarks. The court's jurisdiction is technically limited to Bangkok and its immediate provinces around the city. But since there are no regional intellectual property tribunals the court has jurisdiction of all regions in Thailand.

Patents

Although laws are in place to curtail violations, high corruption levels and an overall culture of leniency along with intimidation tactics on behalf of pirates has had a negative impact upon the process.

Trademark

It is a criminal offense to represent a trademark as registered when it has not been legally registered, or to sell, possess for sale, or bring into the kingdom objects under such a pretense. This offense is punishable by imprisonment, a fine, or both. 

Anyone who infringes upon an individual's trademark that is registered in the kingdom, or who sells, possesses for sale, or brings into the kingdom objects with a forged trademark, is punishable by imprisonment, a fine, or both.

Copyrights

Thailand's copyright laws grant a holder the right to file criminal charges against an infringer. The "fair use" clause in Thailand, however, allows many to get away with infringement actions before it reaches the criminal level.

^Top

Legal and Registration of a Business Entity

There are four main types of business formation in Thailand: ordinary partnership, registered partnership, limited company, and public limited company. Other popular forms include sole proprietorship, joint ventures, and branches. 

All companies must register with the Department of Business Development of the Ministry of Commerce and the Revenue Department. There is no restriction on the number or nationality of directors, though there are some businesses subject to specific laws that do require a certain ratio of Thais to foreigners on the board or in management.

Establishing a Branch

A foreign company may set up a branch or a representative office in Thailand. Income earned from branch office activities is subject to Thai corporate income tax, but the company will not be taxed on income earned outside and unrelated to the business activities of the Thailand office. A branch office and its head office are treated as the same legal entity under Thai law, meaning that lawsuits against the branch may also be brought against the foreign head office.

As a condition for approval of an Alien Business License to a branch of a foreign corporation, working capital totaling THB 5 million in foreign exchange must be brought into Thailand within certain intervals over a four-year period. The branch may be allowed to operate for five years, unless a shorter period is indicated in the application because of a contract to be fulfilled in Thailand. Extension of the original duration of the license to operate may be granted if the working-capital requirement is met.

Registration Formalities (Including Timing)

It takes approximately 28 days and four steps to establish an office or business in Thailand. The steps in the streamlined version as listed on the World Bank's Web site include: 

  1. Apply for permission to use company name.
  2. Deposit paid-in capital in a bank.
  3. Obtain a corporate seal.
  4. Get approval for memorandum of association, apply to register the company as a legal entity (final registration) and also submit company work regulations.

 (Source:  The World Bank, Doing Business - Thailand)

Below is an additional listing of resources to assist in establishing an office.

Board of Investment

 http://www.boi.go.th/index.php?page=index&language=en

Department of Business Development

 http://www.dbd.go.th/mainsite/index.php?id=1&L=1

Excise Department

 http://www.excise.go.th/index.php?id=1&L=1

Immigration Department

http://www.immigration.go.th/nov2004/en/base.php

Department of Labour Protection and Welfare

http://www.labour.go.th/en/

Office of Foreign Workers Administration

http://wp.doe.go.th/sites/eng/index.html

Revenue Department

http://www.rd.go.th/publish/5998.0.html

 

^Top

Safety and Crime

Foreigners are advised to guard their personal security and avoid crowds and demonstrations. As mentioned earlier, the southern portion of Thailand and the Thai/Burma border have been experiencing increasing numbers of criminal and political violence. Pirates, bandits, and drug traffickers are known to operate in these border areas.  Remaining updated daily in regard to your travel destination is a must, and caution is recommended prior to travelling to any undeveloped areas. 

Of equal concern is making certain any borders crossed are open to avoid being denied re-entry. For more information on terrorist threats against Americans worldwide, and steps that U.S. citizens should take as a result of these threats, please see the U.S. State Department Web site.

Crime:  Crime in Bangkok is lower than that experienced in many large American cities, but pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, and burglary have become more common in recent years. As with all travel, remaining vigilant of your surroundings is recommended. It is also highly recommended that the hotel's resources be utilized to reserve taxis or schedule tours of the city.

^Top

Taxes

Tax enforcement in Thailand is strict, and penalties are levied on overdue taxes and underpayments. Personal income tax returns must be filed by the end of March following the taxable year (the tax year is the calendar year). The United States and Thailand have a signed tax treaty eliminating double taxation of personal income or corporate taxes paid in Thailand.

Taxable income covers cash and in-kind payments as well as employer benefits such as rent-free housing, cars and drivers provided for personal use, or any tax paid by the employer on behalf of the employee. 

Individual and Employee Taxation

Determining Tax Residence

An individual who resides in Thailand for 180 days or more in any calendar year will be considered a Thai resident for tax purposes. All individuals who receive income sourced in Thailand are responsible for paying income tax, regardless of whether or not they are a resident. Resident taxpayers may also have to pay income tax on foreign-sourced income brought into Thailand during that tax year.

Nontax Resident Employees

A nonresident is subject to tax only on income sourced in Thailand. Nonresidents employed by a Regional Operating-Headquarters (ROH) are assessed a flat tax rate. Others are susceptible to the marginal personal income tax based upon an individual's income.

Generally, senior citizens are permitted to count a larger portion of their net income as tax exempt than regular resident citizens.

Corporate and Employer Tax Obligations


Social Security Fund

The Social Security Fund is funded from monthly salary deductions from employees and contributions from employers, as well as a government contribution. The contribution to the Social Security Fund is equally shared between employers and employees.

Corporate Tax Rate

Generally, a registered company and foreign companies carrying on business in Thailand through an office, branch, or dependent agent are subject to a flat corporate income tax rate calculated by deducting all expenses and costs of goods sold from revenue arising from the business during the fiscal accounting period. In addition, a company may be required to register its business for value-added tax (VAT) purposes if it meets the conditions specified under the Revenue Code.

Branches of foreign companies pay income tax at the regular rate but only on Thai-source profits. Branches are also liable for a levy on profits remitted or booked to the foreign head office. If profits cannot be determined, an assessment may be made based on gross receipts.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

A zero-rate VAT applies on a range of activities, including the export of goods and services wholly used outside Thailand. VAT applies to all retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, importers, producers, and others providing direct services, unless exempt under the Revenue Code. All other firms must register and adopt the VAT system.

Specific tax rate information can be found on the Web site of the Revenue Department of Thailand.

^Top

Online Resources Used for This Template

^Top