Thailand

Introduction

 

About Thailand

Thailand is an emerging economy which is heavily export-dependent, with exports accounting for more than two-thirds of GDP. Thailand is the second largest economy in Southeast Asia and ranks highly in the production and export of motor vehicles and parts, electronic goods and agricultural commodities. Currently, the manufacture of technological products and vehicles is driving Thailand's strong growth in exports, with manufacturing and construction the country's key production sectors.

Government reforms have improved regulatory efficiency in recent years. Labour regulations are relatively flexible and property rights are generally applied effectively.

Major cities in Thailand have well-established infrastructures and are supported by a cheap labour force and a relatively large pool of English-speaking workers, all of which enhance Thailand's profile as an attractive destination for investment.

The government's pro-investment agenda, which includes the second lowest corporate income tax in ASEAN and policies that emphasise liberalisation and free trade, have led to further increases in investment in Thailand.

Thailand is geographically located in the middle of Southeast Asia. It has an extensive road network connecting it to other countries, including China, and is pursuing plans to increase accessibility to Asia to support its trade sector.

 

Thailand Market Profile Infographic_small
 

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Corporate Treasury in Thailand

Thailand has the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia and is considered a newly industrialised country (NIC). Its economy has shifted from being predominately agriculture-based to heavily export-dependent. Here, we highlight some of the key benefits relevant to treasury and cash management in Thailand. 

 

Financial Market Development

  • The World Economic Forum ranks Thailand 40th in the world for financial market development in The Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018.
  • It ranks Thailand 27th in the world for the soundness of its banks, while it rates the country reasonably highly for ease of access to loans, financing through equity markets and venture capital availability.
  • Thailand has good business infrastructure, an efficient workforce and a strong legal environment. The government is pro-business, although there is some political instability.
  • Thailand has foreign-exchange controls. There are no restrictions on the import of foreign currency, but it must be exchanged into Thai baht or deposited in a foreign currency account with an authorized bank within 360 days. Proceeds of more than USD50,000 from exports and certain other transactions must be repatriated within 360 days from the date of the export or the receipt of payment. The Bank of Thailand has recently amended exchange control regulations, reducing the supporting documents required for outward remittance and easing restrictions on the daily THB300 million limit imposed on non-resident THB accounts.

 

Sophistication of Banking Systems

  • There are 14 commercial banks in Thailand, and 15 subsidiaries or branches of foreign banks. A further 49 banks have representative offices in Thailand.
  • Thailand's foreign-exchange market has an average daily turnover of USD11 billion, accounting for 0.2% of global turnover (Bank for International Settlements triennial global survey 2016).
  • Thailand's debt market has both government and corporate bonds available, although it is dominated by government bonds. The local currency bond market had a total value of THB11.4 trillion at the end of March 2018.

 

Regulatory Bodies

  • The banking industry is regulated by the central bank the Bank of Thailand. Regulations are in line with international standards. Foreign-exchange controls are also overseen by the Bank of Thailand.

 

Tax

  • The corporate income tax rate is 20%. For small and medium enterprises (subject to meeting the definition set), the corporate income tax rates for accounting periods on or after 1 January 2017 will be on progressive or slab basis i.e. first 300,000 Baht, it will be at 0%, from 300,000 Baht to 3,000,000 Baht, it will be 15% and in excess of 3,000,000 Baht, it will be 20%. Different tax rates are available based on industry, location and project specific basis (and conditions prescribed are met).
  • Resident companies are taxed on worldwide income. Foreign companies with permanent establishments in Thailand are generally taxed on profits derived from Thailand.
  • Thailand branch after tax profits remitted or deemed remitted to its foreign head office is subject to 10% branch remittance tax. Non-resident companies without a fixed place of business in Thailand are subject to withholding tax on Thailand-sourced income.
  • The standard rate for value added tax (VAT) is 10%, but it was temporarily reduced to 7% until 30 September 2018. Exports of goods and/or services are zero rated.
  • Stamp duty is levied on 28 different types of documents, including work contracts, loans and share transfers. Rates start at THB1 per THB1,000 of the value of the contracts and agreements to a fixed amount per instrument on most commercial and other documents.
  • Specific business tax is collected at fixed rates on gross revenue from certain businesses that are not subject to VAT, such as banking and similar financial businesses. Rates range from 0.01% to 3%. An additional 10% tax is levied as municipality tax.
  • Interest income is subject to tax in Thailand.
  • Interest expenses that are used for business purposes are generally tax deductible. There are no thin capitalisation rules in Thailand. 
  • For resident companies, withholding tax on dividends is 10%, (or exempt subject to fulfilment of certain criteria) and on interest received by non bank or finance company, it will be 1%. For non-resident companies, where there is no treaty, withholding tax will be  at 10% on dividends and 15% on interest. Where a treaty is in place and if the non resident can produce Certificate of Residence, withholding tax will be at 5% or 10% on dividends and at 0%, 3%, 10% or 15% on interest.
  • Thailand offers both tax and non tax incentives for certain promoted activities in the following categories (subject to approval from the Board of Investment): agricultural, mining, light industry, metal products, the electronic industry, chemicals, services and public utilities, and technology There are also tax incentives for companies operating in certain provinces and economic zones.
  • Companies that has been granted regional operating headquarters or international headquarters status may also qualify for tax incentives, including a reduced or exempted from corporate income tax as well as withholding-tax exemptions.
  • Approved treasury centres may be applied as part of the regional operating headquarters or international headquarters status. Tax concessions for approved treasury centres may include exemption for 15 years from corporate tax on certain income including income from providing treasury management services to its Non Thai Affiliates AND a reduced corporate tax rate of 10% on certain income including income from providing treasury management services to Thai Affiliates.
  • Thailand has tax treaties with more than 60 countries and territories.

 

Benefits for Regional Treasury Centres and Operations:

  • There are tax concessions regional operating headquarters (which may include regional treasury centres) including exemption for 15 years from corporate tax on certain income including income from providing treasury management services to its Non Thai Affiliates AND a reduced corporate tax rate of 10% on certain income including income from providing treasury management services to Thai Affiliates
  • Thailand is a popular location for shared services centres due to its large, cost-effective labour pool and supportive government policies.
  • Thailand is a member of the Asian Payment Network, a common payment-settlement platform within the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Cash concentration is available for residents but foreign-exchange controls make it difficult for non-residents to participate.
  • Notional pooling is available, although the tax treatment is unclear. Cross-border notional pooling is not available.
  • Cross-border cash pooling is permitted with a Treasury Centre License from the Bank of Thailand.

 

Banking

 

Banking System

  • Thailand has 14 domestic commercial banks and 11 foreign bank branches. In addition, there are four foreign bank subsidiaries and 50 foreign bank representative offices.
  • Four banks dominate Thailand’s banking sector: Siam Commercial Bank, Bangkok Bank, Kasikorn Bank and Krung Thai Bank. Together, they make up more than two-thirds of the banking industry’s total assets.
  • Bangkok Bank is Thailand’s leading commercial bank, with the largest network of branches and retail customer base. It is also one of the leading regional banks in Southeast Asia.

 

Bank Accounts

  • Residents: May hold domestic currency (THB) accounts domestically and overseas, with prior approval from the Bank of Thailand (BoT) for overseas accounts, which are convertible to foreign currency accounts used for specific financial purposes. May also hold foreign currency accounts domestically and overseas.
  • Resident institutional investors: May hold foreign-exchange accounts overseas on condition they are used for investment in securities, with no upper limit on funds. Funds may be repatriated freely.
  • Non-residents: May hold domestic and foreign currency accounts. Domestic currency accounts have a maximum outstanding daily amount of THB 300 million; funds cannot be transferred between different accounts and are not convertible into foreign currency.
  • Interest: Only available to savings accounts.

 

Legal and Regulatory

  • The BoT is an autonomous institution and it oversees Thailand’s banking sector, including foreign-exchange transactions and bank reporting through the International Transactions Reporting System (ITRS).
  • As of March 2016, Malaysia and Thailand established a bilateral agreement regarding local currency exchange (THB and MYR) allowing import/export trade accounts to be settled more efficiently between the two countries.
  • Thailand is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
  • Under the ASEAN Banking Integration Framework, the BoT signed agreements with Malaysia and the Philippines’ central banks to ensure banking legislation with these two countries.
  • Thailand has anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing legislation in place.
  • It has a financial intelligence unit, the Anti-Money Laundering Office, which is a member of the Egmont Group and a unit of Thailand’s Department of Justice.
 

Payments

 

Payment Systems

BAHTNET

(BoT Automated High-Value Transfer Network)

Thailand's national Real-time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system

  • Owned and operated by the BoT.
  • Provides delivery versus payment settlement (DVP) for Thai government securities.
  • 71 participants.
  • Processes high-value and urgent THB-denominated interbank transfers.
  • Processes the final settlement of participants' net balances that originate from Thailand's other clearing houses.
  • Settles and finalises transactions in real time.
  • Final settlement is across participant banks' correspondent accounts at the BoT.

Bulk Payment System

Deferred net settlement system for electronic credit and debits

  • Operated by the National Transaction Management and Exchange (ITMX) company.
  • It is divided into two subsystems: the Direct Credit service and the SMART Credit service.
  • 32 direct participants.
  • Processes electronic credit and debit transfers of up to THB 2 million.
  • Final settlement is done through BAHTNET on a net settlement basis. Funds are available to beneficiaries same day.

PromptPay

Interbank mobile payments system
  • Operated by Vocalink and ITMX.
  • 23 participant banks
  • Processes interbank transfers for low and high value transactions in real time though BAHTNET.
  • Possible to initiate transactions using ATMs, mobile phone and online platforms using mobile or citizen ID numbers.
  • PromptPay linked with Singapore’s PayNow to enable cross-border transactions between the two countries.

ICAS

(Imaged Cheque Clearing and Archive System)

 

Cheque and paper-based payments clearing system

  • Truncates cheques and paper-based payments and processes them electronically same day through BoT's Electronic Clearing House (ECH) by online-participant banks.
  • 39 participants.
  • ECH processes the cheque images and related data and then forwards them for approval by the paying bank.
  • Processes for same-day clearing through ICAS whereby funds are available to beneficiaries from 12:00 the same day.

 

Payment Instruments

 

Credit Transfers

  • High-value and urgent interbank transfers cleared and settled through BAHTNET in real time.
  • Low-value, non-urgent and high-volume credit transfers done through the SMART Credit service.
  • Low-value credit transfers are usually used for payroll, supplier and third-party payments.

 

Direct Debits (auto debits)

  • Used for low-value, regular payments such as utility bills via personal or business bank accounts.
  • Also used for high-value debit transfers that are cleared and settled through BAHTNET in real time.
  • Low-value direct debits settled through Bulk Payment System's Debit next day (DD3) service.

 

Card Payments

  • Credit and debit cards are two of the most common forms of cashless payment.
  • Visa and MasterCard are the main payment cards, although there are plenty of other cards and payments systems available. Magnetic striped cards are slowly being phased out in favour of chipped smart cards, which can be used for credit, debit and some contactless payments, such as on public transport.
  • As of February 2016, Thai Payment Network (TPN) and UnionPay International established a local network for processing electronic card payments.
  • The National ITMX shared system is the country's ATM network and clearing system.
  • Reloadable, prepaid cards are available for electronic payments whether point-of-sale or online.

 

Online Payments

  • The government launched the National e-Payment Master Plan in 2015, setting out to promote a cashless economy by developing the electronic payment infrastructure, including the establishment of PromptPay in 2017.
  • Fourteen Thai banks and seven state and private corporations launched the Thailand Blockchain Community Initiative in 2015, in which they collectively agreed to adopt blockchain technology into their transaction infrastructure to increase efficiencies.
  • The Payment Systems Act was implemented in 2017 to regulate and develop the e-payments infrastructure.
  • Digital wallets have been fast-adopted nationwide using quick response (QR) coding, especially among small and medium-sized businesses, as well as large corporations such as McThai (the Thai version of McDonalds), Shell petrol stations and Spa convenience stores. Popular digital wallets include mPay, AirPay and TrueMoney Wallet.
  • The QR payment system was standardised in 2017 and has contributed to an increase in sales due to the system’s expediency and efficiency.

 

Digital Currencies

  • The government has regulated cryptocurrencies with the Digital Asset Business Decree in 2018 and has defined the cryptocurrencies that it recognises for exchange. Further, Thailand has extended tax law to include cryptocurrency exchanges.
  • Cryptocurrencies are not legal tender in Thailand.

 

Cash, Cheques and Money Orders

  • Thailand is considered one of the ‘cash heavy’ emerging markets, where the annual rate of decline of cash is less than 1%, according to McKinsey & Company.
  • Cheques are a common form of cashless payment, although slowly in decline. Used for retail and commercial payments, and truncated and processed same day through ICAS.
  • MoneyGram and Western Union are the leading providers of money orders.
 

Demographics

Thailand Market Profile Infographic

1 (Progressive) max rate for incomes over THB5 million

 

Recent developments

 

Thai Businesses Embrace Digital Technology

The majority of Thai businesses are utilising digital technology but only 7% are acting as digital leaders, a Digital Transformation Index found. The study of 100 executives from large and medium-sized companies, carried out by Dell EMC Thailand and Intel, categorised 40% of companies as digital adopters with a mature digital plan, while 25% were classed as digital evaluators, but 23% were said to be digital followers and had made only limited investments in digital technology. Six out of 10 business leaders thought they would be disrupters, rather than be disrupted, within five years.

Read more about the development here.  

 

B2B Platform for Small Retailers Planned

Thailand’s Commerce Ministry has joined forces with four other state entities to develop a business-to-business platform to enable 40,000 small-scale retailers to go online within three years. The platform will enable small shops to purchase goods from suppliers and sell to customers online, as well as manage their stock and warehousing over the internet, and have easy access to logistic services and payment options. It aims to help small retailers survive amidst changing technology.

Read more about the development here

 

Cross-border Money Transfer Scheme to Launch

Central bank the Bank of Thailand is launching a cross-border money transfer service with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. The service, which will use QR codes, aims to lower fund transfer costs to help promote greater regional integration. It is exploring using local currencies for trade settlements, rather than US dollars, as is currently the case. The payment system is expected to be rolled out for Cambodia in 2019.

Read more about the development here.

 

This Market Profile is brought to you by DBS. Get in touch with us for further insights on doing treasury in Thailand and take advantage of our innovative solutions to empower your business. Click here to find out more.

 

 

Sources: IMF; World Economic Forum; PwC; US Department of Commerce; Bank of Thailand; Bank for International Settlements; Asian Development Bank 

The information herein is published by DBS Bank Ltd. (“DBS Bank”) and is for information only. The information is assembled based on information available and accurate as at Aug 2018.

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Last updated on 23 Nov 2018