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.
What solutions are available in Thailand?
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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) by the IMF. Its economy has shifted from being predominately agriculture-based to being 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 14th in the world for its financial system in The Global Competitiveness Report 2018.
- It ranks Thailand 25th in the world for the soundness of its banks, while it rates the country reasonably highly for domestic credit to the private sector, market capitalisation as a percentage of GDP and the financing of SMEs.
- 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 authorised 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 is continuing to relax foreign exchange regulation, and has reduced the supporting documents required for outward remittance and eased restrictions on the daily THB300 million limit imposed on non-resident THB accounts.
Sophistication of Banking Systems
- There are 19 commercial banks in Thailand, and 11 branches of foreign banks. A further 46 banks have representative offices in Thailand.
- Thailand's foreign-exchange market has an average daily turnover of USD14.42 billion, accounting for 0.2% of global turnover (Bank for International Settlements Triennial Central Bank Survey 2019).
- 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 THB12,649 billion at the end of March 2019.
- 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 and administered by the Ministry of Finance.
- The corporate income tax rate is 20%. For small- and medium-sized enterprises (subject to meeting the definition set), corporate income tax is paid on a progressive basis i.e. the first THB300,000 of profit is paid at 0%; THB300,000 to THB3 million is paid at 15%; and CIT on profit in excess of THB3 million is paid at 20%. Different tax rates are available for companies in certain industries, locations and on a project-specific basis providing certain conditions are met.
- Resident companies are taxed on worldwide income. Foreign companies with permanent establishments in Thailand are generally taxed on profits derived from Thailand.
- Branch profits remitted or deemed remitted to a foreign head office are subject to an additional 10% branch remittance tax. Non-resident companies without a fixed place of business in Thailand are subject to withholding tax on certain Thailand-sourced income.
- The standard rate for Value Added Tax (VAT) is 10%, but it has been temporarily reduced to 7% until 30 September 2019. Exports and certain goods and 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, including 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 the fulfilment of certain criteria; on interest received by non-bank or finance companies it is 1%. For non-resident companies where there is no treaty, withholding tax is 10% on dividends and 15% on interest. Where a treaty is in place and the company can produce a Certificate of Residence, withholding tax is 5% or 10% on dividends and 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 have been granted international business centre status, including treasury centres, may qualify for a CIT exemption or reduced CIT rate on qualifying income, as well as withholding tax exemptions.
- Companies that previously had regional operating headquarters or international headquarters status can apply to be converted to international business centres. The current tax benefits for regional operating headquarters and international headquarters will be terminated between May 31, 2019 and January 1, 2021.
- Thailand has tax treaties with more than 60 countries and territories.
Benefits for Regional Treasury Centres and Operations:
- There are tax concessions for international business centres, including treasury centres, such as a CIT exemption or reduced CIT rate on qualifying income, as well as withholding tax exemptions.
- 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.
- Thailand has 19 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. As of June 2019, together they make up 63.8% 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.
- 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 subject to approval from Bank of Thailand.
- 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).
- In 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.
(BoT Automated High-Value Transfer Network)
Thailand's national Real-time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system
Bulk Payment System
Deferred net settlement system for electronic credit and debits
|Interbank mobile payments system|| |
(Imaged Cheque Clearing and Archive System)
Cheque and paper-based payments clearing system
- 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.
- 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, which includes just under 8,100 ATMs as of 2017.
- Reloadable, prepaid cards are available for electronic payments whether point-of-sale or online.
- 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.
- Mobile payments are expected to increase from a current value of THB2.84 billion to almost THB7.76 billion by 2023.
- 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.
1 (Progressive) max rate for incomes over THB5 million
Thai Banks to Trial Biometrics
Ten financial institutions have received permission from the Bank of Thailand to test the use of biometrics to verify customers’ identities. The test is expected to be completed by the end of 2019, after which the central bank will roll out new regulations and policies before biometric data is used more widely by banks and other financial services companies. Banks will initially be able to use customers’ biometric data to verify their identity when they open savings accounts. If this is successful, they can apply for permission to use it for verification for other services.
Read more about the development here.
Central Bank Develops Cryptocurrency
Central bank the Bank of Thailand is planning to introduce blockchain technology and its own cryptocurrency to increase the speed of inter-bank settlements. The country’s bond market is also expected to use the same technology to make the market more efficient and settlements quicker. President of the Thailand Bond Market Association, Tada Phutthitada, said that using the technology would enable people to see their holdings in real time, while those who buy bonds will receive them within three days, rather than the current 15 days.
Read more about the development here.
Mobile Payments Services Expands in Japan
Thailand’s mobile payment service PromptPay is looking to expand in Japan. The payment service is teaming up with Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group to increase the number of stores in the country that accept it as a payment method in a bid to cash in on the growing number of Thai visitors to Japan. Around 70% of Thai people use PromptPay, which first became available in Japan in August as part of a trial.
Read more about the development here.
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Sources: IMF, World Economic Forum, World Bank, PwC, US Department of Commerce, Bank of Thailand, Bank for International Settlements, Asian Development Bank, World Bank.
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