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Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Business Act Thailand’

12th November 2014

For many the idea of setting up a business in Thailand is desirable if for no other reason than the thought of waking up and going to work every morning in one of the most idyllic countries in the world. In the past, many foreign owned businesses in Thailand were structured in such a way that they avoided some of the more stringent provisions of the Thai Foreign Business Act. In most cases Thai nominee shareholders were used to own the majority of a Thai company thereby ensuring that the company was considered “Thai” for purposes of the Act. However, this practice became illegal pursuant to section 36 of the currently enforced version of the Foreign Business Act as quoted below:

“A Thai national or a juristic person, not being a foreigner under this Act, who assists in or aids and abets or participates in the operation of a foreigner’s business specified in the Lists annexed hereto where such foreigner is not permitted to operate that business or who operates the business jointly with a foreigner in the manner holding it out as the former’s sole business or who acts as a foreigner’s nominee in holding shares in a partnership or a limited company or any juristic person with a view to enabling the foreigner to operate the business in circumvention or violation of the provisions of this Act, or a foreigner who allows such act to be committed by a Thai national or a juristic person that is not a foreigner under this Act, shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to a fine of one hundred thousand Baht to one million Baht or to both, and the Court shall order the cessation of the assistance or the aiding and abetting or order the cessation of the joint operation of the business or order the cessation of shareholding or partnership, as the case maybe. In the case of violation of the order of the Court, the violator shall be liable to a fine at the daily rate of ten thousand Baht to fifty thousand Baht throughout the period of the violation.”

Notwithstanding the fact that the use of Thai nominees is illegal, the practice persists. This fact was recently noted in a Bangkok Post article on the topic. However, in some cases discerning whether a company is utilizing nominees or simply structuring itself in such a way so as to provide security to foreign shareholders can be difficult. Therefore, when structuring a company in Thailand it is often prudent to seek the advice of competent legal advisers to in order to ensure that one’s business practices comport with relevant laws and regulations.

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9th July 2013

Those researching business and corporate entities in Thailand (sometimes referred to as Thai juristic persons) often come upon information pertaining to Thai partnerships. Partnerships in the Kingdom of Thailand are different from Thai limited companies and Thai sole proprietorships for a number of reasons. For example, Thai limited companies provide the shareholders with limited liability. This means that liabilities incurred by a Thai limited company do not generally flow through to the individual shareholders (that said, under some circumstances, directors of Thai companies may have some legal liability to the company itself). Depending upon the type of Thai partnership, the partners may or may not have limited liability. Thai Partnerships differ from Thai Sole Proprietorships for a number of reasons, but the most obvious difference is that Thai Sole Proprietorships, as the name suggests, are operated by one natural person.

In the Kingdom of Thailand, there are different types of partnerships: Thai Ordinary Partnerships, Thai Registered Ordinary Partnerships, and Thai Limited Partnerships. In this posting only ordinary partnerships and registered ordinary partnerships will be discussed as Thai limited partnerships will be discussed in a later posting.

Thai Ordinary Partnerships

Thai ordinary partnerships are sometimes referred to as unregistered partnerships. The name “unregistered partnership” may stem from the fact that Thai ordinary partnerships are not required to have a written partnership agreement and even where a written partnership agreement exists it is not required that the aforementioned agreement be registered. That being stated, ordinary partnerships are still required to register their existence as a business entity with the Thai Ministry of Commerce. However, notwithstanding the fact that an ordinary partnership has registered with the Ministry of Commerce, this type of registration should not be construed to mean that the partnership is a Thai registered ordinary partnership. All partners in a Thai ordinary partnership have unlimited liability for the acts of any of the other partners which occur in the course of the partnership’s business. Creditors of an ordinary partnership may make claims against the property of any of the partners and do not need to first make a claim against the assets of the partnership.

Thai Registered Ordinary Partnerships

Thai Registered Ordinary Partnerships must be registered with the Ministry of Commerce in the Kingdom of Thailand. When registering this type of partnership a copy of the written partnership agreement, information regarding capital contributions as well as managerial duties of the partners, and objectives of the partnership must be included in the application for registration. In the eyes of Thai law, a registered ordinary partership is viewed as a distinct entity separate and apart from the partners. However, the legal distinction between the registered ordinary partnership and the partners as individuals should not be construed to mean that the partners have limited liability. That stated, if a claim is to be made by a creditor against a Registered Ordinary Parntership, then the creditor must first seek to make their claim against the assets of the Registered Ordinary Partnership before making a claim against either of the individual partner’s assets.

There are significant differences in the way in which registered ordinary partnerships and ordinary partnerships are taxed in the Kingdom of Thailand. Therefore, those interested in establishing either of these types of partnerships are encouraged to contact a legal professional in Thailand to ascertain whether either of these types of structures are suitable.

It should also be noted that foreign nationals wishing to set-up a Thai Registered Ordinary Partnership or a Thai Ordinary Partnership may be barred from doing so pursuant to the provisions of the Thai Foreign Business Act. In some cases, a Thai Foreign Business License may be obtained depending upon the type of business the foreign nationals wish to undertake through use of a Thai partnership. American citizens wishing to set-up a Thai partnership (either a registered ordinary partnership or simply an ordinary partnership) may obtain certification for their proposed partnership pursuant to the terms of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity, provided that the proposed business activity is not restricted under the terms of the Treaty; and, upon being approved for a Treaty certificate, operate their partnership notwithstanding the provisions of the Foreign Business Act.

For related information please see: Thailand Company Registration.

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28th June 2013

Limited Companies in the Kingdom of Thailand

Thai Limited Companies are somewhat similar to limited liability companies in jurisdictions such as the United States, the United Kingdom, or the European Union. However, there are certain formalities which must be adhered to in order to be certain that a Thai company is properly registered. First, a name for the company must be reserved and approved by the Thai Ministry of Commerce and then three shareholders must be utilized in order to meet the requirements for Thai company registration. Meanwhile, depending upon the type of business or the presence of possible future foreign employees certain capital requirements must be met (those wishing to register a Thai Limited Company are encouraged to ascertain the exact amount of capital necessary for a certain type of business before taking steps toward registration). Foreign nationals wishing to register a company in Thailand should note that some types of business are restricted under the provisions of the Foreign Business Act. It should be noted that usage of Thai nominee shareholders to hold shares of a Thai limited company on a foreign national’s behalf solely for the purpose of avoiding conflict with the provisions of the Foreign Business Act is strictly prohibited. American Citizens wishing to register a Thai company or American Companies wishing to set-up corporate offices in Thailand may be eligible to receive certification under the provisions of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity and therefore be in compliance with the Foreign Business Act and other applicable Thai law as companies with Treaty of Amity certification are accorded “National Treatment”.

An issue that may be of interest to those weighing the option of registering a company in Thailand: the corporate tax rate  for small companies making over one million baht per year has been reduced from 23% to 20% as of 2013, according to the official wesite of the Revenue Department in Thailand.

Sole Proprietorships in the Kingdom of Thailand

A sole proprietorship is defined as a business enterprise in which one natural person is the owner. It should be noted that sole proprietorships, unlike Thai limited companies or Thai limited partnerships, provide no limited liability to the owner and therefore the owner’s liability with respect to those conducting business with the sole proprietorship is unlimited.  There are some possible tax benefits arising from operating a sole proprietorship since the sole proprietor may be taxed progressively in much the same way as a natural person. In certain cases, a sole proprietor could opt to be taxed based upon gross receipts, minus a standardized deduction. However, those interested in this type of structure are well advised to contact professionals in order to ascertain further information about whether this type of structure can be utilized for one’s proposed business and the possible tax liabilities of such a proposition.

It should be noted that a sole proprietorship may not be feasible for most foreign nationals wishing to conduct business in Thailand pursuant to the provisions of the Foreign Business Act. It may be possible to obtain a foreign business license for a sole proprietorship in Thailand and thereby maintain compliance with the Foreign Business Act, but such licenses are examined on a case by case basis based upon the type of activity the sole proprietor wishes to conduct. For American Citizens it may be possible to obtain certification for a Thai sole proprietorship pursuant to the provisions of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity.

For related information please see: Thailand Company.



 

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29th December 2009

Thailand can be a difficult business market for some foreign firms to enter due to the many restrictions placed upon foreigners who operate in the Kingdom.The Foreign Business Act precludes foreigners from engaging in many business activities. However, over the past decade there have been repeated attempts to amend the Foreign Business Act. These attempts have been made for a variety of reasons. Some have hoped to liberalize the Thai market while others have tried to make the regulations more restrictive. In either case, these attempts have been just that because very few have been able to push through legislation to modify the law.

Recently the website Thaivisa.com in conjunction with The Nation Newspaper are reporting that changes may be coming for the Thai Foreign Business Act. To quote from Thaivisa.com:

“The planned liberalisation of certain business sectors currently limited to Thai firms will be accompanied by the imposition of more stringent restrictions on foreign-owned businesses operating in the Kingdom if a series of proposals by the Commerce Ministry are accepted by economic ministers. Under the ministry’s proposed amendments to the Foreign Business Act (FBA), voting rights of foreign shareholders will be more tightly controlled…In an effort to boost foreign investment, the government is considering removing some industries from the FBA’s Annex III, which lists industries that are off-limits to non-Thais. Annex III businesses that might be opened up include tour guide operators; trading in agricultural futures; stock trading; derivatives trading; commercial banking; insurance and assurance; pawnshop operators; warehousing; schools; and credit fonciers [sic]. ‘The amendments should create clear regulations for controlling each type of business. It should make the environment friendlier for foreign investors and streamline business regulations. However, it may affect some Thai businesses that are not competitive with foreign firms,” said a senior Commerce Industry source.’”

Although all of the implications of these proposed changes have not yet been deciphered it is clear that these changes will have a dramatic impact upon the foreign business community in Thailand.

This amendment may also come with new restrictions for some types of companies in Thailand:

“The proposed removal of some businesses from Annex III has prompted a concurrent proposal to impose stringent controls on the voting rights of foreign shareholder, which must not be higher than 50 per cent. The amended regulations would only apply to new foreign-owned companies.”

Some corporate structures in Thailand provide disproportionate voting rights for certain shareholders. If approved, this amendment would likely mean the end of disproportionate corporate voting rights. This section of the proposed amendment will probably not be warmly greeted by the foreign business community in Thailand. As it states above, in its current form, this legislation should not affect the operation of a Thai Company that is currently in existence, but the final draft of this legislation could be very different from what is being debated at this time.

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