Work Permit and Tax ID

To get paid for work in Thailand, even to get paid by your own company, an expat must have a work permit. In fact, you will also need a work permit to:

  • Open a personal bank account (though some banks have sometimes skipped this requirement)
  • On your company's bank account, get signatory authority on cheques (banks are strict on this)
  • Apply for a 1-year visa extension
  • Purchase a motor vehicle in your own name
  • Get a telephone line in your own name

A work permit is a blue booklet about the size of a passport which has your photo, information and pages for updates.

An employer, such as your own company, must apply on your behalf. This company must have registered capital of at least 2 million baht per expat work permit, and must maintain a Thai-to-foreigner ratio (which varies according to the nature of your business, but is typically somewhere between 4:1 and 7:1). Your company must offer you a minimum salary according to your nationality and job description (e.g., Americans must be paid at least 60,000 baht for most jobs). Your job classification must be permitted, and your job description must be perceived as beneficial to Thailand and not taking away a job from a Thai. You must be holding a "Non Immigrant B" visa, also known as a "business visa".

After you receive your work permit, then you go to the Revenue Department and get a personal tax ID card, which is a plastic laminated card approximately the size of a driver's license but it does not have your photo on it. That card has your tax ID number on it, which you will also need in order to get paid by the accountants in Thailand.

The application consists of:

  1. your work permit application forms
  2. your passport, together with photocopies of passport title page (your identification and photo), current nonimmigrant visa page, entrance stamp and entry card
  3. a doctor's certificate stating you are in good health (and I cannot refute that countless doctors and clinics routinely give out these signed forms for only 100 or 200 baht without conducting any exam whatsoever)
  4. your company's documentation (legal, tax, employee and other documentation)
  5. a copy of your company's bank books which shows the 2 million baht of paid up capital, or other documentation (the registered capital does not need to all be cash or "paid up", but can be assets such as company owned car, computers, equipment, etc.)
  6. two color, 4 cm x 5 cm sized photos, a common size at photo shops but NOT passport sized!

The time required to receive your work permit varies from a few days to a few months, if approved. If it seems to be taking too long, then the officials may be indecisive about your application. If your visa ends before your application is approved, then it's essentially a modest rejection. (It's often better if you have a third party Thai agent talk with the officials.)

If approved, then you next get a tax ID card. Getting the tax ID card is very easy and quick, usually all done in one day.

After that, you will pay income tax (very reasonable in Thailand) and can be an more upstanding member of Thai society. For example, if you make 35,000 baht per month, or 420,000 baht per year, and take deductions for a wife and two children to reduce taxable income to 330,000 baht, then you would pay Personal Income Tax (PIT) of less than 10%, or approximately 28,000 baht. Some of this will be withheld from your pay each month by your accountant, and you can make up the difference at the end of the year.

Problems to Avoid

As is usually the case with foreigners in any land, it is up to individual government officials to judge whether or not to grant a work permit to you. Simply fulfilling all requirements of an application does not guarantee that you will get a work permit.

The most important issue is whether you are bringing in a skill beneficial to Thailand or attracting commerce to Thailand, versus whether you are taking a job away from a Thai (i.e., could be done by a Thai). In the documentation, you will choose a job classification, plus you will write a job description.

Do not let your visa expire, either while the application is pending or after the work permit is in hand, or else you will be a few steps back -- needing to apply for a new work permit. This is because the work permit is linked to the visa you have when you submitted the application. You can get a visa extension ... up to a point in time.

If you must go outside Thailand during this period, then make sure you originally come in with a multiple entry visa. Further, you must make sure to get a reentry permit from the Immigration Department before you leave Thailand, so that you return on the same visa.

Once you have the work permit, you must apply for an extension before it expires.

Keep all documentation you receive over time, such as tax receipts.

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