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Information Regarding the New Customs Act in Thailand

Transcript of the above video:

Today in this video, we're talking about the Customs Act here in Thailand. We're going into some specifics on the old Customs Act but it should be noted a new Customs Act has been promulgated in Thailand and it's actually approved. In certain ways, it's tightened up certain aspects dealing with customs in Thailand but there are other things I would argue were indeed needed in order to give answers to the rather antiquated notions on the old act.

Most notably, some of the new things that have occurred to me, one of the interesting aspects of the old act there were certain rewards systems put in place for so-called whistle blowers under the old act which allowed those who basically informed customs officials about possibly suspicious shipment. If individuals informed and presumably these individuals could be working for customs themselves, if it was discovered or a whistle blower basically noted something strange going on with respect to a possible shipment, then the whistle blower could receive a remuneration or a reward associated with the shipment and certain fines will be implemented against those who were trying to ship whatever the cargo that entered Thailand and some of the fines could be apportioned off to the whistle blower in question.

Now in most circumstances, rewarding whistle blowers is oftentimes a good thing. Under the old act, I think it's pretty safe to say that under certain circumstances this could be counter-productive or even prone to abuse under certain circumstances. Now I'm not saying that this happen every time. I've dealt with customs cases, I've dealt with clients who were in import, export. This isn't an overly frequent occurrence but under certain circumstances, there could be situations where an individual's shipment could be called in question and could result in fines and penalties and these fines and penalties could find their way to the whistle blowers in question.

The new act caps out the rewards at a total of 5 million Baht which is not an insignificant amount of money. But it also decreases certain percentages associated with the rewards, percentages of fines, et cetera. So in a way, this new act is de-incentivizing those who might have been overly prone to basically whistle blowing on various shipments coming into Thailand. It doesn't get rid of them entirely and I would argue it should. I think officers and individuals should be incentivized to report possibly illegal conduct. But that being said, I think under the old act and I think what's trying to be remedied under the old one is they don't want to see folks basically willy-nilly making claims in order to basically get remuneration. There was an incentive to whistle blow and that would slow things down and make things inefficient with respect to import-export. And it will make people particularly want to do business in Thailand.

Now that being said, it's abused the other way and that is dealt with in other aspects of the new law. But this one was important because I think it should be noted that Thai government is trying to implement policies which are more business friendly than perhaps some of the policies that were implemented in the past. Interestingly enough, they're getting rid of strict liability presumptions with respect to certain customs duty or presumed customs evasion. They're also getting rid of presumed liability for various officers of companies here in Thailand. So officers and companies that were importing, exporting in the past were presumed to be involved with possible or alleged customs evasion. That presumption is now removed although I would say it's a practical manner, officers and companies that are doing import-export need to be assiduous in maintaining their oversight on what's being imported, exported to Thailand.

They also changed the calculation of fines if one is found to have evaded payment of customs duties. I'm not going into the exact math with respect to this. Under the new act, courts can now use some judicial discretion with respect to customs matters specifically fines associated therewith. And in the past, that was not a possibility. There's also been a better timeframe created whereby the auditing of customs has to take place. In the past, it was sort of open ended adjudication if a shipment in question was basically called into question for possible customs evasion. In the past, it was sort of an almost open ended process and it could be very frustrating and in some cases, rather expensive. They have put in some more clear timeframes as to when these matters need to cease or need to desist. Clear timelines. Also clear timelines with respect to appeal and again, all of these stuff in its entirety, I would say is overall a good thing for those wishing to do business here in the Kingdom of Thailand.

Customs is an important aspect of import-export. In many ways, it's an important aspect of doing business not only in Thailand but throughout the region. But I think the government has been very appreciative and has used a lot of best practices when trying to decide how these laws impact the economy and the businesses here in the Kingdom and I think that they've at least tried to craft a bill that at least in some measure, improves the situation for business while at the same time improving their tactics with respect to customs enforcement.