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Thailand - Customs and Import Duties
If you are flying into the country there are a certain number of items which are permitted with no duties or charges at customs. A small amount (200 cigarettes or 250g) of tobacco is the maximum amount permitted and there is no more than 1 litre of any alcoholic beverage permitted. With these items you can safely pass through the ‘green’ channel. If you have any items which need to have duty paid on them, including anything with a value of more than 10,000 baht or any item which is intended for business use then you must declare it.
A number of items are prohibited completely. You cannot take into the country any drugs, any pornography, any pirated or counterfeit item or any animals which are considered to be a protected species.
There is a long list of items which are restricted and for which you will need an import licence which has been issued by the relevant government authority. A list of these is available on the website of the Thai customs department, but this includes any antiques or Buddha images, for which a licence should be issued by the Department of Fine Arts. Any firearms or ammunition will need a licence from the Office of National Police and parts for vehicles need a licence from the Ministry of Industry.
If you fail to declare items at the ‘red’ channel then you can be fined up to four times the value of the items that you are trying to take into the country, as well as taxes and duties, or you can be sent to prison. All undeclared items are confiscated by the authorities.
When shipping all your possessions to Thailand there are a number of procedures that you must follow. When you complete the airway bill then it should be marked as ‘used personal effects’. If you mark it as household effects or household goods then you could experience delays and be paying duties which are not necessary.
You will need to provide proof of ID, such as a passport, a copy of your residence visa and your work permit before you will be allowed to ship large amounts of personal effects into Thailand. There will need to be two copies of an inventory of all goods given to the agents handling the shipping, the original airway bill and the shipment will need to have your name clearly marked on it. The documents must be made available during the customs inspection and items cannot be stored while a work permit is obtained. The work permit must be in place before you ship the goods and it is the original passport which should be presented, although the owner does not have to be present.
It is possible to have your household items shipped free of duty but this is limited to one air shipment and one sea shipment per person and will depend on the type of visa that you have. If any of the goods are less than 6 months old then they will be subject to import duties. You cannot import goods too far in advance. The items should not arrive more than 1 month before you do but must be in the country within 6 months of your arrival. An application to have this rule relaxed can be made in exceptional circumstances.
If you are a Thai resident who has been abroad for 12 months or more and are returning then you are entitled to duty free shipment of your possessions. Those who are in possession of a business visa and work permit are entitled to duty free shipment. Those who have different types of visa will be subject to duties and charges. If you are given an invoice then you should note that it will include VAT at 7%. Charges are based on the value of the goods which are being brought into the country.
As a general rule, it takes around 5 working days for items to clear customs in Thailand. Many expats do use the services of an import agency to ensure that the process goes smoothly.
Thailand Customs Department
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