Are you leaving Thailand after fulfilling a one or two-year teaching contract? Are you expecting to get all of your tax back when you go and did your school offer to help with the process?
If yes, then read on.
In 2014 I moved to Pattaya and started working at one of city’s best international schools. It was my first expat experience in Thailand so I was aware that at the end of the initial 2 year contract, I was entitled to claim my tax back if I were to leave. Now I know us teachers aren’t exactly ‘in it for the money’, but an extra few grand [that you earned] is a nice little sum to receive at the end of your stay. So when I decided to head to pastures new in Australia, I set the ball rolling with the tax refund.
A couple of months before finishing school I remember speaking with a good teacher friend and colleague who said she’d be meeting a tax agent to help her get her tax back. Why? I questioned.
I was surprised she was bothering because the school said they’d help with the process. I couldn’t figure out why she wanted to pay someone to help her get her money back, when the school would do it for free.
She then started telling me about teachers who left previously and tried to get a tax refund with the schools help, with zero success, and began name dropping all the teachers that will be using the agent this year.
“Do you really believe the school will help?” She said. “They even messed up helping me with my police check last week.”
But I still wasn’t convinced. The school said they’d help and are obligated to do so, right? I also couldn’t justify paying some agent about 1/3 of the money that I would get back!
After many weeks, more convincing and a few blog post reads later, I finally come to my senses and decided to meet the tax man, Stephen Dann.
Unfortunately, this is what I found out:
it’s highly unlikely that your school will be able to obtain a tax refund for you.
It quickly became apparent that most school administrators are not skilled enough to work through complex dealings with the Tax Authorities, whom make it very difficult for your average HR worker.
I was informed that workers in the Thai authorities don’t agree with foreigners [teachers or not] coming to their country to take money off them. Therefore, any officer can decline an application on-the-spot (for no particular reason) or at least make the process extremely difficult.
If one officer refuses your case, then HR are very unlikely to pursue trying with another or even appeal it, to avoid losing face. Even though they know you are entitled to the money.
In addition to the difficulties the Thai authorities pose, known ‘dodgy dealings’ from the schools’ end are not unheard of.
I’ve been told about fraudulent school owners who mislead HR and give them wrong guidance to benefit their own fat pockets. There’s a true case of a school principal who lost-out in obtaining all his refund because of corruption from the top.
Other [real] cautionary tales include schools not deducting tax from teachers who are on their initial two-year contract, in the hope that they won’t renew. This can play out in one of two ways. Either you do leave and HR claim they were ‘unsuccessful’ at getting your refund [code for: we spent your money.] Or you decide to renew, only to find out that you haven’t been paying any tax.
There have been many cases of the Thai tax office reclaiming this unpaid tax, and [get this] the school then charging teachers double tax due to ‘changes in policy’.
Therefore do not see this tax treaty as a bonus for travelling to Thailand if you expect to get it all back.
Thankfully my stubbornness quickly subsided when I met Stephen and two years later [post edited in July 2018], I can say that he was worth every penny.
All I had to do was furnish him with a few documents at the beginning of our agreement and then he did all of the legwork. I received the complete tax refund in the timeframe that Stephen specified and the transfer of funds was swift. He was always on standby to answer any questions I had, as well as being helpful, informative and extremely knowledgeable.
The 2015 tax money was received right before Christmas [in the same year I left Thailand] and the remaining six months of tax from 2016 was also successfully transferred around November the following year.
It can’t be easy to work around the Thai authorities at the best of times, but Stephen’s high success rate speaks for itself. It took me a while to get my head around the fact that my school were unlikely to try helping me, for free, or even know how. Stephen’s fair rate is a reflection of his hard graft and expertise, in an industry riddled with corruption.
Seriously guys, don’t risk going with your school. Unless you’re willing to risk leaving empty-handed and don’t mind a headache in the interim.
I’d highly recommend Stephen to any teacher.
English Tax Agent in Thailand
Stephen Dann has an excellent portfolio of success stories and his services are used by many teachers throughout Thailand. You can check out his website for more info and contact details.
I am not receiving any benefits from promoting Stephen, I simply want to help fellow teachers 🙂