- Do you have a two-year teaching contract in Thailand?
- Are you expecting to get all of your tax back after you leave?
- Did your school tell you they will help you with it?
If you qualify for all of the above, then read on.
In 2014 I moved to Pattaya, after being offered a job at one of city’s best international schools. It was my first expat experience in Thailand so I was aware that after the 2 year contract, if I were to leave The Land of Smiles, then I was entitled to claim my tax back. After fulfilling my initial contract, I chose to leave Pattaya for Australia and thus the tax process begun.
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 to talk about how lots of other teachers have paid to use this tax guy because the school wouldn’t bother helping me once I was done. She also said that another friend who left a year prior had ‘given up’ because the process was too long and difficult from the UK, and that the school didn’t really help much once she left.
I still wasn’t convinced.
The school said they would help and they are obligated to do so, right? I also couldn’t fathom paying some agent about 1/3 of the money I would get back. I had my horse blinkers on and nothing could change my mind.
Until I did.
It took many weeks, more convincing and a few blog post readings later to decide to bite the bullet and meet with the tax man. In fact, the turning point was reading an article he published on Ajarn.com.
My chat with him turned out to be very enlightening and completely transformed my narrow mindedness about the tax situation.
Unfortunately, what I found out is this.
It is highly unlikely that your school will obtain a tax refund for you.
It quickly became apparent that most school administrators are not skilled enough to work through the complex dealings with the Tax Authorities, whom make it very difficult for your average HR worker.
Apparently people in the Thai authorities do not agree with ‘wealthy aliens’ 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 it extremely difficult to proceed.
So if an officer refuses your case, then HR are unlikely to appeal it or pursue trying with another, even though they know you are entitled to it, to avoid losing face.
As well as this, there are many cases of corruption from the top.
Sometimes the school admin team try to do everything by the book but are working for a fraudulent school owner who’s telling them to do everything wrong. There is a true case of a school principal who fell victim to just that and lost-out in obtaining ALL of his refund because HR were mislead by the big boss.
Therefore do not see this tax treaty as a bonus for travelling to Thailand if you expect to get it all back.
There are also situations of corrupt schools in Thailand making things quite difficult for teachers. For example by not deducting tax for educators whom they believe qualify for the tax exemption. If the teacher then decides to renew their contract and continue working at the school, then they’re automatically disqualified from obtaining a tax refund. But more worse, they won’t have been paying any tax.
When the tax office realises the school’s error, there could be big penalties to pay, often at the expense of the teacher. There have been many cases of school’s charging ‘double tax’ to teachers due to ‘changes in policy’.
Or even more shifty, some school’s have been known to deduct the tax but then pocket the money for themselves because they assume the teacher will be leaving after two years. Then, when it comes to claim for your tax-refund, it is nowhere to be seen.
Two years later (I edited this post in July 2018) I can say that Stephen Dann (my tax guy) has been amazing.
He made the process from start to finish a doddle. All I had to do was provide a few documents at the beginning before finishing the school year and he done the rest.
I received all the money in the timeframe that Stephen provided and the transfer of funds was swift. He obtained a refund for the 2015 tax year right before Christmas (perfect!), which was in the same year I left Thailand.
The last 6 months of tax payments from 2016 was also successfully claimed around November the following year.
So, that’s the lowdown.
I hope this article has given you a bit of insight into the process and (if you are like I was) has made you see that the hiring a recommended tax advisor is totally worth it. If I had gone through the school, I am 99.9% sure that I wouldn’t have got anything back.
In Thailand, things can be much more difficult. The reason Stephen’s services are expensive is because he has to work so much harder for you, in an industry riddled with corruption. The school unfortunately are unlikely to graft for you, for free, or even know how.
Do however be mindful of what you say to your school if choosing to use Stephen for your tax refund. Hopefully you’re not working at one, but schools that are working corruptly may get very fishy and suspicious if you say that you’re using a tax advisor to help you.
After finding out, some HR workers have been known to promise teachers that they’ll get all their tax back and may then start expelling lies about the tax advisor in question to put you off. If this happens, then be very suspicious. What they may be doing, is trying to get you to go with them because they want to pocket some of your tax money for themselves. Or perhaps they don’t want an efficient tax adviser snooping into their dodgy dealings.
I guess, just talk to Stephen and let him do the rest!
English Tax Agent in Thailand
Stephen Dann has an excellent portfolio of success stories and is used by many teachers in Thailand to help them obtain tax refunds. I highly recommend his services.
I am not receiving any benefits from promoting Stephen, I simply want to help fellow teachers 🙂
Have you heard any difficult situations experienced by other teachers in relation to tax? Do you know of anyone that has received their tax refund through the school? Feel free to comment below.