Important factors to consider in residence planning
Dominic Volek, Head Southeast Asia, Henley & Partners
The story of Thailand is considered by many to be a prosperous one; the country moved from a low-income to a middle-income society in less than four generations due to sustained strong growth and impressive poverty reduction. Besides being rich in agriculture, its industrial production facilities in automobiles, electronics, healthcare, and jewellery are global leaders. Thailand is also a member of the WTO, APEC, and a founding member of ASEAN.
World-class facilities and affordable living.
When considering various financial elements such as the price of property, and the cost of food and other amenities, the cost of living in Thailand is extremely low. Thailand is ranked 44th on Numbeo’s 2017 Cost of Living Index, which is a relative indicator of consumer goods prices, including groceries, restaurants, transportation and utilities. When breaking down the index, consumer prices in the US and UK are 68% and 60% higher respectively when compared to Thailand.
Thailand is ranked as one of the best retirement havens in the world above several European countries, including France and Italy. Rising living costs against the backdrop of a zero-interest environment in places like the UK, coupled with increasing pressure on pensions, are pushing more of the world’s wealthy and talented individuals to consider securing alternative residence as they plan for later life. International Living’s 2017 Global Retirement Index ranks Thailand as the 12th best place in the world to retire.
Thailand’s health care services comprise some of the best in the world when it comes to their equipment, facilities, staff, report accuracy and diagnosis. Thailand ranks 5th out of 80 countries on Numbeo’s Health Care Index for 2017, ranking higher than the UK (16th place) and the US (35th place). Accountancy firm Deloitte also estimates that health care spending in Thailand will increase by 8% a year from USD 12.8 billion in 2013 to USD 18.7 billion in 2018.
Thailand’s GDP is expected to show continued growth of more than 3% in 2017. Thailand’s leadership has indicated a desire to move the country towards a high-income economy as part of its Thailand 4.0 economic model. The model includes four main areas of investment: the digital economy, physical infrastructure, agricultural reform, and local economic development. Thailand is also the best country to start a business, according to the 2017 Best Countries report produced by US News and World Report in partnership with Young & Rubicam’s BAV Consulting and Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The report ranks 80 countries that met certain benchmarks to be included in the Index, based on certain attributes, such as affordability, bureaucracy, manufacturing costs, easy access to capital, and connectivity to the rest of the world.
Thailand’s first digital innovation park is set to open its doors in 2018 and has invited global technology firms — including Google, Facebook, and Amazon — to establish a presence in the country. It offers extremely attractive tax benefits such as an eight-year corporate income tax exemption, an additional five-year 50% reduction after the exception period expires, exemption from import duties on machinery and equipment, as well as a five-year personal income tax break for researchers working in the park.
Make Thailand your second home
Thailand has earned its reputation as one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in Southeast Asia and is also becoming an increasingly attractive option for individuals looking for a second home or retirement destination. In early 2017, Henley & Partners was awarded the global concession to promote Thailand’s unique residence program, which provides successful applicants with exclusive VIP privileges and the right to live in the country for up to 20 years.
The special residence visa is issued by the Thailand Privilege Card Company Limited (TPC) — a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, under the Royal Thai Government. Applicants are granted an exclusive length of stay for each visit from the regular 90 days to one year. Remarkably, successful applicants may extend their stay every year without having to cross the border. This is an attractive prospect to those seeking to make Thailand their second or primary home, and enjoy the country’s spectacular nature, temperate climate, friendly inhabitants and beneficial tax regime.
Taxpayers are classified as either ‘resident’ or ‘non-resident’. Resident means any person residing in Thailand for a period(s) aggregating more than 180 days in any tax year. A resident of Thailand is liable to pay tax on income from sources in Thailand as well as on the portion of income from foreign sources that is remitted to Thailand in the same year it is earned. Delaying remittance of earned income to Thailand to the following year is, therefore, an attractive tax benefit to a resident. A non-resident, on the other hand, is only subject to tax on income from sources within Thailand and may transfer foreign-sourced income to Thailand without restriction. Personal income tax rates are progressive up to a maximum of 35%.
There are seven different residence program options ranging from five years for approximately USD 15,000 up to 20 years for approximately USD 60,000. Thailand’s residence program provides access to a wealth of privileged services and VIP benefits, allowing successful applicants to experience the country at its absolute best. From enhanced immigration and visa privileges to chauffeured limousine transfers, a personal travel concierge, VIP assistant services, access to private healthcare and luxury spa and golfing facilities, the Thailand residence program is unlike any other currently available.
The three most popular options are the Elite Ultimate Privilege, Elite Privilege Access, and Elite Easy Access.
The Elite Ultimate Privilege option offers a 20-year residence visa with complimentary VIP services for applicants over of the age of 20. The one-off fee is approximately USD 60,000, with an annual fee of approximately USD 600. The residence visa can also be transferred one time at a cost of 20% of the prevailing rate. This package includes VIP assistant services through immigration and passport formalities, exclusive VIP lounge access and unlimited short-haul airport transfers (50–80 km) for all international flights; hospitality services (24 golf green fees and spa treatments per year); one annual health check at a local private hospital; and government concierge services to assist with immigration, driver’s license acquisition, and a work permit, if desired.
The Elite Privilege Access option is designed for family applications and provides a 10-year residence visa valid for each family member, with complimentary VIP services. The one-off fee is approximately USD 30,000 for the main applicant and USD 22,500 for each dependent, with no annual fees or age restrictions. Dependents may include parents, step-parents, spouses, children, and step-children. The residence visa cannot be transferred. While this option does not include complimentary golf green fees or spa treatments offered with the Elite Ultimate Privilege option, such as VIP assistant services through immigration and passport formalities, airport transport services (limited to 18 short-haul airport transfers for international flights), one annual health check per person at a local private hospital and government concierge services.
The Elite Easy Access option provides a five-year residence visa and is a popular option for expats or business people seeking to enter and exit Thailand regularly and easily. The one-off fee is approximately USD 15,000, with no annual fees or age restrictions. This option includes VIP assistant services through immigration and passport formalities and 24 complimentary short-haul airport transfers per year. The annual health checks, golf green fees, and spa treatments are not included. The residence visa cannot be transferred but can be upgraded to the Elite Ultimate Privilege option for approximately USD 45,000.
Key Benefits of the Thailand Residence Program
Thailand has that rare trifecta of low living costs, a rich cultural heritage, and a high quality of life — all factors that contribute to the program’s attractiveness. Investors, entrepreneurs, high net worth individuals, and families alike are all looking for a Utopia that fulfills them both personally and professionally. A place that gives us excitement and peace, luxury and convenience. The jewel of Southeast Asia may be just the global citizen paradise we’ve all been looking for.
This article was originally published on THE ADDRESS Magazine. To view the original article, click here