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What actually happens to people caught working online?


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I do some freelance work as an income top up. It can be done from anywhere so in a normal year I travel quite a bit. Usually they're short trips to different countries and I don't really worry about the work/visa issue, but this trip is looking like a good few months in one place, so I'm having a rethink. Say it came to light that someone who'd been in the country for maybe 9 months had been working online (just go with me on that one) what would be likely to happen to them? I guess it wouldn't be the first time, but I have no idea if there is any kind of set penalty.

 

PS Given the chance I'd be happy to set up properly, get a work permit and pay the tax. I looked into a few ways of doing this but they all turned out to be dead ends.

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If you're not involved with Thai clients or suppliers and payments are made outside Thailand, then nothing.

They go to virtual jail .  LOL Seriously. What Jingthing said. 

I think by nature of the work, hardly anyone working online without customers or employees in Thailand simply won't get caught.   It seems that the people working online who do have problems

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If anyone asks what you do for income you say you are drawing from savings. There is no need to discuss online work with anyone. As has been stated, if the organisation or people who pay for your services are outside Thailand there is no issue. 
 

Except if you are running the New Silk Road online, then you might be in trouble!

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Just now, OneMoreFarang said:

But I know the unofficial police rules about foreigners doing something in Thailand that they shouldn't do: Don't rip off Thais! And don't rip off people in Thailand.

We are quite capable of doing that ourselves! We have perfected it over the years!

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You’d do the same thing everyone else does for most minor crimes here - slip a few thousand baht in a brown envelope and make a donation to the RTP tea fund. The donation value goes up according to seriousness of crime 

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I think technically, everyone is breaking the rules by working online in Thailand even if they just check work email once in awhile. However, it's completely unenforceable so I wouldn't worry about.  Like some have suggested, best to just keep your mouth shut.  I suspect there are lots of people doing the same thing. I doubt anyone bothers with work permits. 

Edited by shdmn
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I understand that a 'work permit is required to do any work that brings in an income. Whether or not that is online or otherwise shouldn't make any difference. 

 

To work online here requires electricity and internet connection. So Thai resources are being utilised.

 

Keep your head down, keep quiet and keep 'em crossed.

 

 

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26 minutes ago, Peter Denis said:

I surely agree with your conclusion.

And it sounds logical and I think that you are indeed correct that a work-permit is required to do any work that brings in an income.

However, I read several posts on the Forum that the criterion was not so much interpreted by some IOs as generating income, but whether the work you are doing could be done by a Thai.  And that people doing work in their own or wife's home, e.g. renovating, or doing work for a friend, might get in trouble for doing that when a vindictive neighbor reports them to Immigration.

Also read that doing on-line work with no Thai connection, is not allowed but tolerated, which sounds logical to me.

Another point to consider is whether the farang is helping someone do work, or obtain an income.

 

If - for instance - a farang is driving his wife around the villages selling fish or eggs, is interpreted as work that a Thai could do. Of course the argument could be that without the wife and husband working together there would be no business; or earnings.

 

However; many of these fine print details get overlooked (or otherwise) at the whim of an authority.

Edited by owl sees all
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13 minutes ago, Peter Denis said:

I surely agree with your conclusion.

And it sounds logical and I think that you are indeed correct that a work-permit is required to do any work that brings in an income.

However, I read several posts on the Forum that the criterion was not so much interpreted by some IOs as generating income, but whether the work you are doing could be done by a Thai.  And that people doing work in their own or wife's home, e.g. renovating, or doing work for a friend, might get in trouble for doing that when a vindictive neighbor reports them to Immigration.

Also read that doing on-line work with no Thai connection, is not allowed but tolerated, which sounds logical to me.

 

The Thai law is made to help Thais against competition of foreigners. This is why sometimes but not always they don't mind if someone is doing online work for a foreign company not in Thailand and no Thai links and not paid in Thailand.


Also this is a bit harder to prove for them then a foreigner riding around helping his wife or other stuff they can see and make pictures off. So its not official just too much work for them to prove and so on so often tollerated. Though I would not count on it always. SO best not to make waves.

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5 minutes ago, owl sees all said:

Another point to consider is whether the farang is helping someone do work, or obtain an income.

 

If - for instance - a farang is driving his wife around the villages selling fish or eggs, is interpreted as work that a Thai could do. Of course the argument could be that without the wife and husband working together there would be no business; or earnings.

 

However; many of these fine print details get lost (or otherwise) at the whim of an authority.

)

Farm work is something they often look at as being far more of a problem then online work for a foreign company. Helping in your own bar and helping your wife with her shop. Those kind of things are involving Thais and easier to find out and prove. Its also an effort thing of the police.

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I do some consultancy work for clients back in my home country, not that I need the work, but I take it when it comes in and I pay tax back in my home country as the legislation states that a non-resident earning an income from within the country must pay xyz tax, the clients pay me in my account back in my home country so I pay taxes in my home country as mentioned.

 

If and when the Thai government knocks on my door and says oi, you have to pay tax for the work that you did here online for your clients, then I will tell them to take it up with my government back in my home country and if my government says I need to pay tax in Thailand then I will ask them to pay the taxes that I have paid them over the past x amount of years to Thailand 🙂

 

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3 minutes ago, 4MyEgo said:

I do some consultancy work for clients back in my home country, not that I need the work, but I take it when it comes in and I pay tax back in my home country as the legislation states that a non-resident earning an income from within the country must pay xyz tax, the clients pay me in my account back in my home country so I pay taxes in my home country as mentioned.

 

If and when the Thai government knocks on my door and says oi, you have to pay tax for the work that you did here online for your clients, then I will tell them to take it up with my government back in my home country and if my government says I need to pay tax in Thailand then I will ask them to pay the taxes that I have paid them over the past x amount of years to Thailand 🙂

 

That depends if there is a double taxation treaty (i know my country has one with Thailand not sure about others)

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5 minutes ago, robblok said:

That depends if there is a double taxation treaty (i know my country has one with Thailand not sure about others)

 

They do have a double treaty with Thailand, but even though I use the keyboard to do the work here, the work cannot be carried out without the tools/research etc etc that are required from within my country, it's complicated, the only resources used in Thailand are my personal laptop, the internet and electricity, without the tools/research required from within my country, the work cannot be completed, therefore one cannot construe this as working from Thailand in my opinion, it's a bit like investing in your stock market back home, you use the keyboards, you use the internet, you use the electricity all from here, you make money, but you don't pay tax here, simple really.

 

 

Edited by 4MyEgo
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20 minutes ago, 4MyEgo said:

 

They do have a double treaty with Thailand, but even though I use the keyboard to do the work here, the work cannot be carried out without the tools/research etc etc that are required from within my country, it's complicated, the only resources used in Thailand are my personal laptop, the internet and electricity, without the tools/research required from within my country, the work cannot be completed, therefore one cannot construe this as working from Thailand in my opinion, it's a bit like investing in your stock market back home, you use the keyboards, you use the internet, you use the electricity all from here, you make money, but you don't pay tax here, simple really.

 

 

Not arguing with you about this besides the chances of the police going after people who work online is so low. The risk of getting caught helping your wife's business or working on a farm or as an illigal teacher are much higher.

 

How is the police ever going to know your working from home who knows your just gaming. Its not like they can look in your bank or check all programs on your computer and catching you in the act is almost impossible.

 

So unless you advertise it and make it easy to prove there is not much fear. Thailand should clean this up by making it possible for these kind of businesses that have no Thai involvement that the WP can be done for 1 person not needing Thais. The biggest hurdle of doing things legal is the WP and 4 Thais (2 if married). But of course they got so many laws they need to fix this wont happen.

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3 hours ago, JeffersLos said:

You can pay Thai income tax without a work permit or non immigrant visa, as not all income comes from occupations that fall under the working alien's act.

I did wonder about that. I actually found something online that seemed to be saying you could get a work permit if you'd paid 18k income tax in the past year. It wasn't totally clear though. You'd have to be sure because as soon as you go and pay the tax the cat is out of the bag.

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11 hours ago, Crabsticks said:

Say it came to light that someone who'd been in the country for maybe 9 months had been working online (just go with me on that one) what would be likely to happen to them? I guess it wouldn't be the first time, but I have no idea if there is any kind of set penalty.

 

You might find this link useful: https://www.thaifaqs.com/legal-digital-nomad-in-thailand/

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35 minutes ago, 4MyEgo said:

even though I use the keyboard to do the work here, the work cannot be carried out without the tools/research etc etc that are required from within my country, it's complicated, the only resources used in Thailand are my personal laptop, the internet and electricity, without the tools/research required from within my country, the work cannot be completed, therefore one cannot construe this as working from Thailand in my opinion

I can't use that argument unfortunately. Would it bother you if the tax authorities in your home country knew that you were working in Thailand?

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2 minutes ago, 4MyEgo said:

Thanks. When they say:

 

Digital nomads who travel through Thailand and stay for 3 – 6 months at a time and then head off elsewhere are likely to avoid these kinds of problems.

 

That's more like my normal situation (don't even stay that long in fact) but this trip is different because of covid. Maybe you cross a line when you go over 6 months..

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1 minute ago, Crabsticks said:

I can't use that argument unfortunately. Would it bother you if the tax authorities in your home country knew that you were working in Thailand?

 

Any income outside of my home country is classed as worldwide income and tax has to be paid on it, however if there is a double treaty with that country you are working in and have paid tax in that country, you apparently receive a tax credit, too complicated for me, so I just pay tax back in the home country as per the legislation, as it states "

  • you are a foreign resident for tax purposes (foreign resident) who has a sourced-income from within this country.
  • During the time you are a foreign resident, all sourced-income is assessable. Your foreign-sourced income is generally not assessable.

They do not stipulate that you have to be physically in the country, the fact of the matter is the income is made from within the my home country, and paid into an account within the my home country, now if my accountant thought that because I am doing the consultancy work from here and that I had to pay tax here under the double treaty, he would have mentioned it, it had been raised and quashed a couple of times, so I had advise from a professional in that field and that was enough for me.

 

 

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