Branch Office in Thailand

What is a Branch Office in Thailand?

According to the Foreign Business Act in Thailand, registering a Branch Office in Thailand that sells goods and services within their Thailand Branch Office, even as a foreign-owned and controlled corporation, will be allowed to derive revenue from any business practices undertaken in Thailand.

Setup A Branch Office Foreign Business License

Similar to the representative office, to open a Branch Office of a foreign company in Thailand, you must apply for a Foreign Business License (FBL) under the category which best fits your business activities in Thailand. A Foreign Business License takes a period of at least 60 days from the date the application is submitted in order to receive approval or denial. Once the Foreign Business License has been approved, the branch office is then considered registered.

Requirements for a Foreign Business License

  • There are no specifics or limitations to foreign or Thai shareholding such as that in a Thai Limited Company
  • A minimum capital of 3 million THB must be brought into the country prior to the granting of Foreign Business License. It shall be brought in as follows:

    - No less than 25% of 3 million must be remitted into the country within the first three months after approval.
    - During the same year, at least 50% of the capital must be remitted
    - The remainder of 25% of the capital must be remitted each year after that.

  • At least one Agent must be employed in the Branch Office in order to look after the management and day to day operations of the business.
  • During the same year, at least 50% of the capital must be remitted
  • Every fiscal year, submission of taxes must be made consisting of the details of the business development, in report form, with financial reports and taxes to the Revenue Department.

Branch Office For Your Foreign Company

Should the creation of a Branch Office suit your business requirements in Thailand, we recommend that you come into our offices to discuss the process to get your company a Foreign Business License in greater detail. We have assisted scores of foreigners with company registration in Thailand. Contact us today at our Bangkok or Phuket office.

Branch Office Setup for a Business in Thailand

It is common that some multinational companies that want to do business in Thailand do not want to undertake a Limited Company registration. A valid alternative to this option is to run their business through a branch office in Thailand. The Foreign Business Act governs the branch office under Thai law. This means that if the branch office falls into a category stipulated under the FBA, it will require an FBL to operate legally.

Foreign businesses that want to establish a trading branch office must meet requirements as specified in the FBA. Therefore, a company that wants to register a branch office must first establish where they fall within business activities according to Thailand laws and regulations. Some business activities are restricted for foreigners according to the FBA, but there are also some activities that foreign nationals of a foreign company can freely engage in.

Consideration must also be made regarding corporate income tax liability. Corporate Income Tax is levied against a partnership or juristic company that is conducting business in Thailand or deriving specific kinds of income from Thailand. Corporate income tax is levied on net profits as stipulated in the Revenue Code of Thailand.

A branch office structure is often quite similar to what is seen in a Limited Company. Both limited companies and branch offices can earn income in Thailand. There is, however, one decided difference between how a limited company and a branch office operates in Thailand. With a branch office in Thailand, there are no directors or shareholders, etc. With a branch office, there will be a head office that will run the company for a while, even when the head office is overseas.

While a Regional Office and a Representative Office are limited to "non-trading" activities, branch offices are not limited in this way under Thai law. They can also earn income according to Thai laws. Branch office liabilities are not limited to business in Thailand but will extend to any overseas head office. For example, when the Thailand branch office of a multinational company contracts with a company in Thailand but then breaches that agreement, the Thai company will sue the head office of the multinational company either jointly or directly.
It should also be considered that setting up a satellite office in Bangkok or elsewhere in Thailand involves high establishment costs and is quite time-consuming. Foreign companies also require an FBL before they can commence business operations.

Each application submitted by a foreign company is reviewed on its own merits. When attempting to register a branch office in Thailand, the parent company will need to motivate how this branch office will benefit Thailand in terms of development and financial gain. A specific process through which a parent company can obtain FBL for a branch office in Thailand is stipulated in the Foreign Business Act.

  • There are two parts to an FBL application:
    • An officer in the Ministry of Commerce accepts the application for review by the Foreign Business Committee; and
    • the application is reviewed by the board.
  • The Foreign Business License approval stipulates:
    • capitalization is calculated from 25% or more of estimated expenses for initial three years (not less than three million baht)
    • Should the company meet all the stipulated requirements and be allowed to open a branch office, it will be allowed to operate for no more than five years.
    • If the required amount of capital was bought in by the foreign company, an extension of the Foreign Business License might be granted when the five years are up.
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Restricted or Prohibited Activities to Operate Businesses in Thailand

There are around 50 types of business that are restricted to foreign companies. Restricted Business Operation has been grouped into three lists.

  • List one
    • Land trading, animal farming, the newspaper business, and other activities.
    • No approval is available for a foreign entity under this list for "special reasons".
  • List Two
    • Divided into three groups.
    • Business operations related to national security, air transportation (including domestic airlines), waterway, and domestic land.
    • Approval can be granted by the Minister of Commerce and the Cabinet, but such approval is difficult to attain.
  • List Three
    • The reason for this list is stipulated as "Thai nationals are not ready to compete with foreigners" in these industries.
    • The Director-General of the Commercial Registration of the Department of Business Development and Foreign Business Committee can grant permission for these corporate activities.
    • This list consists of service business categories that are not described by the ministerial regulations.

It is essential for a foreign head office of multinational companies to understand how an established branch office operates in Thailand around the FBA, and foreign businesses seeking approval to establish a local branch must know whether they fall within one of these restricted categories.

Foreign Business Administration should Remember:

  • A branch office is not a separate legal entity from the parent company or a foreign head office as a Representative Office of a Foreign corporation might be.
  • There is a minimum capital that the business activities must bring in.
  • A Foreign company interested in opening a branch of business in Thailand must first conduct market research to establish whether a new business will be as lucrative as is necessary to maintain the required business income transactions as per their Commercial Registration certificate requirements stipulated by the Business Development Department.
  • A Foreign company interested in opening a branch of business in Thailand must first conduct market research to establish whether a new business will be as lucrative as is necessary to maintain the required business income transactions as per their Commercial Registration certificate requirements stipulated by the Business Development Department.
  • Extension of a license can only be granted if the foreign company successfully brought in the required amount of revenue, whether in the foreign currency or local currency.
  • The entire process for the main company to establish a local company branch with local staff that provides services in Thailand fall under a particularly time-consuming process.
  • For every Thai national (a juristic person) that the registered company employs, personal withholding tax needs to be filed.
  • There are certain documents that must be contained in an application for FBL with the Ministry of Commerce, such as the particulars of the juristic person in whose name the branch is established, registered capital, the name of a local shareholder (if applicable), a business category within the Thai market, for example, domestic sale business, etc.
  • Although there are requirements that must still be met, a foreign branch is treated as a permanent establishment or permanent unit by the Thai government.
  • Shorter periods can be negotiated if the office only needs to conduct business in Thailand for a particular project.
  • Registering a branch is not the same as registering a Thai Limited Company and does not require Thai National representatives or a juristic person within Thailand who will represent the company.
  • Contact Juslaws & Consult today for a free consultation if you have additional questions or if you need assistance with another area of the law, including smaller matters such as an application for a temporary visa.