On Wednesday, May 17, 2017, confirmation of the formal enactment of Thailand’s new Customs Act B.E. 2560 (2017) was published in the Royal Gazette, the official public journal in which new laws are announced. The Act, which repeals the outdated and controversial Customs Act B.E. 2469 (1926) and its prior amendments, comes into effect 180 days from publication, and represents the culmination of many years of drafts, consultations, and sometimes contentious debate.
For example, many of the criminal provisions of the Customs Act of 1926 were not only onerous, but created prosecution incentives, shifted burdens of proof to an accused, and included penalties significantly out of proportion to the alleged wrongdoing. Similarly troubling was the former Act’s lack of clarity in the post-clearance audit and appeal process. The new Act deals substantially with many of these issues and offers relief to importers subject to the historically difficult customs environment.
Representative examples of key amendments to the new Customs Act include:
- Elimination of strict liability presumptions on an accused for claims of customs duty evasion.
- Elimination of presumed liability for officers, directors, and other authorized persons.
- Decrease in the percentage of fines claimed as rewards for whistleblowers under the Customs Act and introduction of a cap on such rewards of THB 5 million.
- Significant change in the calculation of criminal fines for claims of duty evasion. Previously, the fine was 4 times the combined price of good plus duty, while the new calculation for a fine is between 0.5 to 4 times the amount of duty evaded.
- For the first time, the Court can apply discretion in calculation of criminal fines.
- Imposition of limits on post-clearance audit timelines.
- Creation of clear timelines for Board of Appeal review.
- Imposition of a clear deadline for return of duty guarantees.
The Customs Act of 2017 represents a significant step forward in introducing improvements in fairness and clarity for those involved in the customs clearance process in Thailand—improvements that will benefit not only business operators and importers, but the Thai government itself.