Sensitive to the difficulties many business entities and individuals are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Thai Customs Department recently implemented an important measure providing importers and exporters with the opportunity to temporarily stay pending customs duty obligations. This measure, which addresses procedures and conditions for requests to stay outstanding duty payments during the COVID-19 pandemic, was included in Announcement of Customs Department No. 103/2564, dated July 1, 2021, issued under sections 37 and 38 of the Customs Act B.E. 2560 (2017).
Under the Customs Act, importers and exporters have the right to petition the Customs Department for a stay of duty payments at various stages of the customs consideration process. For example, this right extends both to petitioners who are in the process of appealing a customs duty assessment, and to those who have filed claims in the Thai courts challenging a Customs Board of Appeals decision.
On December 29, 2017, Main Announcement of the Customs Act on Principal, Methods and Conditions for Requesting a Stay of Outstanding Duty Payments No. 189/2560 was issued, stipulating that a party who appealed to the Customs Board of Appeals regarding customs duty assessment (or submitted a further complaint with the Thai courts challenging the board’s decision) can request a stay of payment of outstanding duties within thirty days from the date of filing an appeal regarding customs duty assessment.
In mid-2020, the Customs Department responded to the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic by issuing relief measures—first a short-term easing of certain documentation requirements, followed by a longer-lasting (until September 30, 2021) extension of the deadline for requesting review of import duty penalties, fines, and surcharges on outstanding import duty amounts.
Relief for Payment of Customs Duty
With the pandemic still being acutely felt in Thailand in 2021, the Customs Department turned their attention to relief for importers and exporters who need more flexibility in meeting their duty payment obligations. In this regard, the recent announcement of July 1, 2021, temporarily replaces the previous strict thirty-day deadline for requests for stay for those petitioners who submit a request during the period July 1 through September 30, 2021. Importers and exporters who have filed a duty assessment appeal with the Board of Appeals may submit a request for stay directly to the customs entity that issued the official letter of assessment. Meanwhile, those who have filed a complaint with the Thai court challenging a Customs Board of Appeals decision on duty assessment may submit a stay request directly to the Legal Division of the Customs Department.
In addition to providing this time for petitioners seeking to temporarily stay duty payment, the recent announcement offers procedural flexibility for submitting a security deposit (covering the duty assessment amount) upon requesting a temporary stay. According to the regulations in place since December 2017, only a petitioner who is also an “authorized economic operator” (AEO) could submit a credit-based letter of guarantee as security with the request to stay outstanding duty payment in an amount to cover the duty assessment. Under the temporary relief measures, all petitioners—regardless of their AEO status—can deposit a credit-based letter of guarantee. A second option for providing the security deposit is for a petitioner to submit the previous bank guarantee from the customs clearance stage of importation or exportation, along with a certified statement from that bank allowing re-use of the guarantee for the outstanding duty payments.
The timeframe for considering requests to stay payment of outstanding duties remains unchanged—the director general of the Customs Department will approve or deny a request within fifteen days (plus an additional fifteen-day allowance if necessary and authorized). Due to statutory prescription periods for customs assessment liabilities, all requests for stay approvals are limited to outstanding duty assessments that are less than nine years from the importation or exportation date.
This announcement allowing temporary stay requests provides more flexible stay rules during a challenging period for Thailand and the region. It represents the Customs Department’s recognition of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on importers and exporters, as well as the vital importance they play in the supply chain. As Thailand and its neighbors continue to experience the economic burden of the ongoing pandemic, the Customs Department will reevaluate whether to extend the measure beyond the current September 30, 2021, time period.