Pattaya Grapevine: Weird Compulsory Tourist Tax

Strange mandatory tourist tax
Thai authorities appear determined to go ahead with plans to implement a new 300 baht tax on foreigners entering the country. The new start date is early 2023. The idea was first floated in 2018 and has languished in a sea of ​​confusion ever since. Early models suggested that 10 percent of cash could be used for health insurance for tourists, although this notion has not been mentioned lately.

the real purpose
It is absolutely impossible to think that such an insignificant sum could cover all or even most of the medical problems of tourists. At best, it could be partial insurance for cremation costs. The main stated reason was to repair or renovate tourist sites (construction of public baths in temples was mentioned), although it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the tax is indeed a revenue generator for discretionary government purposes.

collection problems
How to collect cash has generated a lot of ink. The prospect of airports and land borders, crammed with weary arriving passengers waving foreign currency in need of change, is too horrifying to contemplate. The next idea was to add the 300 baht as a surcharge when foreigners bought their tickets or maybe there could be vending machines strategically placed at points where arriving passengers are likely to increase.

Airlines are not interested
Many airlines said they opposed the proposal because it was discriminatory: They were asked to charge foreigners more than Thais. It can also be difficult to determine who is Thai and who is not. Some nationals carry more than one passport and some Thais have foreign-sounding names if they take their spouse’s title. In response, the Thai authorities offered a pilot and phase-in project to test feasibility, but nothing seemed to come of this notion.

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Not all foreigners caught
Then it became clear that some foreigners could escape the network. Foreigners with work permits, dual nationality and children under two years of age were listed. It was unclear how these people could be identified in airline, embassy or immigration databases. But it was confirmed that most expats, including those with one-year extensions of stay, would have to pay at each and every entry. On social media, it was announced that even permanent residents would be required to help finance the plan. They are the boys and girls who have no expiration date on their passport and possess a red police book for record purposes.

air versus land
If collecting cash from air travelers is complex enough, land and sea borders offer special challenges. In most cases, there is no pre-booked ticket. Avoiding gigantic queues at Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia crossings has consumed a lot of time and energy. One suggestion was to offer advance payment by credit card, which probably poses as many problems as solutions. Two months ago, the Thai tourism authorities announced that air travel was the priority and that more research was needed on land and sea visitors.

And so it goes on
In view of all the technical difficulties, it is tempting to say that the scheme is simply not worth the effort. An alternative could simply add 300 baht to the 700 baht departure tax that is already automatically collected on the tickets of all passengers, regardless of nationality, leaving the country by air. But this is unlikely to happen. A little too direct.

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