Thailand has a fairly free-wheeling market economy and is generally a good place to do business. The Thai legal system is very similar to the USA and European countries with regards to company and tax matters. Due to this, foreigners find it quite reasonable and rather easy to work in Thailand. Generally speaking, if you are certain you wish to set up a business in Thailand, you are looking at a fairly straightforward process. Setting up a company and running a legitimate business is easy in Thailand, compared to many other countries.
Certain restrictions do apply regarding the type of business and any business activity that foreigners can be involved with. Therefore it is highly recommended to enlist the help of a professional who has experience in the particular field.
Minimum 51% of a company must be owned by Thai people. This means that there can be no more than 49% of foreign owners. However, there are some exceptions. For example, you can set up an American treaty company which is owned by a majority of Americans. For more information on this, have a look at the Thai Board of Investment's website.
A huge issue for non-Thai speakers wanting to set up a business in Thailand is caused by the fact that all the instruction documents and required forms are written solely in Thai. You will need to hire a professional translator in order to complete this part of the process.
Private limited companies in Thailand
If you are a foreigner doing business in Thailand on a non-immigrant visa, there are some restrictions you must follow. The minimum amount of capital that a limited company (one that is set up by foreigners on a non-immigrant visa) must register is 2,000,000 Baht. However, if you are married to a Thai national, the minimum amount is 1,000,000 Baht (2009).
To set up a Thai private limited company you will need to pay yourself a minimum salary and pay all taxes. For more information about private limited companies, take a look at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Alternatives to setting up a company
If you do not wish to set up your own business from scratch, you also have the opportunity to buy an existing business in Thailand. There are many expatriates who have set up their business in Thailand and are now moving on. Instead of liquidating their existing business, they sell it onto an associate or an incoming expatriate.
However, if you buy over an existing business, it is recommended that you create your own company and transfer the assets and staff over to it. This will ensure you are protected against any possible undeclared debts and liabilities.