Stephen J. Dann
~ ITPA ~
UK Tax Advisor


Expatriate Taxation

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Siam International Accounting Management Ltd.

Based in Bangkok, Thailand, my company provides specialist international taxation advice. Whilst our local competitors strive to be "pretty good" at all manner of legal issues including visa services, business advice, taxation, divorce law, property law, civil disputes, and such, we are taxation specialists and consequently have the most successful track record in Thailand for presenting tax treaty claims for international teachers. My own role primarily involves provision of advice and making strategic decisions as to which issues we will work on, and consequently part of my work involves reinterpreting what has come before as a way to develop a line of sight into what comes next. With over forty years of international taxation experience, including more than a decade of handling tax treaty issues in Thailand, I am able to draw upon my considerable experience in this type of work and I ensure that my company's priorities and practices stay consistent in good times and bad. With Revenue Department staff, who are poorly trained and ill-equipped, problems frequently arise and I regularly have to focus my attention on individual cases in order to resolve claims, whilst my four staff attend to the more predictable day-to-day administrative issues. With almost 500 successful claims we now have cumulative experience and knowledge that no other company has, and without this level of expertise to hand, competitor firms, for whom teachers' tax treaty claims are non-core business, soon run into difficulty. I am also constantly looking for ways to hone our exististing capabilities to improve upon a service that is already better than the competition. The early years of this company were characterised by a form of "fire fighting" in which managing was a constant act of juggling where to allocate my limited time and resources, and there was rarely enough time to resolve every problem that arose and frequently minor problems had to be ignored. Today, my manager has six years' experience handling and resolving administrative issues directly with the Revenue Department and my technical assistant has three years' experience of resolving issues related to the transfer of teacher-client funds directly with the Revenue Department's bankers. Both of these staff have complete dscretion to solve problems on their own. This frees my time to deal with issues involving interpretation of treaties and in this regard the company now employs a Thai lawyer to assist and advise on procedural matters.

I have built this company from the bottom up, hiring only fully formed adults who put the company's interests first, and who understand and support the desire for a high-performance workplace. If people fail to display this level of adult-like commitment then I prefer to let them go rather than devise rules and policies to deal with the problems they might cause. My staff are people who want the company to succeed, and can competently manage themselves through commonsense without formal policies. Every employee understands how their performance affects the client, they each benefit from a modest bonus structure related to their individual performance, and as a small team they are efficient and far less frustrating to manage than either the cumbersome groups found in larger international firms, or the whirlpool of inexperienced, disinterested amateurs employed by low-paying local competitors suffering from low morale and consequent high staff turnover.

I believe in the concept of Conscious Capitalism, which means that in addition to providing a service to our clients, I expect the companies I buy from to receive fair value for their products and services, and to have the least possible impact upon the environment. I recognise that one of the most important factors determining an employee's engagement is the sense that he or she is being recognised, primarily through pay, and that quality of service depends upon retaining experienced staff who feel sufficiently rewarded and contented that I do not need to devote valuable time and resources searching for and training replacements. Retaining experienced staff enables me to take a "hands off" management approach, allowing employees to work on their own initiative, merely flagging areas where my intervention is needed. There are no procrastinators among my staff and assignments are often completed ahead of schedule.

With the right staff in place I have worked to give them better skills. This has created loyalty and, in turn, a longer life for the company. As a small team my staff require little effort to co-ordinate and will work together to get the job done. They know they have my full support and accept my way of working. We are not in business to provide a "me too" service; the aim is to be better, not cheaper, and I will not cut costs and quality of service in order to obtain business. Those companies that are competing, in a race to the bottom, on cost alone, can only do so by providing an inferior service and the more they cut fees to compete the greater the difference between their service and ours. The few rival companies offering a tax-treaty service display websites that are out of date, one by more than ten years. Tax treaties are sometimes replaced (as with Singapore and India in recent years). New treaties come into force (Cambodia in 2017) and other treaties are still waiting to be ratified by the Thai Parliament (Egypt is long overdue and I have a copy of the signed agreement awaiting ratification). It is important that an advisor keeps up to date with the treaty network and Revenue Department interpretation, rather than attempting to manage problems retrospectively. Additionally, as both director and principal investor in the company I ensure that we invest in resources that are of direct benefit to the company's principal activities and not in assets or activities unrelated to the core business.