PHUKET: The owners of three or more of the 11 yachts which were ‘arrested’ in Phuket last month may face tax evasion charges, said Yuttana Yimgarund, a chief inspector from the Thai Customs Department in Bangkok. He declined to divulge the names of the yachts or their owners. “We will have to wait for the owners to send us the papers and documents we have asked for. But from the information we have so far, we think we have a case against three or four of them,” Khun Yuttaya told the Gazette. According to the chief inspector, there are more than 500 boats in Phuket right now. Some do not have to pay taxes as they are visiting for less than six months and will not be used for commercial purposes. Boats that are in Thailand longer than six months without leaving the country, or that are being used to generate income here, must pay taxes. These taxes include import duty, excise tax, luxury tax and value added tax. They add up to a little over 210% of the value of the vessel. Any boat not complying with the tax laws is subject to confiscation, and its owners face a “large penalty” in addition to payment of all back taxes, K. Yuttaya says. “We will continue to check for boats that have not paid tax. Based on what we’ve heard from our sources [in Phuket], there are still more out there. Also, given the number of boats I’ve seen in Phuket, the tax revenue we receive should be much higher than it is. “It is unfair for those who do pay taxes,” the chief inspector observed. Prior to imposition of the duties and taxes on yachts about a year and a half ago, Phuket had a thriving yachting industry. But following the impoundment of scores of yachts by the Customs Department in the run-up to the 1998 Kings Cup, close to a hundred boats have now left Phuket for duty-free Langkawi. “Nobody will pay taxes or duties on the scale Thailand is demanding them,” said an American yachtsman who moved his boat to the Langkawi Yacht Club a year ago. “Phuket was nice, but Langkawi is nicer and it’s a far, far better place for tourists who enjoy boating.” Langkawi is about 100 miles southeast of Phuket on the Thai-Malaysian border. Most of the eleven yachts seized in Phuket last month were at sea at the time of their arrest. They are being kept at the Boat Lagoon and the Yacht Haven marina while the Customs investigation is underway.
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