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By Lien Hoang
Nov. 1 — Vietnam’s tax collectors are targeting companies operating in the real estate, electronics and retail sectors, especially if they haven’t been audited in three to five years.
From January to September, inspections raised the total amount of tax assessments by 9.2 trillion Vietnamese dong ($413.6 million), a 16-percent increase over the same period in 2015, according to a recent letter from the General Department of Taxation. However, as of the third quarter, that represents just 62 percent of the companies Vietnam intended to investigate this year.
The letter, issued Oct. 17, urges tax officials at the city and provincial levels to catch up in the remaining months of 2016, because taxes based on audits through September equaled just 87 percent of those from the same period in 2015.
In its guidance to local governments, the tax department said inspectors should be on the lookout for companies that haven’t been audited in three to five years; receive large value-added tax refunds; or transfer capital, land or trademarks.
Business sectors singled out for scrutiny include pharmaceuticals, dairy, automotive, mining and other natural resources, electricity, telecommunications, property, electronics, wholesale, and retail.
Tax practitioners aren’t surprised to see the central agency’s letter to provincial branches.
“It is a reminder to the local tax authorities to pay closer attention to the inspection task,” said Nguyen Thanh Vinh, a partner at Baker & McKenzie in Ho Chi Minh City.
It’s normal for the tax department to get more vigilant by this point in the year, according to Hoang Duong, Hanoi-based partner at KPMG.
“This is the usual instruction on tax inspections when we get closer to the year end,” Duong said. “Basically, we may see a further push-down on tax inspections across the provinces, especially ones which have not met the targets.”
The tax department highlighted regions that have been slow to finish their audits. These include Long An, a manufacturing province next to Ho Chi Minh City, the capital Hanoi, and the agricultural center of Can Tho.
The agency encouraged all city and provincial authorities to increase tax training and crack down on tax evasion and smuggling.
Vietnam has one of the region’s highest growth rates in gross domestic product and has kept a lid on inflation and unemployment. But the national budget is rubbing up against a debt ceiling set at 65 percent of GDP.
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