Vietnam: Vietnam Tax Issues – Outlook On The European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA)

Last Updated: 13 February 2017
Article by Oliver Massmann

The recently formed Government has manifested its ambition to support reforms especially related to business. Short after the oath of inauguration, it organized a conference with Vietnamese enterprises leading to the issuance of Resolution 35/2016/NQ-CP dated 16 May 2016. The main focus was to improve the investment environment. Nevertheless, some difficulties remain and review of tax policies is required from some specific perspectives.

Granting tax incentives

The Government can grant preferential incentives to foreign enterprises through investment licensing or certificate, the most secure way for enterprises to obtain their incentives despite tax law amendments. However, some local tax departments do not agree with the Government's policy on incentives and oblige enterprises to apply the current regulations regardless of enterprises' incentives. This reluctance is a breach in the Government's protection over investment and investors and must be prevented.

Official Letter 12404/BTC-TCT and Circular 96/2015/TT-BTC, both issued by the Ministry of Finance (MOF), grant Corporate Income Tax (CIT) incentives for enterprises established before 01st January 2014 and not yet operational. Some local tax departments have refused to recognize such incentives and asked enterprises to amend their charter while making their business starts in 2014 in order to be entitled to CIT incentives. This request is acting towards the MOF's willingness to boost investment and should be dropped out.

According to tax offices, any project planning the increase of enterprises capacity or fixed assets is necessarily considered an investment if increase of capacity was equivalent to increase of capital. Tax authorities then rescind CIT incentives because they believe that investment certificates are no longer updated due to the increase. Yet, initial investment certificates do not mention capacity and should remain updated as long as increases solely concern enterprise capacity and not capital. A regulation should precise that project expansion may only be investment when there are adjustments on capital investment.

Decree 218/2013/ND-CP issued by the Government, extends preferential tax rate application to 15 years for investment projects under VND6 million (~ US$260,000). To ensure a fairer treatment towards businesses, different levels could be established such as 3 years of preferential tax rate application for projects between VND 10 to 20 billion (~ US$450,000 to US$900,000).

According to the draft Decree No. 12, bonuses and commissions granted based on sale volume are deductible expenses for enterprises. Nevertheless, agents being individuals or organizations must pay taxes on these sum of money as such expenses are related to business activities. It would be more convenient for agents to have their commissions and sale bonuses exempted of VAT invoices.

On the other hand, benefits granted to employees should be extended in part to their family: welfare or recreational expenditures, visa application fee for employees' families, etc. Through these benefits, a longer relationship between the company and the employee is ensured.  Expenses for employees' families are deductible for companies if stated in labor contract or in companies' Labor policy. Decree 218/2013/ND-CP should then be amended.

Resolving tax payment issues

Tax-related regulations are often amended and interpreted differently from one year to another. As tax inspections often take place a long time after the corresponding fiscal year, it seems impossible for companies to know what to comply with. Many enterprises have to pay penalties and high interests because of changing regulations between the time of tax payment and the time of tax inspection. Besides, many businesses are chased for unpaid taxes due to errors from the tax office, even though the taxes were duly paid. In the tax office, the members of the staff are not dedicated enough to reconcile tax obligations and payments.

An annual tax inspection or a change in the method of calculating penalties and late payment interests should be considered. In addition, the nomination of a task force exclusively for reconciling tax obligations and payments would be a good improvement.

Understatement of payable tax or overstatement of tax refund is liable to a fine of 20% of the difference between the tax payable and declared or paid tax amount.  Households or individuals stated in Article 107 of the Law on Tax Administration are exempted from the fine. Enterprises are sometimes in overpaid position and are still charged with a fine when the inspection occurs regardless of the intention to make a false declaration or not. The implementation of clearer regulations would avoid confusion and wrongful declaration leading to fines in such cases.

Late tax payment is also subject to penalty . Yet, several contradictory documents have been issued and it became complicated to determine on what basis to calculate the late payment interest. Indeed, Circular 26/2015/TT-BTC issued by the Ministry of Finance states a rate of 0.05% per day accordingly to the deficit of the tax payable until the tax is fully paid, for taxes declared before January 1st 2015 and found insufficient after the same date. Circular 130 contends that the late payment interest is regulated for each period. The two documents provide inconsistent guidelines, thus putting enterprises in a very delicate situation.

Article 14 of Circular 78/2014/TT-BTC states that transfer of Limited Liability Company requires filling a form equivalent to real estate transfer, regardless of the percentage real estate represents in the company assets.  Moreover, since indirect capital transfer is considered taxable income in Vietnam and in the country of origin, a double taxation in both countries applies. The system should be rethought and the application of deferred tax assets (DTA) should be considered.

Explaining VAT calculation and refund

Circular 130/2016/TT-BTC (Circular 130) provides a tax refund for short-term investment (under 12 months) with special provisions for businesses not executable within a year such as ship construction. Value Added Tax (VAT) can then be refunded for a few years only until the ship is completed and exported abroad, regardless of the total investment. This specific case should be extended to other similar industries.

Circular 130 is referring to declaration period for tax refund and elaborates the whole system around this notion without giving a clear definition and measurement. According to Circular 130, VAT is not refundable for domestic sale activities but is refundable up to 10% of the revenue generated by exported goods and services. However, the distinction is thin for enterprises doing both activities.

Besides, VAT refund for trading of imported and exported goods is not clearly explained in Article 1 of Circular 130., notably for determining the activities eligible for VAT refund. Circular 119/2014/TT-BTC adds that input VAT deduction requires non-cash payment except for gifts and donations, but excludes samples and test items.

In addition, some imported goods and services are subject to 5% VAT notably in health care industry according to Article 10.11 of Circular 219/2013/TT-BTC guiding the implementation of the Law on VAT. Article 10 of draft Decree guiding Law 106/2016/QH13 prevents businesses with 5% VAT to be entitled to VAT refund. The input costs related to such businesses being subject to 10% VAT and the input VAT not refundable are significant amount for enterprises to maintain their activities.

The services exported and "consumed outside Vietnam" have a VAT rate of 0%, whereas a VAT rate of 10% applies when such services are consumed in Vietnam. Tax authorities often focus on the place the service is performed more than on the place it is used. The notion of export services should be reviewed without allowing differing interpretation so that one definition – based on the location of the consumer – and one rule prevail.

Under the Vietnamese Law, warranty is a service the supplier provides at the expense of the buyer but not attached to goods or services delivery. Circular 103/2014/TT-BTC issued by Ministry of Finance made clear that warranty attached to goods delivered at Vietnam's borders were not submitted to withholding tax. For the contracts signed prior to Circular 103, the situation is not clear and the Ministry of Finance should establish clear provisions. Furthermore, guidelines on provisions for foreign suppliers' responsibility would help ensure the efficiency of free warranties for the buyer.

Circular 39/2014/TT-BTC sets out the criteria of issuing invoices as a condition to determine the finished date of service provision without explaining the term "finished". It may depend on type, frequency or period (per month, per hour) of service.  More details on the definition of finished service and the calculation of the payment time should be provided.

Outlook on the EVFTA

The EVFTA signed on December 2 2015, will offer great investment opportunities for Vietnam. With elimination of almost all tariff barriers (85% right after the EVFTA's entry into force, 99% a few years after), the automotive industry as well as trades in sectors such as textile and footwear will be boosted.

The Government is already supporting foreign investment by implementing a favorable policy and strict respect of a stable economy and a controlled inflation. We can expect that the EU will influence the resolution of tax issues and will impose fixed and determined tax rules to apply in Vietnam.

Most important issues

–       Local tax departments should be clearly guided about enterprises' incentives and the notion of project expansion.

–       The taxation system with declarations and incentives in several documents, is too complex for enterprises to comply with. The tax refund calculation method must be clearly stated to help taxpayers apply regulations properly.

–       Granting VAT refund for business establishments exporting goods and services and not for businesses with output VAT at 5% may be regarded as discrimination in term of taxes among businesses.

Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm's full disclaimer.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.