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Chairman's Insights

Taxation in Vietnam - Value Added Tax ("VAT")

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VAT is an indirect tax, the cost of which ultimately falls on the consumer.  The majority of transactions involving the supply of goods, the provision of services and imports will be subject to this tax.

Broadly, VAT is levied on the value added at each stage of the production and distribution supply chain. Registered businesses act as collection points for the Value Added Tax department. 

VAT rates

The standard rate is ten percent (10%).  In addition, there are other rates of 5% and 0% and VAT exemption, as below:

  1. 0% : This rate applies to exported goods/services including goods/services sold to overseas/non-tariff areas and consumed outside Vietnam/in the non-tariff areas, goods processed for export or in-country export (subject to conditions), goods sold to duty free shops, certain exported services, construction and installation carried out for export processing enterprises, aviation, marine and international transportation services.
  2. 5% : This rate applies generally to areas of the economy concerned with the provision of essential goods and services. These include: clean water; teaching aids; books; unprocessed foodstuffs; medicine and medical equipment; various agricultural products and services; technical/scientific services; rubber latex; sugar and its by-products; certain cultural, artistic, sport services/products and social housing.
  3. VAT exemption: Under this treatment, no output VAT shall be charged and the input VAT shall be uncreditable, but considered as deductible expenses for CIT purposes, comprising the following:  
  • Certain agricultural products;
  • Supply of fertilizer, feed for livestock, poultry, seafood and other animals
  • Goods/services provided by individuals having annual revenue of VND 100 million or below;  
  • Imported or leased drilling rigs, airplanes and ships of a type which cannot be produced in Vietnam;
  • Transfer of land use rights (subject to limitations);
  • Financial derivatives and credit services (including credit card issuance, finance leasing and factoring); sale of VAT able mortgaged assets by the borrower under the lender’s authorization in order to settle a guaranteed loan and provision of credit information.
  • Various securities activities including fund management;
  • Capital assignment;
  • Foreign currency trading;
  • Debt factoring;
  • Certain insurance services (including life insurance, health insurance, agricultural insurance and reinsurance);
  • Medical services;
  • Teaching and training;
  • Printing and publishing of newspapers, magazines and certain types of books;
  • Passenger transport by public buses;
  • Transfer of technology, software and software services except exported software which is entitled to 0% rate;
  • Gold imported in pieces which have not been processed into jewellery;
  • Exported unprocessed mineral products such as crude oil, rock, sand, rare soil, rare stones, etc.;
  • Imports of machinery, equipment and materials which cannot be produced in Vietnam for direct use in science research and technology development activities;
  • Equipment, machinery, spare parts, specialized means of transport and necessary materials which cannot be produced in Vietnam for prospecting, exploration and development of oil and gas fields;
  • Goods imported in the following cases: international non-refundable aid, including from Official Development Aid, foreign donations to government bodies and to individuals (subject to limitations).

In addition, there are regulated cases that goods and services are not required to declare and pay VAT, it means that no output VAT has to be charged but input VAT paid on related purchases may be credited. These supplies include:

  • Compensation, bonuses and subsidies, except those provided in exchange for marketing/promotional services;
  • Transfers of emission rights and other financial revenues;
  • Certain services rendered by a foreign organization which does not have a PE in Vietnam where the services are rendered outside of Vietnam, including repairs to means of transport, machinery or equipment, advertising, marketing, promotion of investment and trade to overseas; brokerage activities for the sale of goods and services overseas, training, certain international telecommunication services;
  • Sales of assets by non-business organizations or individuals who are not registered for VAT;
  • Transfer of investment projects;
  • Sale of agricultural products that have not been processed into other products or which have just been through preliminary processing;
  • Capital contributions in kind;
  • Certain asset transfers between a parent company and its subsidiaries or between subsidiaries of the same parent company;
  • Collections of compensation/indemnities by insurance companies from third parties;
  • Collections on behalf of other parties which are not involved in the provision of goods/services (e.g. if company A purchases goods/services from company B, but pays to company C and subsequently company C pays to company B, then the payment from company C to company B is not subject to VAT);
  • Commissions earned by (i) agents selling services, including postal, telecommunications, lottery, airlines/bus/ship/train tickets, at prices determined by principals; and (ii) agents for international transportation, airlines and shipping services entitled to 0% VAT; and (iii) insurance agents;
  • Commissions from the sale of exempt goods/services.

VAT calculation methods

There are two VAT calculation methods:

    1. Credit method applies to business establishments maintaining full books of account, invoices and documents in accordance with the relevant regulations, including: (i) Business establishments with annual revenue subject to VAT of VND1 billion or more, and (ii) Certain cases voluntarily registering for VAT declaration under the deduction method.

Accordingly, VAT payable = Output VAT – Input VAT.

Input VAT is creditable if it meets the requirements of:

  • Relevant to business activities;
  • Having sufficient legitimate invoice and vouchers;
  • Settlement via forms of non-cash payment for transaction more than VND20 million; and
  • Paying under the registered bank account.

     2. Indirect method applies to: 

  • Business establishments with annual revenue subject to VAT of less than VND1 billion;
  • Individuals and business households;
  • Business establishments which do not maintain proper books of account and foreign organizations or individuals carrying out business activities in forms not regulated in the Law on Investment; and
  • Business establishments engaging in trading in gold, silver and precious stones.

Accordingly, VAT payable = revenue x ratio for direct VAT calculation.

Ratios for direct VAT calculation vary upon the business activities, as below:

  • 1%:  this ratio is for the business of “distribution, supply of goods”;
  • 3%: this ratio is for “the production, transportation, service associated with goods, construction exclusive of the materials;
  • 5%: this rate is for “service, construction exclusive of material”; and
  • 2%: this ratio is for other business activities.   

AT administration

All organisations and individuals producing VAT liable goods and supplies must register for VAT.  Also, its branch must register separately and declare VAT on its own transactions.

The Business Units shall file and pay their VAT returns on a monthly basis by the 20th day of the subsequent month, or on a quarterly basis by the 30th day of the subsequent quarter (for companies with prior year annual revenue of VND 50 billion or less).

Invoices and payment vouchers

Entities may use pre-printed invoices, self-printed invoices or electronic invoices to declare their VAT liability. There are stipulated items that must be included and strictly reflected onto the invoice.

Since 24 Dec 2014, the General Department of Taxation regulates the invoice, contract, payment voucher and the related must be consistent and the payment voucher must state clearly the payment for the reference contract.  Otherwise, it shall not be creditable for VAT purpose. 

VAT refunds

If an enterprise's input VAT exceeds its output VAT during 12 consecutive months, it can claim a refund from the authorities.

In certain cases (e.g. exporters where excess input VAT credits exceed VND300 million), a refund may be granted on a monthly/ quarterly basis. Newly established entities in the pre-operation investment phase may claim VAT refunds on a yearly basis or where the accumulated VAT credits exceed VND300 million.

Newly established entities and certain investment projects which are in the pre-operation stage may be entitled to refunds for VAT paid on imported fixed assets based on shorter timelines than normal, subject to certain conditions.

Ken Atkinson