Lawmakers divided over heavy tax on misdeclared income in Vietnam's anti-corruption bill

By Hoang Thuy   March 7, 2018 | 06:12 pm PT
The bill would see a 45 percent personal income tax being levied on officials with misdeclared or unexplained assets and incomes.

The National Assembly's Justice Committee has asked for adjustments to be made to a draft amendment of the anti-corruption law that would introduce punishments for civil servants who misdeclare their assets or incomes.

According to the bill drafted by the Government Inspectorate, if authorities confirm that a civil servant's assets or incomes are greater than the values they declare, or they fail to provide valid explanations for unofficial assets and incomes, they will face a 45 percent personal income tax.

At a meeting on Monday, the Justice Committee agreed that officials who make false delcarations should be punished because many of their assets and incomes originate from corruption or other illegal activities.

However, some of the committee disagreed with the proposal  and said that the assets should simply be seized. They argued that violators should face tax evasion charges rather than an inflated income tax.

Additionally, the researchers claimed that in reality, violators could be categorized into three groups: those who misdeclared assets or income but could prove their legality, those who both misdeclared and failed to provide a valid explanation for the sources of extra assets or income, and those who properly declared their assets and income but could not prove they were obtained legally.

"These cases are different in nature and constitute different degrees of violations, so need to be dealt with individually," said Nguyen Manh Cuong, deputy chief of the Justice Committee.

According to Cuong, if a violator could prove their misdeclared assets and income were obtained legally then their punishment must be lighter than for those who could not.

In addition to the much-debated measures, the bill would see the Government Inspectorate directly monitor the assets and incomes of many officials in leading and managerial positions. In the draft, the Government Inspectorate also suggested making it mandatory for civil servants to make payments through bank transfer if possible to better control their income.

The National Assembly is scheduled to hold a final discussion on the bill before voting at a session in May.

Vietnam's sweeping corruption crackdown spearheaded by General Secretary of the Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong has ensnared scores of high-profile officials.

The Party has pledged to step up its fight against corruption even further this year to filter out corrupt officials as well as to tackle violations committed at a local level.

The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), released by Transparency International in February, ranks Vietnam 107th out of 180 economies based on perceptions of experts and businesspeople.

Vietnam scored 35 on a scale based on 0 for deep-rooted, systemic corruption and 100 for a very clean environment. Last year, it was ranked 113th out of 176 countries and territories with a score of 33, an improvement from 31 in 2012.

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