Vietnamese lawmakers at odds over hefty taxes for officials with unexplained assets

By Hoang Thuy   April 11, 2018 | 02:00 pm PT
Vietnamese lawmakers at odds over hefty taxes for officials with unexplained assets
Deputies attend the opening ceremony of the National Assembly's autumn session in Hanoi, Vietnam October 23, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Kham
One official said that if civil servants failed to explain their sources of wealth, their assets should be seized.

Legislators in Vietnam are discussing a proposed amendment to the country’s anti-corruption law that would require officials who are unable to explain how they obtained their properties or incomes to pay a hefty tax.

The draft, raised during a National Assembly session on Wednesday, suggests that an official with undeclared assets have to pay 45 percent of the assets' value, either in form of income tax or a penalty fine.

Head of the National Assembly's Judicial Committee, Le Thi Nga, said it would be difficult to determine the origin of officials' assets because there has never been a law in place that requires citizens to declare them.

The subject has proven controversial among National Assembly delegates, with many saying it could open the floodgates for money laundering.

National Assembly delegate Truong Trong Nghia said option one would pave the way for money laundering because it would only be levied on officials' legal incomes. He also said that if civil servants failed to explain the sources of their wealth, authorities should seize their assets instead.

Agreeing with Nghia, delegate Luu Binh Nhuong said the proposal was groundless and infeasible. Tax rates should be regulated under the tax law, he said.

Head of the Institute of Legislative Study Nguyen Dinh Quyen said misdeclared assets should be resolved by a court to ensure legitimacy. Vietnam should study the U.N. Convention on Corruption Prevention, which includes regulations on illegal enriching, to deal with the matter.

The National Assembly is expected to vote on the draft at a session next month.

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

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

The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), released by Transparency International in February, ranked 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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