Tag Archives: enterprise

Supporting Regime for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Vietnam


In the context of Vietnam’s deeper integration into regional and world’s economy, domestic firms, especially the SMEs, are now facing fierce competition from foreign enterprises. If not timely and sufficiently supported, these SMEs will not grow proportionately to their existing capacity and drive the country’s growth as expected. In an attempt to ease restrictions for SMEs, pave the way for their further development, the Ministry of Planning and Investment has actively coordinated with the Ministry of Finance and other relevant authorities to draft the Law on Supporting SMEs. This Law, being supposed to be officially adopted next year, will introduce a comprehensive set of supporting measures for SMEs based on the country’s development targets, strengths of each province and the national resources, with a final aim of increasing the number as well as operation quality of SMEs sector. Details of the Draft Law can be found below.

SMEs – Who are they?

SMEs are enterprises which meet a criterion on total capital OR an average number of working employees, and can be classified into 3 categories: super small enterprises, small enterprises and medium enterprises.







Super small enterprises Small enterprises Medium enterprises
Average number of working employees per year (person) Total capital (VND) Average number of working employees per year (person) Total capital (VND) Average number of working employees per year (person)
Agriculture, forestry and fisheries <10 <20 billion 10 – 200 20 billion -100 billion 200 – 300
Construction and industrial <10 <20 billion 10 – 200 20 billion – 100 billion 200 – 300
Trade and services <10 <20 billion 10 – 50 20 billion – 50 billion 50 – 100


Supporting mechanism – What are specific measures?

Supporting the entry into and exit from the market

The authorities will adopt measures to improve business environment, administrative reforms, ensure transparency and compliance for the business of SMEs. SMEs will be able to access business resources in a fair manner compared with other types of enterprises.


Access to bank loans

SMEs will have access to various types of bank loans according to their demands at interest rate and terms suitable for their payment capacity and financial status of the banks. With the Government’s support, SMEs will improve the feasibility of their business plans, management capacity and transparency in corporate operations, resulting in better ability to access bank credit.

Access to fund credits

The Fund for developing SMEs will have the function of lending, investing in, sponsoring for SMEs to conduct innovation, putting them in sustainable value chain. In case the activities of the mentioned Fund are caused losses due to force majeure in the business operations of the borrowing entities, relevant persons and organizations will be exempted from criminal penalty.

Corporate income tax

SMEs are entitled to a tax rate of 3% lower than that stipulated in the Law on Corporate Income Tax. Meanwhile, super small enterprises will enjoy a much lower rate, i.e., 5% lower than that in the Law on Corporate Income Tax.

Access to locations for business operation

The Government encourages the development of industrial zones, high-tech zones, economic zones, industrial complex for SMEs to lease. In doing so, enterprises who develop such infrastructure are entitled to a waiver or reduction of land rental according to the Government’s regulations. The more area in the industrial zones, high-tech zones, economic zones, industrial complex the SMEs lease, the more preferential treatment in terms of corporate income tax and land rental is granted to the developers.

Market promotion and expansion

The Government invests in the form of PPP by allocating land and other resources to establish a national supply chain, which prioritizes goods and products by SMEs. These products will enjoy preferential treatment if falling into the list of innovation goods stipulated by the Government. The Government also supports the establishment and operation of organizations supporting export activities to promote and expand market for SMEs.

Participation in public procurement

Small and super small enterprises are granted exclusive access to construction bid of maximum VND 5 billion and goods/ services bid of maximum VND 3 billion with state budget. For bids having greater value, small and super small enterprises are also prioritized over others pursuant to Article 14.4 of the Law on Bidding. In addition, in case the contractors sub-contract to the SMEs, the main contractors will also enjoy certain preferential treatment when bidding.

The Draft Law also introduces many other programs to support SMEs. Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.



Lawyer in Vietnam Oliver Massmann LEGAL ALERT ON EMPLOYMENT ISSUES

This Legal Alert is prepared based on recent official and unofficial discussions with the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs of Vietnam (MOLISA) and its in-charge persons in various meetings/seminars on labor laws of Vietnam.

We highlight below key employment-related issues discussed for your information and specific actions, where necessary.

  1. Proposed Amendments of the Labor Code

The MOLISA is working on a draft that amends a number of articles of the Labor Code to reflect TPP and other international treaties and correct shortcomings of the current Labor Code.  New issues including setting up independent trade unions, calculation of minimum salaries, working time. It is anticipated that the new Labor Code will be issued in late 2017.

Recommendations/Notes:  We will keep you updated of proposed changes to the Labor Code.
  1. Minimum Salaries

According to the MOLISA, there will be an increased range from VND180,000 to VND250,000 (equivalent to approximately US$8-12) of minimum salaries in 2017.

Recommendations/Notes:  Please prepare for this inevitable situation, especially with respect to your business plan for the year of 2017.
  1. Work Permits (WP) for Foreign Employees

Under the Labor Code, only experts; managers, executive directors and technical employees are permitted to work in Vietnam.

One of key considerations is that the concept of managers who are permitted to work in Vietnam are now limited to the narrowly defined ‘managerial positions’ under the Enterprise Law of Vietnam (EL).  As such, only few people qualify for managerial positions (e.g. – members of the Members’ Council, general directors or other individuals  have authority to enter into transactions on behalf of the relevant enterprises) pursuant to these enterprises’ charter (or the articles of association in other jurisdictions).

According to the MOLISA, a new circular guiding WPs will be issued soon.

Recommendations/Notes:  In order to recruit a foreign manager who unfortunately disqualifies the managerial position criteria, the employers often expand managerial position definition in its charter or persuade the DOLISA, the issuing body of WPs, to accept them as ‘expert’ who in turn need only to satisfy general conditions (e.g. – acknowledged by the head quarter as expert; having obtained bachelor degree or equivalent; and having had at least 3 years of experience in relevant industry).
  1. Overtime

In response to request for additional overtime hours, the MOLISA confirms that the amended Labor Code will deal with this issue. The specific overtime hours vary by industry and subject to agreements between employees and employers.

  1. Social Insurance

As of 1 January 2018, all employees having labor contract term from 1 month or more including foreigners working in Vietnam must pay compulsory social insurances. However, according to the MOLISA, Vietnam is negotiating with some countries to relax the above rule given more financial burden to be shouldered by foreign invested enterprises.  For example, Vietnam and Germany have basically reached in-principle agreements on possible exceptions to the above rule.

Recommendations/Notes:  From a financial perspective, the payment of social insurance of expatriates may increase more burdens for enterprises.  Please take into account this type of payment when calculating benefits payable to foreign employees and building up your business plan for the year of 2017.
  1. Payments of Compensations under Training Contracts

As a matter of practice, a number of foreign invested enterprises send their local staff abroad for training. In exchange, the relevant employee agrees to enter into a training contract which requires him/her to work for the employer for a fixed period of time following his/her completion of the training courses.

In this regard, the Labor Code makes it pretty clear that any employees who terminate labor contracts illegally (either not having termination grounds or failing to send termination notice on time). Nevertheless, the law is silent on whether an employee who has terminated his/her labor contract in accordance with the laws will still be subject to reimbursement of training fees.

According to the MOLISA, employees are still required to reimburse training costs under training contracts regardless of whether they terminate labor contracts legally or not.

Recommendations/Notes:  It is of utmost importance that the employer must have a well-drafted and detailed training contract at the outset.  Actual [and reasonable] costs that the employer may incur for the benefits of the employee during the training period should also be clearly stated in the training contract.  If not, the employee will stick to the fixed amount as agreed in the training contract to limit its reimbursement only.
  1. Employment of Local Staff by Offshore Entity

As a matter of practice, many offshore entities including parent companies of FIEs in Vietnam seek to employ local staff to work on either a seasonal or long-term basis.  The Labor Code is silent on whether a labor contract governed by Vietnamese law can be entered into between parties.  In such absence, a provision of Circular 30 guiding the Labor Code on labor contracts dated 25 October 2013 makes a list of persons who can act on behalf of the employers. Unfortunately, there is no reference to a person who can act on behalf of the offshore entities. According to a senior expert of the MOLISA, such absence would mean a No for a direct labor contract between offshore employers and local employees.

Recommendations/Notes: A number of offshore entities seek to circumvent the above restrictions by entering into:

(i).        an individual service/consultancy contract with the local employees;

(ii).       a professional service contract with a local partner under which the local employees will work for the offshore entity; or

(iii).    a labor outsourcing contract with a labor outsourcing company.

Each of the above options presents its pros and cons and care should be taken in adopting specific plan.  For example, direct involvement of local employee may result in a permanent establishment status under tax laws.

  1. Change of Types of Labor Contract

Vietnamese law prohibits employers to enter into more than two fixed term labor contracts with each not exceeding 36 months from the signing date.  The third labor contracts in such case must be a non-fixed term.

A number of employers seek to avoid this restriction (i.e. – entering into non-fixed term labor contracts with employees) by first terminating fixed term labor contracts upon their expiry, giving a temporary suspension of works for employees and then signing a new fixed term labor contracts.

In this respect, the MOLISA and the Supreme Court of Vietnam opine that such an arrangement can be challenged because a real termination must result in completion of all related works including return of social insurance books, employees’ books and settlement of all benefits, etc.

Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.




Lawyer in Vietnam Oliver Massmann New Decree guiding the Law on Investment What you must know:

On 12 November 2015, after months of delay, the Government has finally issued Decree No. 118/2015/ND-CP (“New Decree”) on detailing and guiding the implementation of certain provisions of the Law on Investment.
Set out below are major worth-noting points in this New Decree:
Investment conditions for foreign investors
Investment conditions for foreign investors are defined as conditions that foreign investors must satisfy when investing in conditional business sectors applicable for foreign investors pursuant to Vietnam’s laws, ordinances, decrees and international treaties on investment.
These conditions include:
– Conditions on foreign ownership of charter capital in an economic organization;
– Conditions on investment form;
– Conditions on scope of investment activities;
– Conditions on a Vietnamese partner participating in investment activities; and
– Other conditions pursuant to laws, ordinances, decrees and international treaties on investment.
The above conditions must be satisfied when foreign investors:
– Making investment to establish an economic organization;
– Contributing capital, purchasing shares, capital contribution portion in an economic organization;
– Investing in the form of business cooperation contract;
– Receiving investment projects transferred from another investor or other cases of receiving transferred investment projects; or
– Amending or supplementing investment business lines or sectors of foreign invested economic organizations.
Conditional business sectors applicable for foreign investors as well as the corresponding conditions are not included in the New Decree but will be published on the National information gate on foreign investment. For business sectors whose conditions are not specified anywhere in Vietnam’s WTO Commitments and other international treaties on investment or not yet committed (“Uncommitted Sectors”), the investment registration authority must seek approval of the Ministry of Planning and Investment and other specialized ministries on the foreign investment.
It is worth noting that the New Decree recognizes ‘licensing precedent’, meaning where foreign investment in Uncommitted Sectors has been approved and such Uncommitted Sectors have been published on the National information gate on foreign investment, any later foreign investors making investment in the same Uncommitted Sectors will no longer need the approval of the specialized managing ministry.
Licensing procedures on investment registration and enterprise registration by foreign investors
Instead of go through 2 different steps, namely (1) applying for issuance of an Investment Registration Certificate; and (2) applying for issuance of an Enterprise Registration Certificate when establishing an enterprise in Vietnam, foreign investors now can apply for these two certificates at the same time. Specifically:
– Foreign investors submit the applications for issuance of an Investment Registration Certificate and an Enterprise Registration Certificate to the investment registration authority;
– Within 01 working day from the receipt of the applications, the investment registration authority sends the application for enterprise establishment registration to the Business Registration authority for review and notifying the investment registration authority of its decision;
– If there is any request for amendments or supplements to either the application for investment registration or enterprise establishment, the investment registration authority will provide the investors a single response within 5 working days from the receipt of the applications.
The coordination regime between the investment registration authority and the business registration authority will be detailed by the Ministry of Planning and Investment later.
Securing the implementation of an investment project
Investors that are granted, or leased land by the Government, or allowed by the Government to change the land use purpose, with certain exceptions, must make a deposit from 1-3% of the total investment capital recorded in a document approving the investment plan or in the Investment Registration Certificate based on a progressive basis, in particular:
– For capital part of up to VND300 billion, the deposit rate is 3%;
– For capital part from VND300 billion to VND1,000 billion, the deposit rate is 2%;
– For capital part from VND1,000 billion, the deposit rate is 1%.
M&A procedures

There is explicitly no requirement of application for Investment Registration Certificate in acquisitions of target companies by foreign investors.
However, foreign investors must register its acquisition of the target company if:
– They contribute capital to, purchase shares or capital contribution portion of an economic organization doing business in conditional sectors which are applicable for foreign investors;
– The capital contribution, shares and capital contribution portion result in F1, F2 and F2’ mentioned in the graph above holding 51% or more of the target company:
o Increasing foreign ownership rate from below 51% to more than 51%; and
o Increasing the existing foreign ownership rate of 51% to a higher ownership rate.
After completion of the acquisition, the target company must carry out procedures to change its members or shareholders at the business registration authority.
For investment of foreign investors other than F1, F2 and F2’, the target company only needs to carry out procedures to change its members or shareholders at the business registration authority without the foreign investors having to register the acquisition transaction with the investment authority.

Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Lawyer in Vietnam Oliver Massmann New Decree Guiding Enterprise Law on Enterprise Registration – Quicker Timeline and Simplified Procedure

On 14 September 2015, the Government issued Decree No. 78/2015/ND-CP on enterprise registration (“Decree 78”). This is a long-awaited decree guiding the 2014 Enterprise Law, replacing Decree No. 43/2010/ND-CP on enterprise registration and Decree No. 05/2013/ND-CP amending Decree No. 43/2010/ND-CP on administrative procedures. Decree 78 will take effect on 01 November 2015. Some positive changes of this new decree are discussed below:
Enterprises are now able to register their operation online
Online enterprise registration is a procedure carried out by the owner of the enterprise or the enterprise itself via the National information gate on enterprise registration.
Online enterprise registration dossier includes the same documents as required by the paper dossier and are converted into electronic form. Online enterprise registration dossier has the same validity as the usual paper one.
Who can execute the enterprise registration documents
The 2014 Enterprise Law allows enterprises to have more than one legal representatives. Signature of each legal representative in enterprise registration documents has the same legal validity. In addition, not only the owner of the enterprise but also the enterprise itself (through its legal representative(s)) could execute the enterprise registration documents and holds responsible for the lawfulness, accuracy and truthfulness of the declared information in the dossier.
Decree 78 no longer requires enterprises:
– Register changes in enterprise registration content within 10 working days from the date the enterprise decides on the changes, except as otherwise required by law;
– Submit their financial statements to the business registration authority in accordance with the law.
Role of the Request for enterprise registration and the Enterprise Registration Certificate (ERC)
The ERC concurrently serves as the Tax Registration of the enterprise and the ERC is not a business license. In case there is any inconsistency between the electronic ERC, Branch Registration Certificate, Representative Office Registration Certificate, Certificate on business location and the paper ones, the one which records information in the enterprise registration dossier has legal validity.
Each enterprise is issued with an enterprise code indicated in the ERC. This code is no longer the business registration code but tax code of the enterprise.
Simplified enterprise registration procedure
In an attempt to reforming administrative procedures and fighting against corruption, Decree 78 clearly states that the enterprise registration authority is not allowed to request for additional documents or other documents not required in the enterprise registration dossier by the law. In this regards, the number of required documents in the application dossier is also reduced significantly.
Time to get an ERC after submission of a valid dossier is shortened to three working days instead of five working days as previously. However, it needs to be seen in practice whether the authority sticks to this timeline.
In case there is any change to the business lines of the enterprise, it does no longer have to register the new business lines but only needs to notify the authority on the same. The notification dossier removes documents confirming the legal capital by the authority in case the new business line requires legal capital; or a valid copy of the certificate of practising for individual according to the specialized areas.
Notably, in a joint stock company, if a founding shareholder has not fully paid for the registered shares, it will automatically no longer be company’s shareholder and its name will be removed from the list of founding shareholders of the company.
Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

FIRST EVER Double Taxation Agreement signed between Vietnam and the United States of America

On 07th July 2015, the United States and Vietnam signed an income tax treaty with Vietnam, the first ever between the two countries. The Double Taxation Agreement applies to personal income tax and enterprise income tax in the case of Vietnam.
What is a permanent establishment?
Under the Double Taxation Agreement, a company is considered to have a permanent establishment if its business is wholly or partly carried out through a fixed place.
Permanent establishment does not include the following: (1) the use of facilities solely for the purpose of storage, display or delivery of goods or merchandise belonging to the enterprise; (2) the maintenance of a stock of goods or merchandise belonging to the enterprise solely for the purpose of storage, display or delivery; (3) the maintenance of a stock of goods or merchandise belonging to the enterprise solely for the purpose of processing by another enterprise; (4) the maintenance of a fixed place of business solely for the purpose of purchasing goods or merchandise, or of collecting information for the enterprise; (5) the maintenance of a fixed place of business solely for the purpose of carrying on, for the enterprise, any other activity of a preparatory or auxiliary character; and (6) the maintenance of a fixed place of business solely for any combination of the activities mentioned in subparagraphs (1) through (5), provided that the overall activity of the fixed place of business resulting from this combination is of a preparatory or auxiliary character.
A broker, general commission agent or any other agent of an independent status will not be considered as a permanent establishment of an enterprise of the United States or Vietnam merely because such enterprise carries on business in that other contracting country through these persons. However, where a person other than an agent of an independent status is acting in a contracting state on behalf of an enterprise of the other contracting state and habitually exercises in that contracting state an authority to conclude contracts in the name of the enterprise, that enterprise would be considered to have a permanent establishment in the first-mentioned contracting state.
The fact that a company that is a resident of a contracting state controls or is controlled by a company that is a resident of the other contracting state, or that carries on business in that other contracting state (whether through a permanent establishment or otherwise), does not of itself constitute either company a permanent establishment of the other.
Enterprise income tax
The enterprise is subject to taxation in Vietnam if it derives certain income as defined by the Double Taxation Agreement in Vietnam, however, only to the extent that such profits are attributable to the permanent establishment. Executive and general administrative expenses so incurred, whether in the contracting state in which the permanent establishment is situated or elsewhere, or other deductible expenses, are taken into the determination of the profits of a permanent establishment for tax purposes.
Personal income tax
The Agreement applies to persons who are residents of one or both of the contracting states. The applicability of the Agreement does not depend on the nationality. The term “person” means an individual or corporate body.
Article 14, paragraph 1 stipulates that “Income derived by a resident of a Contracting State in respect of professional services or other activities of an independent character shall be taxable only in that state unless he has a fixed base regularly available to him in the other Contracting State for the purpose of performing of his activities or his stay in the Contracting State is for a period or periods amounting to or exceeding in the aggregate 183 days within any twelve-month period commencing or ending in the taxable year concerned.” The income may be taxed in the other country to the extent that it is attributable to the fixed base.
Income from salaried work derived by a resident of a contracting country should be taxable in that country unless the employment is exercised in the other country (Article 15, paragraph 1). Notwithstanding of this, “remuneration derived by a resident of the Contracting State in respect of an employment exercised in the other Contracting State shall be taxable only in the first-mentioned State, if the recipient is present in the other State for a period or periods not exceeding in the aggregate 183 days in the calendar year concerned, and the remuneration is paid by, or on behalf of, an employer who is not a resident of the other State and the remuneration is not borne by a permanent establishment or a fixed base which the employer has in the other State.” (Article 15, paragraph 2).
Methods for eliminating double taxation
Where a resident of a contracting state generates profits, income, or gains which under the law of the other contracting state and in accordance with the Double Taxation Agreement, the former will allow a credit against its tax on the income, profits or gains an amount equal to the tax paid to the later. It is possible to get the credit for already paid income tax on dividends by the contracting state if a company in one contracting state owns at least ten percent of the voting stock of the company which is a resident of the other contracting state.
Special regulations apply to, among others, entertainers and sportsmen, pensions, social security, annuities, alimony and child support, students and apprentices.
Automatic protection under the Agreement?
Residents of Vietnam and the United States wishing to be protected under the Agreement need to file an application to relevant tax authority. Please do not hesitate to contact us so that we can advise you on how to apply for such protection according to Vietnam laws.
Please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.



Question on doing business in Vietnam!

Interview by Vietnam Financial Times
Oliver Massmann

Question 1: What do you think about the reform in tax and customs of Vietnam so far? For the German enterprises in Vietnam, how do these policies affect them?

Over the past year, we have seen significant efforts and progress made by the General Department of Customs in terms of improved regulations, more effective e-customs operations, and increased dialogue and consultation with the business community. From 01st January 2015, the new Customs Law takes effect with its implementing Decrees coming into force later on 15 March. The implementing Circulars are also already in force from 01 April with the most notable one being Circular No. 38/2015/TT-BTC. This Circular, which replaces 13 previous customs regulations, is considered most comprehensive among the new regulations. While there are still more regulations being adopted soon following the new Customs Law, for example, regulations on advance customs rulings, post-clearance inspection, or regulations in anticipation of the upcoming Free Trade Agreements, impacts on German enterprises need to be accessed later.

We have also seen much progress in reforming Vietnam’s tax procedures over recent years. Up to 01 January 2015, the total time for tax compliance is reduced to 370 hours per year, which is an impressive decrease compared with 872 hours annually according to the 2013 statistics. Time for tax declaration and payment is also reduced to 121.5 hours per year, with possibility of online tax declaration and payment. Although German enterprises highly appreciate these tax reforms, we would expect that the efforts are not only at Government or ministerial levels but also at the local levels where we have to deal with the authorities there directly.

Question 2: How do the German enterprises in Vietnam look at the VN’s business environment? In the future, what should VN adjust to attract more German enterprises?

The Government of Vietnam has made certain success in stabilizing the economy to reach a high growth rate projection in 2015 by World Bank (i.e., 6%) and maintain import-export balance over the five years.

Vietnam is also extremely successful in international economic integration, especially by joining the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”), the European – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (“EVFTA”), Korea – ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, Japan – ASEAN Economic Partnership Agreement, and establishment of the customs union Russia- Kazakhstan-Belarus, and notably the ASEAN Economic Community by end of this year. Vietnam is expected to be the main beneficiary of the major trade pacts, with additional growth of 13.6% (for the TPP) and 15% growth of GDP (for the EVFTA). With such deep integration into the multilateral and regional economy, Vietnam is expected to be an attractive investment environment for investors and witness a significant growth in the upcoming years.

Moreover, with the adoption of the 2014 Investment Law and Enterprise Law, the investment environment in Vietnam now even becomes more attractive to foreign investors, especially to German investors. Nevertheless, there are still certain outstanding issues that should be further addressed to attract foreign investors in general and German enterprises in particular. These problems include annulment and unenforceability of arbitral awards in Vietnam, certain trade restrictive measures in the field of import and export, burdens created for enterprise in tax administration by state authority, and especially corrosive and widespread corruption in Vietnam. These problems require Government’s stronger efforts and urgent actions to solve, in addition to several current attempts which we really appreciate.

Please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.



Contract Manufacturing And Tolling Agreements

I. VAT and Customs
In many cases, the principal in the contract manufacturing relationship owns some or all of the raw materials, work-in-process and finished goods throughout the manufacturing process. The principal and many of the suppliers are typically outside of the manufacturing jurisdiction.

1. Generally Speaking, What Are The VAT, Customs And Related Costs (e.g. Broker Fees) That Arise When A Foreign Principal Has Goods Dropped Shipped Into Your Jurisdiction To The Local Contract Manufacturer? In Particular, Is There Any Non-recoverable VAT? If So, Are There Strategies For Avoiding Or Reducing This VAT Cost? With Respect To Customs, Please Provide The Range For The Customs Rates That May Apply. Also Are There Any Planning Techniques That Taxpayers Typically Employ To Reduce Customs Costs? Please Address The Same Issues In Connection With The Export Of The Finished Goods Outside Of The Country.

Most regulations on the Vietnamese VAT regime are included in the Law on Value Added Tax No. 13/2008/QH12 of the National Assembly, as amended by Law No. 71/2014/QH13.

Due to Article 7.3 of the Law on Tax Management, importers are obliged to pay tax in full and in a timely manner, including the VAT.

This norm includes the concept of drop shipping, which means an arrangement between a seller and the manufacturer or distributor of a product that shall be sold. According to the arrangement the product will be shipped to the buyer directly by the manufacturer or distributor and not by the seller. This definition can be understood as an alternative form of import. The law does not make any differences on the way that goods are delivered. Therefore drop shipping is not subject to tax exemptions or reductions.

It should be noted that no VAT is raised for goods in transit or transshipment or crossing Vietnamese borders as well as goods temporarily imported and re-exported and goods temporarily exported and re-imported. There are no further special regulations for drop shipping supplies.

2. In Many Cases The Principal Supplies Equipment That The Local Contract Manufacturer Uses In The Manufacturing Process. This Equipment May Remain In The Local Jurisdiction For A Substantial Period Of Time. Any Addition VAT Or Customs Issues That Are Unique To The Capital Equipment That The Principal May Import?

Capital equipment is not subject to the catalogue of VAT exemptions. According to the Law on Value Added Tax the following objects are exceptionally not subject to VAT: “Machinery, equipment and supplies which cannot be manufactured domestically and need to be imported for direct use in scientific research and technological development activities; machinery, equipment, spare parts, special-purpose means of transport and supplies which cannot be manufactured domestically and need to be imported for prospecting, exploring and developing oil and gas fields; aircraft, drilling platforms and ships which cannot be manufactured domestically and need to be imported for the formation of enterprises fixed assets or which are hired from foreign parties for production and business activities or for lease.”

3. Have There Been Any Recent Developments That Impact The VAT, Customs And Related Costs Applicable To Such Structures?

On 25 March 2015, the Ministry of Finance issued Circular No. 38/2015/TT-BTC, according to which machinery and equipment suitable for investment field, target, and scale of the investment project, satisfying other certain conditions, imported as fixed assets of investment projects in the fields or areas eligible for preferential import tax are exempted from taxes.

4. To The Extent That There Are Significant VAT Or Customs Issues That Arise If The Factory Imports And Owns The Raw Materials And Work-In-Process That Are Contract Manufacturing Specific, Please Let Us Know.

Raw materials and supplies imported for production of goods for export shall be subject to import duties and VAT and shall be entitled to refund of import duties and VAT corresponding to the ratio of exported goods on the basis of the levels of use of raw materials and supplies [Article 114, Circular No. 38/2015/TT-BTC in respect of raw materials and other supplies for production of goods for export].

According to Point c.5) of Circular No. 38/2015/TT-BTC dated 25 March 2015, enterprises that import raw materials for productions [“importing enterprise”] and then sell their products to another enterprise to directly produce or process products for exports [“exporting enterprise”], after the actual export by the exporting enterprise the importing enterprise is entitled to request for refund of import duty tax equivalent with the materials that the exporting enterprise already used.

5. Are There Any Additional Issues Taxpayers Should Be Aware Of In Connection With Locally Procured Raw Materials And/ Or Finished Goods That Are Sold In The Local Market?

Circular No. 128/2013/TT-BTC on guiding imported goods export, import, processing, liquidation and consuming products of foreign invested enterprises dated 10 September 2013 stipulates that:

– In the case of the sale of domestic goods to an export processing enterprise, the seller shall be exempt from export duties.

– In the case of the purchase by an export processing enterprise of domestic goods for export (without conducting any production activity), the export processing enterprise must pay export duties.

– In the case of the purchase by an export processing enterprise of domestic goods for the production of goods for export, the export processing enterprise shall be exempt from export duties upon export.

II. Permanent Establishment

1. As Noted Above, The Principal May Own Raw Materials, Work-In-Process And Finished Goods In The Local Jurisdiction. Is There Any Significant Risk That The Principal Could Have A Local PE Due To The Fact That It Has Such Inventory In The Country? Does It Matter Whether The Principal Has A Local Warehouse?

In Vietnam companies overseas conducting business activities through resident establishments in Vietnam are liable to pay corporate income tax.

According to the definition in Article 2.3 of the Law on Corporate Income Tax, Resident establishment means a business establishment through which a company overseas conducts all or a part of its business activities in Vietnam which earn income. A resident establishment of a company overseas can take different forms that are listed as well in the Law on Corporate Income Tax.

This list includes a representative in Vietnam in a case where it has authority to enter into contracts in the name of a company overseas or a representative which is not competent to enter into contracts in the name of a foreign company but regularly delivers goods or provides services in Vietnam.

This very broad reference might also include principals with assets as named above. These elements are not likely to form the risk of a permanent establishment in Vietnam but the authorities decide about permanent establishments on a case by case basis.

Where a treaty on avoidance of double taxation to which the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a signatory contains different provisions relating to resident establishments, such treaty shall prevail.

2. Does The Answer Change If The Principal Also Owns Capital Equipment That It Has Provided To The Local Contract Manufacturer?

Also the ownership of capital by the principal does not necessarily bear the risk of a permanent establishment.

3. In Many Cases The Local Contract Manufacturer Purchases The Raw Materials (Either In Its Own Name Or As A Purchasing Agent Acting On Behalf Of The Principal) Because It Knows The Production Schedule Better Than The Principal. In Addition, In Some Cases The Contract Manufacturer May Have More Leverage With The Suppliers. Please Address Any Additional PE Issues That May Arise If The Contract Manufacturer Also Acts As A Purchasing Agent On Behalf Of The Principal.

The Law on Corporate Income Tax provides that the business conducted by a company overseas can be regarded as a resident establishment if the company has an agent that has authority to enter into contracts in the name of the company overseas. Given this the situation above might likely rise a PE.

4. In Certain Cases, The Principal Will Have Its Own Employees Or Agents In The Factory To Supervise The Contract Manufacturer, Provide Quality Assurance And Sometimes Technical Information. To What Extent Would Independent Or Dependent Agents (That Do Not Have Contract Concluding Authority) Providing Such Services, Combined With The Other Facts Set Forth Above, Result In A PE For The Principal. To The Extent That Actual Employees Or Staff May Result In A PE, Can The Principal Avoid The PE By Forming A Local Subsidiary To Employee The Staff? If So, Can The Subsidiary Be Compensated On A Cost Plus Basis?

Article 1.4.b of Decree No. 24/2007/ND-CP (as amended and partially superseded by Decree No. 218/2013/ND-CP and Decree No. 12/2015/ND-CP) (“Decree No. 24/2007/ND-CP”) stipulates that a business is considered as resident establishment if it takes the form of a “location of supervisory activities for construction, construction works, or installation and assembly works.

If the principal wants to be safe regarding the avoidance of a PE, he might establish a Representative Office [“RO”] to perform the tasks named above. This is possible as long as the RO is not doing business. Article 13.1.c of Decree 45 on Representative Offices allows to “monitor and activate the implementation of signed contracts of the foreign business entity or foreign tourism enterprise for which it acts as a representative.” This covers the activities named above.

According to Article 37 of the Commercial Law and Article 5 of Decree 45 any foreign business entity or foreign tourism enterprise which has lawful business registration in accordance with the law of the foreign country and has operated for at least 05 (five) years shall be issued with a license to establish a representative office in Vietnam.

5. To What Extent Do The Answers To These PE Questions Change If The Factory’s Sole Activity Is Acting As A Contract Manufacturer For A Single Principal.

This constellation is not directly addressed in Vietnamese Laws. Contract manufacturing for only one single principal might give rise to a PE if tax authorities interpret the business activities of the overseas company according to Article 1.4.b of Decree No. 24/2007/ND-CP [pls. see above under point II.4] as a form of “installation and assembly works”.

6. Assume An Extreme Set Of Facts Where In Addition To The Factors Set Forth Above The Principal Has A High Degree Of Control Over The Operations In The Factory. Assume For Instance That The Principal Hires The Employees And Its Employees In The Factory Have The Power To Stop Production To Correct Problems. At What Point Does The Principal’s Control Over The Factory Activity Give Rise To A PE?

We refer to point II.5 above. These business activities will be even more likely be considered as PE.

7. To The Extent That A PE May Arise In Any Of The General Fact Patters Described Above, Comment On Whether Additional Income Would Be Attributable To The PE. Can The Principal Argue That It Has Paid An Arm’s Length Gee Such That There Is No Additional Income That Such Be Taxed In The Jurisdiction? If So, What Transfer Pricing Methodologies Would Typically Be Used To Determine The Amount Of Income Attributable To The PE?

If there are no special rules in tax agreements, the principal can calculate on an arm’s length’s basis.

The Ministry of Finance has released a Circular on Transfer Pricing which requires companies to make a full self-assessment of their profits, calculated on an arm’s length’s basis. According to this circular, companies will be required to declare the related party transactions in a prescribed for and submit it within 90 days from the year end. Furthermore, the Circular provides an obligation for companies to maintain transfer pricing documentation to set out the evidence that they have taken place on arm’s length’s terms.

If companies fail to comply with these terms they risk double taxation and penalties.

III. Local Incentives

In many of your jurisdictions, the government grants tax incentives or holiday for taxpayers that invest in the local economy and manufacture within the country. In many contract manufacturing structures, however, the contract manufacturer receives a cost plus return, and the contract manufacturer generally does not own intangibles.

1. Is The Taxpayer’s Ability To Obtain A Tax Incentive Or Holiday Diminished By Operating Under A Risk-Stripped Structure Where The Local Entity Receives Cost Plus Remuneration?

Exemptions from and reductions of Corporate Income Tax are based on Chapter V of Decree No. 24/2007/ND-CP on Corporate Income Tax.

Tax incentives are provided in cases of encouraged investments. This term covers enterprises located in special export processing zones, enterprises that export a certain percentage of the manufactured goods or enterprises with a certain number of Vietnamese employees or laborers.

The contract manufacturer may carry forward their losses of a financial year to offset against future profits for a maximum of 5 years after the year incurring loss. The enterprise can freely choose how to allocate the loss to the later 5 years. When the 5 years period has lapsed but the loss has not been fully carried forward, the loss is not allowed to be carried forward to the next year.

2. Is The Taxpayer’s Ability To Obtain A Tax Incentive Diminished By The Lack Of Locally Owned Intangible Property?

This case is not addressed by the Vietnamese tax law.

3. Are There Any Other Aspects In Contract Manufacturing Structures That May Impact A Taxpayer’s Ability To Obtain A Tax Incentive Or Holiday?

Chapter V of Decree No. 24/2007/ND-CP provides detailed regulations on all CIT incentives.

Investment projects in certain industries and sectors listed in an appendix to the Investment Law shall be entitled to incentives as well as projects employing average numbers of employees, that are defined in Article 41.

According to the project type and the region of its location the tax rate can be 10, 15, 20 or 50 per cent.

IV. Conversion And Transfer Pricing Issues

In many cases, U.S. and European multinationals initially establish their local manufacturing operations in Asia as buy/sell entities because they have a local income tax holiday or exemption of some kind for a period of years. The local entity may even own intangibles and bear risk. When the local holiday or exemption ends (or the CFO decides the tax rate is too high), the parent may wish to convert the local entity into a contract manufacturer for a principal in a low-tax jurisdiction to reduce the income earned locally.

1. If There Are Locally Owned Product Intangibles, Is There A Capital Gains Tax On The Sale Of These Intangibles To A Foreign Owner And If So What Is The Rate? Assume The Local Contract Manufacturer Sells The Intangibles For Cash And Then Declares A Dividend Equal To The Amount Of The Sales Proceeds. Any Dividend Withholding Tax? If So, What Is The Rate? If There Is A Capital Gains Tax Or A Dividend Withholding Tax, in Addition To Discounted Cash Flow, What Other Valuation Approaches, If Any, Are Commonly Used? Are There Other Strategies For Reducing These Costs?

The taxation of the sale of intangibles is addressed in Article 32 of Decree No. 133/2008/ND-CP as amended by Decree No. 120/2014/ND-CP on technology transfer. This norm provides that the transferor has the obligation to pay tax on the amount of money generated from the technology transfer.

2. In Some Jurisdictions, The Local Authorities May Find That The Local Entity Owns Some Goodwill Or Going Concern Value As A Result Of Its Historic Operations. The Authorities May Assert Capital Gains Tax And Possibly Dividend Withholding Tax On Value Of The Goodwill Or Going Concern Value On The Theory That The New Principal Is Somehow Acquiring The Goodwill Or Going Concern Value In Connection With The Conversion. Is This An Issue In Your Jurisdiction? If So, What Planning Steps Can Be Taken To Minimize This Cost?

This issue is not relevant in Vietnam.

3. Assume The Local Entity That Historically Manufactured Goods On A Buy/Sell Basis Also Performs R&D And Marketing Activities. In Connection With The Conversion, Should These Activities Be Moved Into Separate Subsidiaries? If So, What Additional Issues Arise In Connection With This Conversion?

Please see point IV.2.

4. In Many Cases, The Local Contract Manufacturer Is A Wholly-Owned Subsidiary Of The Principal. In Such Cases, The Principal May Wish To Compensate The Contract Manufacturer On A Cost Plus Basis, With The Uplift Being A Percentage Of The Manufacturing Costs (And Not The Value Of The End Product). Is This Approach Viable In Your Jurisdiction and What Issues/Exposures Arise In Connection With The Use Of Cost Plus Transfer Pricing?

Transfer pricing rules in Vietnam require that the enterprise pays and Vietnam receives a reasonable rate of return on its activities as if the parties were unrelated [the arm’s length principle].

Vietnamese tax law does not provide special rules regarding cost plus transfer pricing. Please see point 2.7 for further information on the Circular on Transfer Pricing.


Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.