Understanding the Vietnam customs and trade environment

Import taxes (import duty, import VAT, and special sales tax) are still an important revenue source for the Vietnamese Government. As a result, Vietnam Customs has become more focused on ensuring that revenue targets are collected. A year-on-year increase in revenue targets has led to a recent surge in the number of clearance audits and investigations being undertaken by Customs. The focus of the audits and investigations is typically customs valuation, such as transfer pricing policies and the treatment of royalties, service fees etc.  Consequently companies importing goods into Vietnam have been increasingly faced with additional Customs assessments for import taxes.

On the other hand, the Vietnam customs regulatory environment has undergone significant positive changes over the past years and current customs regulations offer a wide range of programmes to importers and exporters. The programmes are designed to allow them to either minimise the duty impact in Vietnam (e.g. bonded manufacturing or import for export processing, establishment of Export Processing Enterprises (EPE) etc) or to facilitate their import and export transactions or their general business in Vietnam.

Electronic customs programs have now been implemented in most local Customs Departments, helping companies to reduce the time spent for clearing goods and special programs such as the “Priority Enterprise” programme are introduced to allow companies with a good compliance record to receive additional benefits to facilitate their customs operations.

Therefore, understanding the Vietnam Customs environment as well as staying abreast with its laws and regulations, practical implications and interpretation of Vietnam Customs officers is key for every importer or exporter in Vietnam.