Vietnam MP: Force high ranking officials to publicize tax returns

Officials should make public their personal income tax declarations and be punished if they are found to be inaccurate or false, a lawmaker said Wednesday.

According to a report by VNExpress, a local news channel, Nguyen Lan Hieu was speaking at a National Assembly session discussing proposed changes to Vietnam’s Anti-Corruption law.

A draft amendment states that officials who fail to report their assets and incomes accurately or fail to clearly explain their origins will be slapped with a 45 percent personal income tax or a fine of 45 percent of the value of inaccurately reported or unexplained assets and incomes.

Officials can also be prosecuted and have their assets seized if their declarations are inaccurate or if they are found in possession of assets from illegal activities.

Hieu felt the law could go further.

“Why don’t we force officials in high positions to publicize their personal income taxes? That way, the people and authorities can monitor them better,” he said.

However, some delegates said forcing officials to publicize all their assets and sources of income was “inappropriate.”

“Such an action is subjective and may impede development,” said delegate Trinh Ngoc Thuy.

Earlier in March, delegates had expressed concerns that the option of slapping a 45 personal income tax could pave way for money laundering.

MP Truong Trong Nghia explained that such payments could help civil servants launder money earned from illegal activities like the trafficking of drugs and other goods, or misappropriation of public assets.

Violators would be willing to pay the 45 percent tax and keep the rest, Nghia said.

If civil servants fail to explain the sources of their wealth, authorities should seize their assets, he added.

Vietnam’s Anti-Corruption Law was passsed in 2005 and has been amended several times, with discussions planned to continue through the next National Assembly session in October.

The country’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 and tackle violations committed at local levels.

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

By Hoai Thu, Bao Ha