Vietnam: Prime Minister suspends coercive tax collection from Sabeco

After receiving an order of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the Ho Chi Minh City Tax Department has immediately suspended further coercive actions  to collect VND3.14 trillion (US$135.4 million) in special consumption tax and fines for violations of tax laws in the 2007-2015 period from Saigon Beer-Alcohol-Beverage Corporation (Sabeco).

In December the HCMC Tax Department temporarily blocked Sabeco’s Vietcombank account after the agency failed to collect the money because there was no money left in the account. "We have asked Sabeco to provide details of other bank accounts but it has not fulfilled that request," Le Duy Minh, deputy head of the department, said.

Sabeco general director Neo Gim Siong Bennett replied on December 30 that the action by the tax Department was taken "without a valid administrative decision" and "contradicts with the very written guidance issued by the Ministry of Finance, General Department of Taxation and Tax Department of HCMC." According to Sabeco, the HCMC Tax Department’s debt coercion decision goes against the 2006 Law on Tax Administration.

On January 2, Sabeco met with Vietnam’s Prime Minister to resolve the issue and the latter asked the tax department after the meeting to defer its enforcement actions pending his final decision.

Last December, Vietnam sold in an auction a 54 percent stake in Vietnam’s leading brewery Sabeco at a record price of US$4.84 billion. Buyer was Vietnam Beverage Company, Vietnam’s local unit of Thai Beverage (ThaiBev) from Thailand. (, 18.12.2017). Several other international companies including AB InBevKirin HoldingsAsahi Group Holdings and San Miguel also showed interest in Sabeco (, 1.8.2017) but stayed away from the auction because of the restrictions in majority ownerships by foreign companies.

Last September, the Prime Minister urged Carlsberg’s boss  Cees’t Hart to expand the company’s investment in Vietnam in order to speed up the privatization process of Hanoi Beer Alcohol and Beverage Company (Habeco), the second state owned brewer which is set to be sold in 2019 (, 13.9.2018).

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