Old, unpaid personal and business taxes in Vietnam swelled to VND76 trillion (US$3.36 billion) at the end of April, up 4.3 percent from December, local media reported, citing the General Department of Taxation.
Many businesses made losses and even closed down, thus being unable to pay taxes in time, Vietnam News Agency quoted the department under the Ministry of Finance as saying. The figure released by the department also includes late payment fines.
Since tax defaulters have to pay an interest of 0.05 percent a day, their fines and interest payments alone rose 5.4 percent to over VND23.92 trillion ($1.05 billion), or 31.5 percent of the total dues, it said.
About 48.3 percent of the reported back taxes were 90 days overdue or longer, meaning that local offices can take measures such as freezing bank accounts, invalidating their invoices and confiscating their assets.
The department has sought the central bank's permission for better access to corporate bank accounts so it can collect back taxes more easily, the news agency reported. The department was quoted as saying that some businesses deliberately provided tax offices with bank accounts which had little to no money.
Last year the tax department and its offices around the country published the names of hundreds of top tax defaulters in order to shame them into paying.
Official figures showed 20,044 businesses shut down, either permanently or temporarily, in the first quarter, up 23.9 percent year-on-year.
Of 513,000 active businesses, only 42 percent reported profits at the end of last year, according to figures from the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.