A tax agency in Vietnam. Photo credit: VnEconomy
One week after showing its toughness by naming and shaming 600 top defaulters around the country, the Ministry of Finance had to order its tax agencies to apologize to dozens of businesses which were mistakenly blacklisted.
Minister Dinh Tien Dung confirmed the order with news website VnEconomy on Tuesday.
He said some businesses were named in the list due to "software issues," but he did not clarify how the mistake was made.
Meanwhile, speaking to Thanh Nien, Bui Van Nam, chief of the General Department of Taxation, said it could have been a human error.
He said his agency had ordered tax offices around the country to review their mistakes and punish the officers responsible for them.
Many economists said they were surprised that such a mistake could happen, considering that tax authorities were supposed to work with businesses many times to ask them to pay off back taxes before naming and shaming them.
So far Ho Chi Minh City's tax office has cleared 26 businesses from the list and adjusted the amount of tax dues for another two. Hanoi has removed eight businesses from its list and revised the figures for 27 other cases, according to Nam.
Among them were major electronics retailer Nguyen Kim, mobile phone retailer The Gioi Di Dong, and many big real estate developers such as Van Thinh Phat and Him Lam.
Hanoi originally reported the biggest unpaid back taxes, with 200 businesses owing the state more than VND4.67 trillion ($211.63 million).
Meanwhile, 200 companies in HCMC were found to have over VND3.51 trillion ($159.3 million) in unpaid taxes.
All the listed businesses were estimated to default on a total of over VND12.65 trillion (US$573.38 million) by June 30.
The list supposedly included top tax defaulters in provinces and cities where they were situated, and who were more than 121 days behind payment deadlines.
When releasing the list on July 20, the finance ministry said if the companies continued to delay paying up, tax agencies will deduct money from their bank accounts, invalidate their invoices or even freeze their accounts, if necessary.