Vietnam's tax refund incentive for foreign visitors under-promoted: official

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Foreign tourists at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City

A tax refund incentive for foreign visitors to Vietnam has not been promoted well, and the number of beneficiary tourists and the amount of refund claimed has been minuscule, Tuoi Tre quoted an unnamed official as saying Tuesday.

The newspaper cited a Customs Department official at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City as saying  a total of VND3.1 billion (US$146,500) in value-added taxes have been refunded to 860 foreign tourists on their departure from the airport since the incentive was launched on July 1.

The figures were "quite modest" compared to the number of foreign visitors exiting Vietnam via the airport every day, he said.

This has happened because tourists lack information about the incentive, and the number of stores that have joined the scheme is small,  the official explained.

Some 100 stores, mainly in District 1, have joined the program so far, the report said, adding that the visitors who received refunds mainly bought handicrafts, footwear, clothes and handbags.

More than 3.1 million international tourists arrived in HCMC as of October, an increase of 12 percent year on year, Thoi Bao Kinh Te Saigon recently quoted the city's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism as saying.

The city has earned VND5.76 trillion ($272.3 million) in tourism revenues during this period, up 19 percent from the same period last year, the newspaper reported.

The VAT refund scheme for foreign visitors, due to end on June 30, 2014, applies to goods worth a minimum of VND2 million ($94.54) bought at airports, tourism zones and several outlets in big cities when they depart from Tan Son Nhat or Noi Bai international airports in HCMC and Hanoi respectively.

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Vietnam to refund VAT to foreigners from July 1

Visitors have to submit the tax refund application and have their listed products checked before receiving the money. The items, which are required to be brand new and not on the list of prohibited items, can be checked in or taken by the passengers as hand luggage.

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