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Science center in Vietnam seeks help over unexpected land tax

Friday, June 28, 2019, 17:04 GMT+7
Science center in Vietnam seeks help over unexpected land tax
International scientists gather at the International Center for Interdisciplinary Science and Education in Binh Dinh Province, south-central Vietnam, for a conference. Photo: ICISE

The International Center for Interdisciplinary Science and Education (ICISE), located in the south-central Vietnamese province of Binh Dinh, is seeking relief from a massive tax which it had previously been told would be waived.

ICISE, founded by Prof. Jean Tran Thanh Van and Prof. Le Kim Ngoc as a place to host international conferences, as well as for the purpose of designing exceptional cultural and educational projects, is currently facing the burden of a VND5 billion (US$215,000) land tax.

ICISE’s operator, the association Rencontres du Vietnam, a non-profit organization and an official partner of UNESCO, had previously been told the center would be exempt from land use fees but it now finds itself staring down the massive tax.

The center was built under a promise from the 2008 provincial chairman, Vu Hoang Ha, that local authorities would allow Rencontres du Vietnam to “use public land in Binh Dinh for free and be given support from the administration,” according to Prof. Van.

In August 2011, the provincial People’s Committee allocated more than 21.1 hectares of land in Quy Hoa Valley, located approximately ten kilometers from Quy Nhon, which is Binh Dinh’s capital city, for Rencontres du Vietnam to develop ICISE, under a 50-year lease term.

The ICISE project was planned to cover two separate sectors, including 4.35 hectares allotted for a hotel and a bungalow resort and 14.6 hectares designated for scientific and non-profit facilities.

ICISE completed its tax duties for the 4.35ha plot and had expected to enjoy an exemption of land taxes on the 14.6 hectares as per the government’s preferential policy for scientific and non-profit initiatives, but problems began occurring when it was told the plot is not classified as land that can be used for free.

While incumbent provincial chair Ho Quoc Dung affirmed that “the current and former province leaders all desired an exemption for the scientific and non-profit projects at ICISE,” they failed to come to a suitable agreement.

The total amount owed for the land now sits at more than VND5 billion, according to Dao Huu Phuc, deputy director of the Binh Dinh Department of Taxation.

Local authorities have continuously submitted proposals to the prime minister and central-level administrations, according to Dung, but they have only received general, unspecific guidance that has prevented them from rolling out the exemption.

In the latest attempt, chairman Dung put forward another proposal to the prime minister, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to consider recognizing ICISE as a scientific and educational entity that is not subject to land taxes.

However, a leader from the Department of Public Asset Management, under the finance ministry, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Wednesday that the agency had clearly noted in a written reply to the Binh Dinh People’s Committee at the end of 2018 that the scientific and non-profit projects at ICISE are not qualified for tax exemptions.

As a last resort, Prof. Jean Tran Thanh Van suggested Binh Dinh Province impose land taxes on ICISE at the rental rate in 2008, not the current one so that they can “try to pay, be it incrementally or all at once."

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