Tu Hoang parttime Ruby dev, fulltime Bun Rieu maniac

Doing business in Viet Nam

Upon writing this, I can’t help thinking back this time 7 years ago. I was a business student back then (another bedtime story), and I together with friends held a workshop on doing business in Viet Nam. Topic of the year was groupbuying, so we naturally invited a groupby executive who spent the majority of his time telling audiences how cool his business was. They ceased operations shortly after.

Fast forward to 2014, I pulled up a license just to look legitimate in the country. I still remember vividly how I had to wait 4 hours at the Department of Planning & Investment just to lodge my application. The air was humid, the ceiling fan didn’t work, the 40 meters square room was packed with sweaty businessmen in shirts and businesswomen with ridiculous makeups in skirts. I had to revisit this room for a few times mostly because the staff there wasn’t feeling particularly pleased with my application’s wording. So I smarten’d up and wore khakis and pulls from my second time, always taking a book and water with me, and somehow mastered meditation while waiting for my name to be called.

Not to mention, Charity Map being translated into Vietnamese sounded weird. I flushed a few times because people then would just stare at me for some sweet minutes because of the name.

And that wasn’t at all a hassle. Every month I had to contract someone to file a financial report for my entity, in person, at the local tax department. They also asked us to visit the local treasury office to pay for yearly license tax and everything, each visit consumed a few more hours. I had never felt more of my life coming past me at the time, feeling utterly useless and idle to some unbelivably great extent.

Above all, the (then) enterprise law dictated that you could only do businesses on categories that you were given written authorization to. That’s just another fcking bummer. The (updated) law tells you can do whatever the laws don’t see as illegal, which for sure opens up more freedom for the national business(wo)men to try out new waters and squeezed out some tiny chunks of corruption. Funny how people had to bribe to do business lawfully.

So it also came to be that I had to close my first and only business in the country. It hasn’t been a business per se, given we haven’t booked any active revenue. We didn’t do recruitments either, I was the sole legal representative cum CEO cum principal employee. That being said, on paper we looked like a ghost lingering for breaths and opportunities. That has been really the case here. I’m not going to be in the country for some time, so I think I need to close it down, to avoid complications. Once I heard they stopped a lady from traveling aboard because she neglected her tax duties. She forgot paying $100 or something, but that’s another story. I need to close this paper business down. And I’m glad to find the experience (after 3 years) has been way better.

First, I need to fulfill all the tax duties, that include submitting all the accounting reports on the entity’s income and VATs. That’s easy. What’s startling me is that they have pulled up an online system to let these reports be submitted online, securely and all. Heck, they (the tax department) even sends reminders on late submission. I was able to have direct communications with my tax officer, and the lady was giving prompt answers and above all, she was friendly.

Second, I need to pay some fees, and what startled me even more was I could do this online, from my bank account (using a different bank to the department’s bank), and the tax officer went out of her way to confirm those financial transactions. This saves me a bunch of travels, in Saigon’s heat. It’s just evolutionary, that’s what I’m thinking it is.

Third, admittedly closing down a business takes some talking back and forth, and going to places to return the stamp and everything, but you can always contract someone to do this for you, at an affordable price. I was referred to Gia Cat, and they charged me $75 for the complete package. That involves closing the tax account at the tax department, returning the stamp at the local police, and filing for closure at the department of planning and investment. What you’d be given in the end is a paper that tells you have creased your whole business, which means ultimate soul rest. I found Gia Cat a real lifesave, their staff even visited my place (which is 30 minutes away from their office on bike) to collect my signature for some missing papers.

All in all, I’ve ceased my business doings in Viet Nam but I’m hopeful about coming back.