The VND3.11 billion (US$149,000) collected thus far in VAT refunds remains modest, according to the daily Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

Also, most foreign tourists are unaware of the new VAT refund policy.

A group of six foreign tourists staying at five-star hotels in the HCM City told the newspaper that they knew nothing about the policy.

The VAT refund programme was launched in July by the General Department of Customs, with counters set up in HCM City's Tan Son Nhat and Ha Noi's Noi Bai airports.

Foreign tourists who buy goods in tourism areas and shops in major cities will receive a 10 percent refund of the tax they paid.

"We tourists need a list of shops that allow VAT refunds," said visitor John Chrys Urband of the Philippines.

An Australian tourist said he had bought souvenirs that cost up to $100, but the shop owners did not inform him of the VAT-refund policy.

Tran Ngoc Tam, deputy director of HCM City's Taxation Agency, said the number of shops joining the VAT-refund programme was still very small.

Currently, only 100 shops, all in District 1, have registered to join the programme. The city's Culture, Sports and Tourism Department plans to work with the taxation agency to ask more shops to join the programme.

Complicated procedures involved in tax declarations have also limited the number of shops that want to join the programme.

Surveys from the Viet Nam Administration of Tourism show that foreign visitors in Viet Nam stay for an average of nine days and spend about $72 a day.

Viet Nam welcomed about 5.35 million international visitors in the first 10 months of this year, up 11.2 per cent over the same period last year, according to the General Statistics Office.

Vietnam News - November 22, 2012