This article investigates the extent to which public and private transfers affected poverty and inequality in Vietnam in the mid‐2000s. It finds that the impact of public transfers on poverty was negligible, due to the low coverage of the poor and the relatively small amounts transferred. Moreover, the effect of the receipt of transfers on expenditures was small: recipients decreased the labour supply and only a limited amount of the extra income went to current consumption. Domestic private transfers were somewhat more successful in reducing poverty. With most public and private transfers going to non‐poor households, inequality was only marginally affected.