“Tonio Fenech’s obstruction to amendments intended to close tax loopholes are tantamount to condoning tax evasion,” said the Minister for Finance Prof. Edward Scicluna in reference to the position adopted by the Opposition during the committee stage of the parliamentary debate on the Budget Measures Implementation Bill.
During the debate, Prof. Scicluna presented amendments intended to address legislative loopholes which are enabling tax avoidance. Despite the importance of these amendments to Government revenue, the Opposition chose to obstruct them, acting irresponsibly and carelessly with respect to tax avoidance, profiteering, unequal taxation, and the weakening of the Malta’s revenue.
One of the amendments obstructed by the Opposition addresses cigarettes duty. These are intended to address a situation which arose after the Budget 2014, when prices on certain cheaper cigarettes increased beyond the change in excise tax that was announced in the 2014 Budget. However, the difference collected was kept as profit, and not fully passed onto Government as tax due.
Despite how the amendment was strongly advised by Customs officials, the Minister decided to withdraw the amendment due to its overly complex legality. The Ministry will address the matter through other channels, in the interest of ensuring a competitive market and to avoid profiteering.
The Opposition also attempted to obstruct an amendment that addresses a legal loophole affecting excise on cement. The law, introduced by the previous administration, states that tax is applicable only to a particular type of cement (the Black Portland). This led to a situation where other types of cement were being imported into the market without tax being levied or paid.
In opposing both of these amendments, the Opposition is not only defending tax avoidance, but is promoting tax evasion by not allowing a now known legal loophole introduced during its own administration to be corrected in favour of a more robust clause, aimed at addressing tax evasion and providing a more equitable tax scenario.
Such attempts to sensationalise and gain political mileage from the Government’s efforts to strengthen revenue and safeguard consumer rights only underline the Opposition’s immaturity.
The Government hopes that common sense will prevail at the next committee meeting and that the Opposition will take the sensible approach and not vote against the proposed amendments.
– Saturday, 12th April, 2014