The Minister for Finance Prof. Edward Scicluna underlined that the Government will ensure that tax authorities fulfil their obligations towards taxpayers, as is required by taxpayers’ rights.
The Minister was delivering the opening address of a MIM International Taxation Conference on Taxpayers’ rights in a changing international landscape, which was held on Friday 6th March 2015.
“We have enough experience on the ground to know that there is a big difference between the ‘ought’ and the ‘is’,” the Minister said, referring to local tax authorities and their obligations towards taxpayers and their rights. “There exists a gap, and it is our job to reduce it.”
Press statement by the Ministry for Finance
Prof. Scicluna noted that among the measures taken to address this, the Commissioner for Revenue has been given broader powers, such as powers to remit interests and certain penalties.
“For this reason, we have set up an Interest Remissions Board which, rather than coming up with schemes and deadlines, ensures that all remissions granted ensure that all taxpayers enjoy a level-playing field,” he said. He noted that a report will be subsequently published by the board, and will provide a platform upon which more work can be done to further ensure that all taxpayers and citizens are treated fairly.
Prof. Scicluna also noted that the merger of tax authorities ongoing in the background will ensure that any taxpayer is investigated by the Inland Revenue once, and not by different officials for different tax offences.
“There should be only one investigation on all counts. The ongoing merger is a process that goes far beyond simply a new name and a rebranding, but a real merger which we will soon see working on the ground as it should,” the Minister said.
Speaking about taxpayers’ right to data confidentiality and privacy, Prof. Scicluna also emphasised that no information that is important for a taxpayer may be used in other purposes other than for taxing.
He noted that this right is especially relevant in view of the present focus on the Swiss Leaks issue.
“The Tax Authorities have formally, through a tax treaty, asked for information from the French tax authorities. Everybody is presuming that this will be splashed on the media with lists and openness and so on. That is forbidden by the Data Protection Act, as well as by the secrecy provision of Tax Legislation,” the Minister said.
“At best, permission could be sought from the source to transfer that data, to the FIAU if there is suspicion of money laundering,” he confirmed. “But that is a decision that remains to be seen in view of discussions that our tax authorities will be holding with the French tax authorities on this.”
The Minister underlined the importance of ensuring that taxpayer confidentiality is respected in accordance with fundamental taxpayer rights.
Friday 6th March 2015