Tax-free state

For years now, we have set out new fiscal policies, not based on the wisdom of what is best for the country but what will sustain one’s appeal at the polls

Finance Minister Clyde Caruana
Finance Minister Clyde Caruana

Most people prefer not to count money, especially if it’s not theirs. And a case in point is the issue of how the State collects its money from our taxes.

There is the attitude that as long as no one touches one’s savings and one’s money, the government can spend all the money in the world and dish out cheques to whoever it deems fit.

How education, health, public administration and infrastructure, and environmental upkeep is financially supported is of no concern to any of us.

This fuck you jack attitude is not limited to the Maltese, but sits perfectly with how we consider the affairs of the State.

The other day a cheque arrived in the post, part of a tax refund. Two months ago, it was vouchers to help us in the COVID pandemic.

They are all very nice but with a colossal deficit do we really need to dish out more public money to everyone? And what about means testing?

Why should people who are well off and not negatively impacted by the COVID pandemic be given credit and cash from the State? What is this all about?

Only this week, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana announced that there would be no new taxes in the forthcoming budget.

This is good news for most of us but is it the real solution?

To some, the ability to collect taxes and VAT is an achievable deliverable but the flip story to all this is that many entities, which generate high income are simply off the radar. 

Loopholes in the construction industry still allow many to avoid the taxman. Other professionals are granted special concessions not to issue fiscal receipts, allowing them to under declare their real income.

And this does not include the usual trades that fly under the radar, raking in thousands in undeclared cash.

Caruana has said the government will fight tax evasion. But we have heard this before and seen very little of it.

And weeks or months before an election, it is highly unlikely that anyone will rock the boat.

On the other hand, we now see people being prosecuted on money laundering charges even when it is unclear what the crime committed is. Clearly, the enthusiasm to charge them is very much linked to Malta’s FATF greylisting.  The higher the profile of the person is, the more likely the prosecution.

On the other side of the fence, the Opposition is trying to pre-empt the government’s budget by proposing new measures that will reduce the pressure of the tax burden.

Opposition leader Bernard Grech proposed doubling the current VAT-exempt threshold from €30,000 to €60,000.

VAT exempt individuals traditionally under declare and lie through their teeth when it comes to their real income.

At a time when we should be encouraging a civic duty to pay our dues, our political class is unable to understand the importance of collecting tax revenues to sustain the functioning of government.

Their target is solely the voter, of course.

For years now, we have set out new fiscal policies, not based on the wisdom of what is best for the country but what will sustain one’s appeal at the polls.

The Maltese are in general egotists. 

They can spend hours preaching about the need to protect the environment but fail to see that the house they live in and the flats they build are contributing to Malta’s environmental greylisting.

They could recount long stories about the high moral code one should follow or the need to bring down the bastards and not see that they themselves have replicated many of the mistakes committed by these so called ‘bastards’.

And they can pour envy on all those who have flashy cars and fast boats but have no issue with owning the same themselves.

This is why I believe in the authenticity of the ‘normal’ people who protest spontaneously against a proposed yacht marina in Marsaskala.

These are individuals who have little more than a few open spaces out of their homes. They are families who have seen the countryside retreat into the few valleys that border the sea cliffs. They are individuals who have nowhere to walk to and who are barred from visiting so many spots along the coast. They are ordinary folk who feel trapped in a maze of cement and stone.

Not only have we declared that paying taxes is an activity for the retarded but devised a very clever distinction between tax avoidance and tax planning when talking of foreign companies domiciled in Malta.

Between you and me, the difference is purely cosmetic, for the end product is exactly what we say it is not – a clear and irrefutable case of tax avoidance, which in today’s world is a punishable offence.