Fabian Demicoli

Penalties eased for VAT defaulters

 Finance Minister Edward Scicluna has announced five measures
which will make it easier for those who are in default of VAT payments to
regularize their position. In the past, individuals or companies that were in
default found themselves caught in a system which quickly became unsustainable,
as interest accumulated and made it harder and harder for them to get back on
track.

The  measures
are aimed at encouraging those in the black economy to register for VAT by
making the system more "humane" for those who lapse, while still remaining firm
with those who repeatedly or stubbornly defaulted.

The main measure announced is that the interest rate
of tax due will go down from 9 per cent per year to between 6 per cent and 6.5
per cent. This will be introduced 
through an enabling law expected to be reviewed at regular intervals and
changed by means of legal notice, rather than through new legislation.

In order to reduce the accumulation of interest and
fines, any payment made by individuals or companies in default will be apportioned
towards  the tax due and only after that
has been settled will subsequent payments be made towards the fines and
interest, reversing the current system. 
The deadline for those eligible for amnesty were announced in the 2012
Budget.

Administrative fines on those who register late for
VAT would be also capped, reflecting the merger under way of the Government's
three revenue collecting departments (Inland Revenue, Customs and VAT) to form
the Department of Revenue headed by the Commissioner of Revenue Marvin Gaerty.

The merger will also mean that any companies being
investigated would only be put under scrutiny once- and not as is currently the
case when each department might have carried out its own investigation.

The Government will also be removing the €15-a-day
fine on payments imposed by court-which accumulated rapidly and often ended up
putting the defendant in jail for not having paid.

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