The tax authorities have formally asked for information from the French tax authorities on Swiss leaks but this did not mean that this information would be splashed on the media, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said today.

"That is forbidden by the Data Protection Act, as well as by the secrecy provision of tax legislation,” the minister said.

Delivering the opening address of a MIM International Taxation Conference on Taxpayers’ rights in a changing international landscape, the minister emphasised that no information that was important for a taxpayer might be used in other purposes other than for taxing.

“At best, permission could be sought from the source to transfer that data, to the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit if there is suspicion of money laundering. 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.”

Prof. Scicluna said the government would ensure that tax authorities fulfilled their obligations towards taxpayers, as was required by taxpayers’ rights.

“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.”

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 would be subsequently published by the board, and would provide a platform upon which more work could be done to further ensure that all taxpayers and citizens were treated fairly.

Prof. Scicluna noted that the merger of tax authorities ongoing in the background would ensure that any taxpayer was 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.


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