Extension of deadlines
To-date, all taxpayers impacted by Covid-19 are being requested to apply for a deferment of tax payments. However, Returns are still to be filed by the normal deadlines.
Companies and self-employed persons that suffer a significant downturn in their turnover as a result of the economic constraints arising from the coronavirus pandemic and, as a result, face substantial cash flow difficulties, may benefit from these measures. Companies and self-employed persons which have failed to comply with their tax obligations (submission of documents / returns and payments) falling due by the 31st December 2019 are excluded.
Deferral of payments
Taxpayers who apply for deferment of taxes, and such deferment is approved, can postpone payments as directed. Provisional tax, Employee taxes, maternity fund payments and social security contributions, social security contributions of self-employed persons and Value Added Tax which fall due in March and April 2020 are being deferred. Eligible taxes (excluding Vat) to be settled in four equal monthly instalments in the four month period between May and August 2020. VAT dues to be settled in two equal instalments with the two quarterly returns immediately following the quarter whose dues would have been deferred.
Remitting penalties and interest
No interest or penalties will be charged in respect of eligible taxes described in above sections that are deferred. Those taxpayers whose deferment is approved, will be required to file by the revised due dates. No penalties will be charged where revised due dates are adhered to.
Debt payment plans and suspending debt recovery
Eligible taxes (excluding VAT) to be settled in four equal monthly instalments in the four month period between May and August 2020. VAT dues to be settled in two equal instalments with the two quarterly returns immediately following the quarter where dues would have been deferred. No new enforcement cases will be initiated. However, ongoing cases are not be suspended for the time being.
There are plans to issue refunds before the respective due date.
Audit policies and tax certainty
All measures are being coordinated by a central Government entity that is publishing information on all schemes available (even on those not relating directly to tax). Such information is being published on its website. The audit process has not been suspended. The taxation team are working with tax practitioners and taxpayers remotely. Our officials have the necessary tools so as to carry out the necessary verifications.
Enhanced services and communication initiatives
Measures have been put into place to continue to provide services remotely. Taxpayers are being encouraged to use more online services such as video calls with our officials. All communication strategies have been centralised to one Government entity (Malta Enterprise). A dedicated webpage titled "Supporting Businesses Impacted by COVID-19" has been put up on the Malta Enterprise website. Malta Enterprise is Malta’s economic development agency and is independent from the Tax Administration.
Business Continuity Measures
The Government of Malta embarked on a contingency plan even before the first cases were reported. One of the exercises performed vis-à-vis decision making and delegation issues identify the Primary and Substitute Officers’ contact details for every section in all Finance Departments.
Planning took into consideration various factors including high infection rates amongst employees, lockdowns, IT interruptions, electricity interruption, etc. For instance, remote working has been highly encouraged throughout all sections, where viable, so as to protect employees from being infected in the workplace. This measure serves also in case of lockdowns so that most of the essential tasks are being carried out remotely. With regards to IT, Malta has the MITA which is highly supportive in case of interruptions. Electric generators were installed in buildings housing the IT equipment and servers to ensure continuity of function.
Identification of critical and non-critical activities
A legal notice has been drafted to postpone any payments and interest on refunds in the event of a lockdown. Financial support was also announced to support all those in need.
Understanding critical vulnerabilities
A contingency plan has been drafted and presented to the Ministry for Finance to ensure continuity which identifies core staff and functions in different case scenarios.
Staff and taxpayer safety
Online services have been on the forefront of the Maltese government agenda prior to COVID-19. During COVID-19, the services which once were an option for taxpayers are now becoming mandatory to proceed with online service. Also, protective measures have been taken to protect staff in terms of the wearing of protective masks, gloves and frequent sanitization of the workstations.
Every Directorate within MFIN embarked on an exercise to identify what can be done and what cannot be done remotely. Most of the services may easily be done remotely, others are being partly managed from the office. Staff report at the office on an alternate basis so as to minimise the number of staff at the office at one time as much as possible. Where functions cannot be performed remotely (e.g. IT functions) social distancing is emphasised at all times.
Contact details of staff are regularly updated within our records for sickness purposes, so if need be, the Commissioner for Revenue has the right of access to that data.
Rather than mapping, one of the obligations for remote working is that every officer had to obtain clearance/approval from their Director and to activate the call forwarding function from their office telephone to their mobile/home telephone so that anyone can reach that officer accordingly. Also, emphasis was made to the usage of Microsoft Teams as a means of communication between the management and their employees so as to keep in contact, encourage and monitor employees.
Training and redeployment
Quite a good number of staff served within the Ministry of Finance and throughout several sections for a decade or more. This might not seem so dynamic in the World we were living in a month or two ago, however, it came in favour of the Ministry for Finance since most of the staff are now multi-tasking and may be transferred from one section to another easily. Going forward it is in our plans to encourage webinars and video conferencing to enhance our workforce skills.
Recruitment and Retention
Fortunately, the Ministry for Finance kept most of the best expert retired staff in place or within reach, so support in this sense is also available, if needed.
Protective clothing and PPEs were ordered in case critical area staff need to access the workplace during lockdown. All protective and health measures were also taken in particular at the Tax Payer Services Centre (TPS), while it remained open to the public. This Unit (TPS) has now closed its doors and all services to the public are being offered online.
In case you have any document of information which you find worth to share regarding the actions, measures or concrete experiences in countering the crisis, please do not hesitate to upload it to the subpage focusing on Covid-19 Crisis Support on IOTA website in order to share it with other members.