The ‘centre of the world’ mentality has recently shown up in the arguments about tax evasion by large companies. These play one country against the other by moving their head office – consisting of a lawyer’s office, and maybe a secretary or two – to countries in which they pay hardly any taxes. Luxembourg and Ireland have been shown to give preferential treatment to some companies – Apple, Ikea, Google amongst others. The recent EU Commission ruling that Apple must pay Ireland billions in tax, shows the extent of such tax dodging systems. The race to the bottom can become very dangerous. Workers and employees are asked to contribute through taxation to the state. They are told that public healthcare expenses are becoming unsustainable, and that decent pensions are at risk. At the same time megacorporations get to pay next to nothing back to society.
Malta is involved – with the blessing of both PL and PN – in legal tax evasion practices as well. Of course there is the argument that since it is legal, since other countries do it, then we should make hay while the sun shines. Sure. But then we cannot complain and moan and groan when other countries decide to take unilateral punitive measures against companies who they consider are not paying their fair share of taxes to sustain public services. Finance Minister Edward Scicluna should be preparing plans to diversify the product offerings of the financial services industry and for a compromise on EU-wide minimum corporate taxation levels. Yes, Malta is sovereign when it comes to tax matters, but other countries are sovereign too. There is no stopping them from taking action to recoup what they deem theirs. This issue will not go away.