Updated 1.20pm, adds Malta Chamber of SMEs statement

The government is extending a series of measures for businesses struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Finance Minister Clyde Caruana saying the focus right now is on safeguarding the economy and not on collecting tax.

Addressing a virtual press conference, Caruana said the government wants to assure business owners that they would be offered support as they dealt with the impact of closures and slow business because of the pandemic. 

All non-essential shops, including restaurants, have been ordered to close for a month until April 11 as part of efforts to control the spread of COVID-19.

Among the measures being extended, Caruana announced that the tax deferrals scheme will once again be introduced and will be in place until the end of the year. 

"Payments will start being made from May 2022. This will help business owners focus on their business’ recovery and not worry about paying tax," Caruana said. 

He noted, however, that when the time came for payments, the government expected everyone to pay up the full amounts due. There will be no amnesties and the government will collect every cent, he said. 

The minister also called on business owners to ensure that all their paperwork is in order, saying they must submit all the necessary forms as they would normally have done had they paid the taxes. 

"Penalties will still apply if the paperwork is not in order, even though the payment is not expected," Caruana warned. 

Last year, a total of €230 million in taxes had been deferred, of which just under €100 million has been settled. 

A one-time concession will also be introduced for those who have pending tax balances. These business owners will be exempt from the Capital Gains Tax when selling property to settle the tax owed to the government. 

This measure expires in March 2022 and will, therefore, apply to those who enter into promise of sale agreements by then.

Other measures which will be extended include: 

  • The moratorium period under the COVID-19 Guarantee Scheme (CGS), which is being extended from 12 to 18 months;
  • The CGS will be extended until September 30;
  • The definition of 'working capital' will be widened to include the financial costs related to the servicing of bank loans of businesses.

Malta Chamber of SMEs welcomes measures

The measures were welcomed by the Malta Chamber of SMEs which said in a statement it was pleased that discussions with the government had yielded the desired outcome.

Businesses, it said, are in a more fragile state than they were last year with the pandemic stretching beyond what had been foreseen.

The measures, it said, will give added comfort to businesses in light of the uncertainty and lack of visibility ahead.

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