As the end of 2005 drew near, October 13, 2005, would for ever be a gold letter day for the Malta Institute of Taxation. Since its inception in 1995, it was always the dream of the founding members that one day the institute would be able to organise its own educational courses leading to a recognised qualification.

This year that dream became a reality, when the institute president, Edwin Vella, inaugurated the first lecture of the first course.

The simple tax model that introduced income tax to Malta in 1948, through the introduction of the Income Tax Act, has since become a labyrinth of legislation that requires specialist handling.

The internationalisation of Malta's commerce has added a further dimension to an already complex statute and this was further increased through Malta's accession to the European Union. New legislation, such as the Value Added Tax Act, has again further increased the burden on tax practitioners.

The need for an educational course aimed at a higher qualification in taxation has therefore been long felt by both tax practitioners, lawyers and accountants. The initial business plan, presented before the Council of the Institute by council treasurer George Farrugia, provided for a class of a 20 students each year.

There was doubt whether the course would manage to attract such a number of students. However, within hours of the course being announced in the local papers, the council secretary was inundated with applications and, by the closure of the application date, 250 applications were received.

The council was elated that its faith in such a course was vindicated, but at the same time it was faced with the difficult task of determining how many and who of the applicants it could accommodate. The council debated whether it could accommodate all applicants, but at the end it was agreed that logistics would make this very difficult.

It did not want to convert what was initially planned to be a high level technical experience to another series of crowded seminars. As a result, many of the applicants had to be disappointed, including some of the institute's own membership. Hopefully, many of these would be accommodated in future courses.

When asked what made the course such a hit with tax practitioners, Mr Farrugia, stated that the council has a chequered history in organising learning fora, such as workshops and seminars that are usually attended by hundreds. "In some cases, we also had to repeat a seminar, since not even the large halls we use could accommodate safely all the applicants.

"The level of speakers and the subjects tackled are always appreciated by the attendees most of whom are practitioners in the field of taxation."

The council has already announced plans that such a course will become an annual event and that an even higher level course would be introduced in the future.

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