Many employers are being requested to offer undeclared portions of salaries by potential employees during job interviews, according to one of the main business lobbies.

The Chamber of Commerce argued that tax evasion concerns everyone, from businesses to individuals, politicians and even employees.

“It is a frequent complaint of employers who try to do everything above board. Other very common requests are for overtime or bonuses to go undeclared,” the chamber said.

It was responding to a pot-shot by Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield, who questioned on social media whether the chamber’s members declare all their income and assets.

Bedingfield’s snipe came about on the back of proposals by the business lobby to tighten up asset and income declarations by MPs, including naming-and-shaming those who fail to declare their assets.

The Labour MP did not appear to take kindly to the proposals, saying: “Members of Parliament declare there [sic] assets and income. What about Malta Chamber members, do they declare everything?”

Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield’s tweet in response to the business lobby’s proposal to tighten up asset and income declarations by MPs.Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield’s tweet in response to the business lobby’s proposal to tighten up asset and income declarations by MPs.

It also comes a day after Finance Minister Clyde Caruana revealed during a Times of Malta debate that just 35 to 40 per cent of businesses declared a profit in 2019, before declaring that there is an element of Malta being a nation of tax dodgers.

When contacted, a chamber spokesperson said the worst impacted by tax evasion are businesses that declare all their income.

“When these businesses are locally owned, they pay 35 per cent tax on profits, and the same employee costs them more every year. They then face unfair competition from other operators who under-declare, underpay and if foreign owned, pay a much lower effective tax rate after refunds,” the spokesperson said.

A pledge by the government to end the tax benefit granted to foreign-owned companies was shelved this month, with the finance minister saying Malta “will not jump the gun” given that the international appetite for a common tax rate has waned.

On its recent report to improve the transparency, accountability and ethics of MPs, the spokesperson said an MP needs to be transparent about his assets, to inspire confidence in his integrity. “The lack of appreciation between the role of an MP and legitimate expectations from persons in such high office, and that of any other citizen is a clear manifestation of how the role has been grossly devalued.”

The chamber warned that if the role of an MP is not elevated, politics will not attract the right kind of people, who value integrity and service to the country above everything else.

As a result, Malta would also continue seeing a dwindling number of voters, as more people will disengage from the democratic process, the chamber said.

In a subtle dig at Bedingfield, the chamber said people should also be wary of attempts to secure the “suboptimal status quo” in the way we do politics, by pointing fingers at other deficiencies in our society.

“The more this happens, the more it justifies that we take a stand.”

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