Ever been out for a meal in Malta and upon payment, you’re given a small receipt that does not list the items you’ve just enjoyed?
You may very well have just unwittingly helped an establishment avoid paying tax.
“Have you ever seen Ozark? It’s the same thing. Instead of Ozark, it should have been set in Malta,” one individual well-versed in the local catering industry told Lovin Malta in reference to a popular show about money laundering.
“When you go to certain restaurants, it’s an entire racket, where you practically need to beg them to give you a proper receipt,” he said. “Most of them have two payment systems – via POS, which is typically the touchscreen – and by cash. If you pay by cash, no one can track it, but if you pay by card, you can delete as many of these payments as you want.”
He explained that if a customer wasn’t given a fiscal receipt, the business will find it much easier to hide the sales, potentially even deleting them from the system.
“If you don’t ask for a fiscal receipt, they can really play around as they want and keep the inland revenue tax in their hands.”
He emphasised the difference between a fiscal receipt, which is typically a longer, thicker receipt that visibly lists all the items you’ve purchased – though there can be exceptions that are in a different format – and a print cheque, which is typically a smaller, more basic receipt that does not list all your items.
“Why should a restaurant have a POS that is highly sophisticated, and then when you ask for the receipt they give you the small print cheque? One expects a fiscal receipt, not a print cheque.”
Worse off, this is a practice not only undertaken by restaurants, but also workers in other sectors, such as tradesmen like carpenters and the like.
“And if you try to report tax evasion to authorities, you are asked to send an email – but an email can’t be anonymous, and if you send an anonymous email they can also track your IP address,” he pointed out. “They make it impossible to report.”
“Then they hold press conferences on tax evasion – but they aren’t serious. If the inland revenue department wanted to do their work, they could, it’s very doable – but no one is doing it. And that’s why people are frustrated.”
Naming a number of popular restaurant chains that he believed were not paying VAT, he called on authorities to start to clamp down on these offenders.
“Otherwise, they’ll just be taking the unpaid VAT for themselves, and then claiming COVID-19 benefits as soon as a wave of the pandemic hits,” he ended.
Last week, Malta’s Finance Ministry revealed that up to €150 million have been lost due to VAT evasion – with some experts putting the figure even higher, at around €300 million.