Home News National Updated ‘Government increasing taxes halfway through the year’ Fenech

Edward Scicluna withdraws proposed amendment to increase excise duty on cigarettes, but increases tax on cement.

Miriam Dalli 9 April 2014, 8 35pm Print Version Last updated on 9 April 2014, 9 10pm Finance Minister Edward Scicluna It took a debate of over an hour for finance minister Edward Scicluna to decide that proposed amendments to the law should be withdrawn.

Parliament is currently at committee stage discussing amendments to the law to implement budgetary measures.

The first amendment to be proposed this evening was to increase the excise duty on cigarettes, a 5c increase that would have been absorbed by the distributors and not by the consumers, Scicluna argued.

When government increased excise duty, the increase “was meant to target high value cigarette packs” and not the low value ones. However, distributors took the increase as a blanket measure and all the prices of all packets of cigarettes increased.

“The distributors managed to find a loophole with the end result that monies meant for the government were pocketed by the distributors,” Scicluna said. “The proposed increase would have not been transferred to the consumer.”

Disagreeing with the proposed amendment, shadow minister Tonio Fenech said this was not the way to address a loophole and insisted that the increase in excise duty would eventually be transferred to the consumers again.

The committee was suspended as Tonio Fenech discussed the matter with Scicluna s consultants present in the Chamber.

Eventually, Scicluna addressed the committee to confirm that “the amendments will be withdrawn”.

“It appears that tax and legal experts believe a complication could arise and so I ve decided to leave it as it is,” Scicluna said.

At this stage, Fenech welcomed Scicluna s decision arguing that, if implemented, the government was proposing a 5c increase on cigarettes “It would have been a mistake and I welcome the government s decision to uphold the opposition s request.”

But Scicluna s quick rebuttal was “to deny” everything that Fenech had just said.

“There was no attempt to increase the price but simply to address a loophole the attempt was too late. I believe that this loophole has been taken advantage of at the detriment of the government,” he said, adding that the matter would be addressed in the next budget.

Fenech replied by saying that he could not agree with what Scicluna said “If you are raising the ceiling rate to 1.45, it means a 5c increase on every packet.”

As the finance minister insisted that the measure would have not affected the end prices of cigarettes, the former minister rebutted that it contradicted statements Scicluna made earlier Scicluna had said that the government could only announce a change in excise duty but it cannot dictate the market price.

The same issue repeated itself when increase in excise duty was proposed to on certain categories of cement.

Fenech said the proposed amendment would give rise to the same problems and the committee was once again suspended as Scicluna consulted the experts.

Increasing excise duty on cement

Resuming, Scicluna said the government was increasing the excise duty on cement which did not carry the name Portland but on cement that carried Pozzolan .

“Importers have found a loophole to evade tax and government cannot allow this. This government wants to fight tax evasion and that requires the introduction of this clause. We cannot remain dormant,” Scicluna said, adding that excise duty on all sorts of cement should be the same.

However, Fenech argued that the government was simply increasing taxes because importers of Pozzolan cement were doing so legitimately.

“You are treating efficient operators as if they were thieves if the importers were doing something wrong, Customs would have never accepted the cement s classification code. As a minister, you have all the right to increase taxes. But this only means that you are increasing taxes just four months after the budget.

“You are worse than us because we used to increase it from one budget to another while you are increasing it halfway.”

Fenech went on to accuse Scicluna of being “highly unprofessional for the way a tax increase was being introduced”.

The excise duty on cement is to increase from 17c per 1000kg to 27c per 1000kg.

Scicluna however took umbrage at Fenech s comments, insisting that he never called importers thieves. He said that, in due time, he would release proof showing that the PN administration had adopted such a system in the past.

“You are the first person to defend tax evasion. Because this clause defends the government s income, monies which ultimately fund social benefits,” Scicluna told Fenech.

Scicluna insisted that the importers had found “a loophole” to evade tax and the government would not tolerate it.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Miriam Dalli graduated in communications studies from the University of … More from Miriam Dalli Miriam on Twitter Miriam on Google National
Teachers’ warrants should not be awarded by minist… Health
Private hospitals key partners in health sec… Court & Police
LIVE Compilation of evidence against teacher con… Editorial
To stream or not to stream Business Comment
Surveys lighting a candle in the dark World
4,000 migrants reach Italy by boat in 48 hours Business Comment
Market Commentary Euro area inflation at its weak… National
1c and 2c coins here to stay National
Leo Brincat requests independent report on a… National
In the Press Enemalta manager suspended Public … World
Supreme leader approves talks to end Iran’s nuclea… World
India kick starts general elections Football
Atletico Madrid stun Barcelona to reach UEFA Champ… Football
Bayern come from behind to oust Manchester United Court & Police
Should the media report suicides? No, says Institu…

Quitting smoking is easy

All camel cigarette types, buy cheap cigarettes online fast s… on twitpic
“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world! I ve done it a thousand times.” Of course, this is an old joke that illustrates how difficult it is to ditch some bad habits smoking, drinking, gambling, and other vices.

The quote has been attributed to American author and humorist Mark Twain, although some would trace its beginnings to writers such as W. C. Fields, and Harris Dickson, even Anonymous. Well, its origin is not as important as the truth it tells about the struggle of any smoker who wants to kick the habit for good.

I have been a smoker for almost 33 years. I never counted the number of times I tried to quit, nor did I keep track of my reasons for trying. The author, who has been smoking for almost 33 years, can no longer remember the number of times he tried to quit the habit. Amanda Fernandez
The last time I tried with the help of the smoking cessation program at the Philippine General Hospital was on February 24, 2014, my quit date. I succeeded for two weeks. But I m still willing to set some other quit dates, convinced that complete success could only come once.

I have the most urgent of reasons to be throwing the habit away, more than anyone in my family and my non smoking circle of friends. I have this irksome cough every morning, which they don t have, and sometimes I feel shortness of breath that they have never experienced.

Some years back, two co workers approached me to say they can t stand the smell of cigarette smoke all around my body as I enter the newsroom every morning. One of them requested to be transferred far from where I was seated. The request was granted, and my smoking continued.

As for the other consequences, well, I have been caught twice and fined for smoking and littering. Also, most of my tardiness at work is due to smoking. I linger outside the office as I puff the minutes away.

Perhaps, more than anyone else, we smokers are aware of the ill effects of smoking bad breath, dirty teeth, gum infection, smoker s cough, lung cancer, and a host of diseases caused by tar, nicotine, and dozens of harmful chemicals found in every stick of cigarette.

I am aware that 20 minutes after quitting, my heart rate and blood pressure would drop. I was told that 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in my blood drops to normal and that two weeks to three months after quitting, circulation improves and my lung function increases.

Moreover, I learned that one to nine months after quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decrease cilia (tiny hair like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) start to regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.

We can easily find online a long list of health benefits over time, from the moment a smoker quits the habit to several years on.

I am convinced that I must stop smoking, but I just can t. In my case, it goes beyond logic, and I know addiction is always illogical. I have been through therapy sessions and counseling that led me to quit for a while, but still, I go back to smoking.

Thousands of smokers, however, have succeeded in kicking the habit through sheer willpower. Armed only with a strong resolve, they decided to quit just like that. I envy them.

I guess people like me deserve a harsher environment. Smoking should be made difficult for us.

In one of my sessions at the PGH, the doctor told me “Make the act of smoking difficult, it might work for you.” For instance, he said, “if you are right handed, use your left hand when you smoke.” Also, he said buying a brand I dislike might also help.

None of these techniques worked. Once, I even tried puncturing my cigarettes with a needle. The smoking experience becomes nastier as the number of holes in the butt increases. But this did not work either.

Stricter laws against smoking might work for me. If government would make it a little less than a crime, so much the better.

In the 80s, we could smoke while on a jeepney. No one would complain. Now we can t do that anymore without getting ostracized. When the smoking ban on PUVs became widespread, it translated into four less sticks of cigarettes a day for me.

Maybe the government must strictly implement the sin tax law. Honestly, during the law&#39 s first year, I felt that it was working. I might succeed in quitting if a stick of cigarette already costs P10.

But I feel I must stop smoking for good soonest, before it will have the chance to stop me. I know for sure it will stop me without a warning.

After all, I would still love to see my little kids graduate from college with their papa on stage with them. KG, GMA News