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A joint message from professionals regarding the impact of COVID-19

7 Apr 2020 07:58 | Anonymous

The Malta Institute of Accountants, together with the other professional bodies met (virtually) over the past few weeks to discuss how the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their professional activities and those of the significant number of persons working within those professional practices.
As professional bodies we believe that our professions form an integral part of the community we live and practice in, and that we have a duty to contribute our experience and expertise towards a balanced solution to the economic issues being faced by the country as a whole.
On Wednesday 1 April representatives of each of the professional bodies met with Minister Silvio Schembri and discussed with the Minister our proposals for (i) a National Strategy for economic measures to be considered by Government in addressing the severe economic and social difficulties that have been brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak; and (ii) a specific set of measures aimed at assisting our professions within the context of the national strategy proposed.
Following surveys run by each of the professional bodies it is evident that whilst the full extent of the impact going forward is yet unknown, the immediate impact has been severe and the outlook bleak.  If this situation were to be prolonged, it will place self-employed professionals under significant pressure to meet their payment obligations and will place firms under severe pressure with underutilized human resources to meet their significant salary bills.
In our proposals to Government, we acknowledged that there are economic sectors in the country that can be considered as “higher impact” and that any economic measures of state intervention are to prioritise those sectors; indeed we concurred with the strategy of Government to do so, however, cautioned that the professions are not immune to this environment.
The six specific measures proposed to Government can be found in the following presentation:
WE ARE NOT IMMUNE_Presentation by professional bodies.pdf
Minister Schembri was receptive to the proposals and indeed he expressed an agreement in principle with the proposals made. The issue of debate is really, how and when would be the right time to implement them given that Government had to prioritise other sectors with urgency since the difficulties in those were more pronounced.
The Minister also stated that in any event these measures cannot be adopted across the board within professions, and that even within the same profession one would have to make the case that assistance was necessary. Any scheme that will be in place would need to have sufficient flexibility to enable it to be applied on a case by case basis, taking into account, within each profession who required the assistance most. Not all professional accountants are in the same boat, and some would require assistance more than others, or indeed before others.  In this context he reiterated his agreement in principle with the proposals and directed the professions to make further representations with the Ministers responsible for their respective professions.
Malta Institute of Accountants
As an Institute we shall be pursuing the implementation of these measures by making further representations with the Minister for Finance and Financial Services of the importance of the introduction of these measures to give assurance to our profession that assistance will be available at the right time.
The activity of certain professional accountants is not dissimilar to other sectors where work has reduced drastically or has come to a complete standstill.  Accordingly, those accountants whose livelihood has suffered a significant or almost complete drop in income or revenue have an arguable case to make, even now, and without having to wait for any particular scheme or measure to be announced, to qualify for certain assistance packages that have already been announced.   Each accountant falling is this category should, therefore, make his/her case to Malta Enterprise and apply for relief. We understand that where a reasonable case can be made Malta Enterprise is giving such cases due consideration.  Evidently, each case will be evaluated on its own merits and the relief granted will be a function of proportionality to the difficulties faced by the professional concerned.
The Institute also refers its members to the CFR’s notification in relation to COVID-19: Fiscal Assistance - Postponement of Payment of Certain Taxes taking into account the latest feedback received in respect of the possibility of the extension of the postponement of taxes to those professional accountants who can genuinely demonstrate that they are experiencing difficulty in effecting payments.  The Institute also emphasizes the fact that the Malta Development Bank has just launched the COVID-19 Guarantee Scheme (CGS).  We also understand that the legislative tool in respect of moratorium on credit facilities is being implemented.
Those who apply for relief and assistance are urged to inform the Institute that they have done so that such cases may be followed up by the Institute.


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