VAT penalties together with criminal proceedings are in violation of fundamental rights

June 3, 2017

JusticeB1A landmark judgment in the Constitutional Court ruled that Malta’s VAT legislation, which allows for heavy administrative fines for late VAT payments, together with court proceedings that see the accused receiving an effective prison term is in breach of fundamental rights. The central part of the judgment deals with the rule dictating that a person cannot be tried twice for the same offence. It also delves into the proportionality of administrative and punitive penalties.

Malta VAT legislation system allowing for administrative fines to be levelled against a person together with court proceedings has been found to breach the ne bis in idem rule. Contrary to what the Court of First Instance declared for the case in question, the Constitutional Court considered administrative penalties, for the purposes of the European Courts of Human Rights, to fall well within the definition of a criminal charge. Therefore, separate criminal proceedings, which could lead to jail time, effectively means that an individual is being tried twice for the same crime.