07 Aug 2023

The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life has stated that it would be a breach of ethics if a member of parliament failed to declare his or her income for tax purposes.

The Standards Commissioner came to this conclusion after considering three complaints against former MP Dr Jason Azzopardi for not submitting his tax returns for 2018 and 2019 on time. The complaints were made in March 2021, when Dr Azzopardi was still a member of Parliament.

Dr Azzopardi admitted to the Commissioner that he had not submitted his tax returns, but he stated that this was due to his personal and professional circumstances. He also stated that he had regularised his affairs with the Inland Revenue Department and paid the arrears and penalties that were due. He stated that it had never been his intention to avoid paying tax.

This case was originally considered by Commissioner George Hyzler, who concluded that the case represented a breach of ethics but Dr Azzopardi’s personal circumstances were an extenuating factor. Commissioner Hyzler therefore proposed that Dr Azzopardi’s statement should be taken as an apology and the case should be closed under article 22(5) of the Standards in Public Life Act. This article empowers the Commissioner to close a case himself if the breach of ethics is not serious and it can be remedied to his satisfaction.

Nevertheless the Commissioner was unable to conclude his report on the case by 30 September 2022, when he resigned to take up his new appointment as member of the European Court of Auditors.

On 8 March 2023 Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Azzopardi was appointed Commissioner for Standards. After reviewing the case he agreed with his predecessor’s conclusions, and he closed the case on this basis.

The Commissioner’s report on this case can be downloaded from here.