Parliament on Thursday passed a law empowering the permanent secretary of the finance ministry to act as, and assume the duties of, the Tax Commissioner in the event that position, or the position of the deputy Tax Commissioner, remains vacant.
The law was passed to ensure continuity of leadership at the Tax Department, following a supreme court ruling earlier this month that declared null and void the appointment of Tax Commissioner Yiannis Tsangaris.
In its judgment, the top court upheld a prior ruling by the administrative court delivered in March 2020.
The administrative court had voided the appointment of Tsangaris as Tax Commissioner, finding it in violation of the constitution.
Tsangaris was appointed to the position via a decision taken by the cabinet on March 30, 2016.
But this was subsequently challenged based on the grounds that the cabinet had no authority to do so.
The administrative court agreed with the legal challenge, finding that the appointment of a tax commissioner – or anyone serving in the tax department – is the prerogative of the Public Service Commission, as stated in the constitution.
The state had tried to counter – unsuccessfully – that the appointment was an act of government, rather than an enforceable administrative act, and that therefore the administrative court had no jurisdiction over the matter.
Next the state appealed the administrative court’s decision at the supreme court, which has upheld the prior ruling.
The supreme court decision means only that Tsangaris must go, but also that any of the dozens of acts or decisions he took during his stint as tax commissioner could – theoretically – be legally challenged as void as well.
But as head of the bar association Christos Clerides told the Cyprus Mail at the time, one shouldn’t assume that any administrative acts or decisions taken by Tsangaris are likewise deemed invalid a priori.
Under the constitution, only the supreme court has the authority to annul any administrative act.