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Common Reporting Standard – Italy

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: common reporting standards, Italy, Tax
This article is published on: 2nd May 2018

02.05.18

You will be aware that since January 2016 the Common Reporting Standard has now been in effect. This is an OECD agreed standard for most nations around the world to automatically report tax and financial information of individuals, to one another, on a regular basis. This circumvents the historical need for the individual to accurately report their financial information on a tax return to ensure that the relevant level of tax revenue is collected. Now, this information is reported directly to the tax authorities and the information declared in your tax return needs to ‘tally’ with that which the authorities, theoretically, already know.

So, were you one of the 30,000 at the start of 2018? I was !
You may wonder what this relates to? In January 2018 it is reported that the Agenzia delle Entrate sent out up to 30,000 letters to people whom they knew had money held overseas, to ask them to report accurately the money they held outside Italy and to ensure a ‘ dichiarazione integrativa’ was completed before the next tax filing date in order to correct any discrepancies. I was the lucky recipient of one of those letters.

In regola
Thankfully my overseas financial affairs have always been ‘in regola’ with the Italian authorities. However, the letter prompted me to take a closer look to ensure I had not missed anything. Indeed, it turned out that I had missed a grand total of £500 from my last Italian tax return.

However, this does beg the question whether the Agenzia delle Entrate knew about this or whether it just sent a generic letter ( all the letters were the same and generic in nature) to put the cat amongst the pigeons, to coin a phrase. I am of the mind that it is the latter, but am I willing to take the risk? Absolutely not.

Are you paying more than you need to be?
My experience over the years has been, that in most cases, you may be paying more than you need to. There are a number of financial planning opportunities, to protect, reduce, and avoid certain taxes in Italy, that few take advantage of unless you undertake a closer look at your full financial affairs whilst living in Italy.

If you have any questions about the content in this E-zine or others then you can contact me on gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com or on cell: +39 333 649 2356

IF IN DOUBT, DECLARE THE ACCOUNT

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Automatic Exchange of Information, common reporting standards, Italy
This article is published on: 22nd January 2018

22.01.18

The start of the year presents many challenges for me. The start of 2018 presents an interesting challenge that I am not used to. My quandary reminds me of my days at the school swimming pool. The water was always cold. The question was do I jump in and get it over with in one go or do I ease myself into the water gently and take it slower?

The question for me regarding my articles is always what can I write? However, the start of 2018 seems to be an exceptional year in that I have lots of ideas but the biggest question in my mind is how do I ease ‘you’ into these topics?

Well, I can tell you that in my schooldays I was always the jumper. I enjoyed (maybe the use of the word ‘enjoyed’ is a little strong but it was better than the other option for me) throwing myself in and then warming up through vigorous exercise. So it looks as though you are following me in as you read on……

LET’S TALK ABOUT BANK ACCOUNTS
I know that in 2017 you may have received a request from your non Italian bank asking you to provide a T.I.N. for International sharing of tax information purposes. The TIN being the Tax Identification Number or codice fiscale for Italian tax residents. This has caused a lot of concern as bank accounts abroad have often been left undeclared by Italian tax residents for a variety of reasons.

One of the reasons I often hear is that the balance is so low that a declaration is not required in Italy. This could be correct but in this E-zine I want to clarify this law to ensure that you don’t fall under the spotlight with the Italian tax authorities.

So what exactly is the law in Italy regarding the minimal balance which requires a foreign held bank account to be declared?
The law articolo 2, comma 4-bis, del D.L. n. 4/2014, convertito in Legge n. 50/2014, modificato dalla Legge n. 186/2014 states that there is a requirement to monitor foreign held accounts whose maximum total balance in the tax period exceeds €15000. (remember you need to convert to euro if your bank account is in another currency)

This means that if you have a foreign held account that in a calendar year has never exceeded €15000, you are NOT required to comply with the discipline of monitoring. If it has. then the Quadro RW should be completed.

IT’S NOT THAT SIMPLE
However, this is where the confusion begins because this implies that if the balance of the account does not exceed €15000 in the calendar year then no declaration is required. However, the obligation to complete the Quadro RW (declaration of foreign held assets) exists in relation to the average value of deposits into the same bank account, consequently bringing in a new measure of a minimum of €5000 in annual deposits.

e.g. if I were receiving a pension income of £1000 a month into my UK bank account and had outgoings of £900 pm, the balance of my account would never exceed the €15000 in any year, but it would exceed the annual deposit of €5000. (my income payments would be £12000 in the year). Those income payments could be subject to income tax. A declaration of the account should be made.

A CLEAR DISTINCTION EXISTS BETWEEN THE MINIMUM ANNUAL BALANCE OF €15000 AND THE ANNUAL DEPOSITS OF €5000
e.g. I have a dormant account in the UK and the balance is £3000. The account does not receive deposits but earns interest. I must declare the interest in Italy, but the balance of the account has never exceeded €15000 and the deposits do not exceed €5000. Do I still have to declare the account? Well, actually you do! Your commercialista should note it for monitoring purposes but it would not be taxed. However, there is still a requirement to monitor it on the Quadro RW.

CLEAR AS MUD?
My motto is, and has always been:

IF IN DOUBT DECLARE THE ACCOUNT
The best way to look at this is to consider the consequences of declaring versus the sanctions for not doing so.

THE COST OF DECLARATION
If you declare the account the fixed tax on the account is €34.20pa (not including any tax on income payments, interest, or VAT liable payments).

THE SANCTIONS FOR NON DECLARATION
If you don’t declare the account and you are discovered then the sanctions could range from 3-15% of the account balance if it is not a black list country.

If the country is black listed then the sanction is doubled. (6-30%)

IS IT WORTH THE RISK?
For the sake of €34.20 per annum it is probably worth declaring the account.

I would add that I have recently seen 5 letters from the Agenzia delle Entrate sent to different people living in Italy stating that under the Common Reporting Standard International share of tax information agreement, that the agenzia is aware that these people have assets and income payments from foreign financial institutions and that they are investigating why these have not been declared on the individuals tax return.

So, finally, we are left without a doubt that this financial and tax information is now being shared, as if we were ever in doubt.

I fully expect that in the coming months and years that the systems that tax authorities have in place to analyse the financial information they are now receiving will become increasingly more sophisticated and it will eventually be an automatic process should any information that we have declared on our tax returns NOT match with that which they receive from foreign financial institutions. Certainly I don’t foresee a return to the old days when the responsibility was only ours. That same responsibility has now been taken away from us and the automatic share of financial and tax information will only get more sophisticated moving forward.

On that thought, I will leave you will my simple message.

If you haven’t started any financial planning as an Italian tax resident, then start now. You might end up paying more than you need to!

Will Brexit affect your plans to move to France?

By Derek Winsland - Topics: Automatic Exchange of Information, BREXIT, common reporting standards, France, Residency
This article is published on: 4th October 2017

04.10.17

The performance of the UK government’s Brexit negotiators, Theresa May included, is giving rise to concerns amongst UK businesses, EU nationals living in UK and, of course, us living and working in the EU. Sterling continues to react daily to the actions and reactions on both sides of the negotiating table, and the general uncertainty that this causes conveys itself to people’s decision-making.

Over the last 15 months or so, I have been approached by a number of prospective new clients, most of whom are asking the same questions: “How will Brexit affect our plans to move to France” and “How will Brexit impact our desire to remain in France”. The honest answer to this (at the time of writing), is no-one yet knows and until something concrete comes out of the negotiations, this will remain the situation. My own belief is that some compromise will be cobbled together to allow some continued freedom of movement in exchange for access to the single market.

What we do know is that if you have aspirations to live in France, you will become resident for tax here and there is nothing more certain than taxes (apart from death of course). As a French tax resident, there are a number of different taxes you will become subject to. This is no different to the position in UK, indeed comparisons undertaken on behalf of a number of prospective ‘movers’ to France has shown only minor differences in tax payable for those people. The proviso used though was that those people put their financial house in order before moving to, and becoming resident in, France.

My Limoux colleague, Sue Regan in her last article, pointed out the pitfalls in assuming UK-based investments would serve the same purpose in France, and that the tax treatment of those investments in UK would transfer across the Channel to France. This is not the case, in fact holding and maintaining UK investments can and do result in nasty tax shocks for those ex-pats who wrongly believe investments like ISAs would be tax exempt in France.

Also, with the introduction of Common Reporting Standards, financial information is being shared across borders, so considering oneself to be hidden from the tax-man in France, whilst holding bank accounts and investments in UK, is delusory. If you have recently received a letter from your UK bank asking you to confirm your address, this is Common Reporting Standards in action; your bank will pass the information on to HMRC who in turn will share it with their French counterparts.

It is better to acknowledge that the ways of the past will not continue to hold true and that work needs to be done if you want to live in France and this includes re-structuring assets to make them French tax-efficient. The simplest way to approach this is to invite an independent financial adviser to carry out a financial review of your circumstances. He or she will put together a report of recommendations, to ensure your move to France will not result in tax shocks further down the line. All you have to do then, of course, is act on the recommendations.

If you feel you could be affected by this, or have personal or financial circumstances that you feel may benefit from a financial planning review, please contact me direct on the number below. You can also contact me by email at derek.winsland@spectrum-ifa.com or call our office in Limoux to make an appointment. Alternatively, I conduct a drop-in clinic most Fridays (holidays excepting), when you can pop in to speak to me. Our office telephone number is 04 68 31 14 10.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

To declare or not to declare?

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: common reporting standards, Exchange of Information, Italy, Residency
This article is published on: 20th September 2017

20.09.17

That was the question of the summer 2017!

During the long hot summer of 2017 I had a number of people calling me for advice on when and which assets to declare which to date had not been declared in Italy. A troubling question indeed.

A number of people who have been living in Italy for many years had recently received letters from their banks, mainly in the UK. This letter had been asking the individuals to inform them of their TIN number: tax Identification Number (codice fiscale or National Insurance to you and I). The main question was why would they need this and what would the consequences be of not providing it.

THE COMMON REPORTING STANDARD
If you are one of those people who read my E-zines, you will know that I have written about this subject over the last few years on numerous occasions, but its worth going over the detail again now, since an automatic sharing of financial information across borders (of which the UK/USA/Italy and most developed countries are party to) will take place before the end of September 2017, if it has not happened already. The information they will receive will be backdated to 1st January 2016.

WHAT IS THE OBJECTIVE?
In short, the idea behind the CPS was modelled on a similar idea which the USA put into force before it. That was FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) and was designed to circumnavigate the individual to whom any tax liability may be incurred and for the banks and financial institutions with which we hold out money/assets etc, to declare these holdings directly to the relevant tax authorities.

So it no longer became the responsibility of the individual to report their money ‘correctly and honestly’. Now, this information would be reported directly.

The rest of the world has now pretty much followed suit (except notable offshore jurisdictions which are also coming under Governmental pressure to fall in line) and hence the need to get clarification on your country of tax residence and your TIN (Tax Identification Number).

WHAT INFORMATION WILL THEY SHARE ABOUT ME?
Under the Common Reporting Standard the financial information to be reported includes the name, address and tax identification number (where applicable) of the asset owner; the balance/value, interest and dividend payments and gross proceeds from the sale of financial assets.

The financial institutions that need to report include banks, custodian financial institutions, investment entities such as investment funds, certain insurance companies, trusts and foundations.

The tax authority will receive much more information than ever before. Even information it does not need. For example, there is no wealth tax in countries like the UK, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta, but the tax authorities will still receive bank account balances. If this raises any red flags they may investigate where the money came from in the first place.

IS THIS NEW?
Exchange of financial information across Europe has been going on for a long time now and can be traced back to the introduction of the European Savings Tax Directive 2005. The Common Reporting Standard is an enhancement of this.

I explain the Common Reporting Standard as follows:

Imagine a normal spreadsheet in which all tax authorities have been entering information regarding us for years. The Italian, Spanish, French and British authorities all created their own spreadsheets with their own column headings and rows. When this was exchanged with another tax authority it would first have to be interpreted before the information could be used. The CRS went one step further. In effect, all countries are now using the same spreadsheet with the same column headings and rows and the data is much easier to interpret. With the help of computers they can identify discrepancies very easily. (This is clearly a simple explanation, but helps understand the concept)

I remember well in 2012 when I was contacted by a number of UK rental property owners who had been legitimately declaring their UK property income in the UK for tax purposes. However, as residents in Italy they had not declared anything. A clear exchange of information took place and the Guardia di Finanza did a significant number of visits to these people to fine them.

SHOULD I TELL THEM?
A logical question would be, what if I don’t tell the bank or financial institution of my TIN?

The banks would refer to the country in which they have the most information about you. It logically concludes that if you have a UK address on a UK bank account, but live in Italy, and have received a letter to confirm your TIN then the bank already suspects that your tax residency has not been correctly declared. It would be up to you to prove otherwise were you subject to an investigation.

What would happen if I gave my TIN in my country of origin?
If, for example, you gave your National Insurance number in the UK, but were living in Italy, then the UK authorities would consider you a UK tax resident and tax you there. That may be your preference, but should any institution or Government suspect that this is being declared falsely then the consequences could be severe. The logical conclusion here is that if you are making payments in Italy on a regular basis and/or sending money to an Italian bank account then this information would be red flagged.

So what should you do if you are NOT ‘in regola’ yet?
From the people that I spoke with this summer, it seemed that a number were afraid of giving this information because it would highlight any money/assets which have not been declared correctly to date. The sad news is that you are probably too late. They know already, hence why you received the letter.

My advice is always the same. The past cannot be corrected but you can change your future. Hiding and hoping the problem will go away is no longer an option. The only solution is to get your financial situation ‘in regola’.

WHAT WILL I PAY?
How you declare your money and how much you will pay is another question and one that can only be calculated by a commercialista, but it does make sense to have a look at your whole financial situation and see what damage limitation you can do by planning efficiently as a tax resident in Italy. That is my specialty and I always recommend you contact me before going directly to the commercialista because there may be ways to mitigate any tax burden before you make that first tax declaration. Once the first tax declaration is in, any subsequent changes can be difficult and costly to rectify.

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way”

Common Reporting Standards

By Derek Winsland - Topics: common reporting standards, Exchange of Information, France, International Bank Accounts, Le Tour de Finance, Residency
This article is published on: 27th July 2017

27.07.17

Over the last few weeks, I’ve witnessed the application of the Common Reporting Standards initiative in action. Firstly, from my bank HSBC requesting information to be transmitted to the tax authorities both here in France as well as in UK. This week, I received an email from a client who has also received a letter again from HSBC enquiring about his residency.

It’s clear that the sharing of financial information between tax authorities of different countries is now in full swing. Annual reporting by every financial institution into its own tax authority was introduced in January 2016 and I’m seeing more and more examples of this in operation. For the tax authorities, residency is the main focus – where has the individual declared residency, and where are that person’s assets held.

We’re at the stage now where that information is being studied by local tax offices and enquiry letters being sent. But what information is being shared? Overseas bank accounts are the most common example, hence HSBC and others enquiring about an account holder’s residency status. Other examples include investment bonds held overseas, ISA accounts, unit trust and investment trust portfolios, share accounts, premium bonds…. the list goes on.

With investments held outside of an insurance-based investment bond, any change of fund either through switching or closure could be liable to capital gains in the hands of the investor, so your local tax office is sure to be interested in learning about this. Income drawn from certain, non-EU jurisdiction investment bonds are viewed very differently here in France. And remember, ISAs carry no tax advantages here, so any switches, partial encashments, or sales of funds made by a UK financial adviser or investment manager could have repercussions for the investor resident in France.

If you’re tax resident in France, you are obliged to list all overseas investments and accounts on your annual tax declaration; non-disclosure can result in fines ranging from €1,500 per account up to €10,000 depending on where the account is held. These fines are also per year of non-disclosure.

Quite often we see situations where doing nothing has proved to be an expensive mistake so if ever there was a time to get your financial affairs in order, it is now before the Fisc comes calling. If you’re resident in France, your local tax office can look back through previous years as well, so long forgotten ISAs cashed in can potentially appear on its radar.

If you would like information on how best to re-organise your investments to make them tax-compliant, we are staging the latest in our series of popular Tour de Finance events in the Limoux area on Friday 6th October. Open to everyone, the event, held at Domaine Gayda in Brugairolles is now in its ninth year. Always a popular event, you are urged to order tickets well in advance. There will be a series of short presentations during the morning, culminating with lunch and an opportunity to sample the local wines. If you would like to attend, please email me for your tickets, numbers are limited, so I urge you not to delay.

Subjects covered during the morning include:
Brexit
Financial Markets
Assurance Vie
Pensions/QROPS
French Tax Issues
Currency Exchange

If you have personal or financial circumstances that you feel may benefit from a financial planning review, please contact me direct on the number below. You can also contact me by email at derek.winsland@spectrum-ifa.com or call our office in Limoux to make an appointment. Alternatively, I conduct a drop-in clinic most Fridays (holidays excepting), when you can pop in to speak to me. Our office telephone number is 04 68 31 14 10.