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Italian financial update

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Bitcoin, Inflation, Italy, residenza Italy
This article is published on: 1st February 2022

01.02.22

Well, well, what a start to the year – it feels like a repeat of winter 2021.  As I write I am actually down with Covid again.  I first got it in March 2020, right at the start of the pandemic and I have it again now.  It is nothing more than a dry throat, cold like symptoms and feeling quite tired, but still it’s a bit annoying to have caught it again, although I think that given the transmissibility of Omicron it was a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ I would get it.  Anyway, I am now on day six and feel much better.  However, I have just learned that since I only tested positive on day three of my illness, I now have to do another seven days quarantine before I will get the green pass……aaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Anyway, I wasn’t writing to update you on my health, but actually to update you on the health of the financial markets at the moment and provide you with some tax updates.

For anyone who has been brave enough to look at their investment portfolio account balance in the last few weeks, you will have noticed that it has probably taken a turn for the worse.  I am not talking crash-like turn for the worse, (remember March/April 2020!) but merely correction territory.

In short, equity markets have started to pull back from their highs in 2020 and 2021.  I can’t say for sure when the correction will end, but from the information that I have been reading from various asset managers in the last few days there is confidence that markets will rebound in the first half of this year.

It is important to remember that corrections of this magnitude happen in more years than they don’t and rarely prevent equity markets from delivering positive returns during the year!

What are Stock Options?

So what is going on? 
Covid related supply problems for goods and services are the biggest concern right now, which is feeding into consumer prices: inflation (microchips, freight and energy are the biggest contributors).  I have written about this in a previous E-zine and so won’t delve into too much detail here, but inflation is likely to play a big part in discussions around financial markets in the first half of this year, even though most economic indicators are predicting a quick return to form for the second half of the year.

One of the most important points is that with rising inflation, the central banks (mainly the Fed in the USA) do not start tightening monetary policy too quickly or harshly.  There is no indication that they will take extreme measures in this regard and so companies will still have access to capital and will be able to invest.  As long as company profits continue to grow and inflation does not start to spiral out of control then there should be a rebound, probably in the first half of the year.

Of course various themes will also continue to play out during the course of the year, namely: cloud computing, green buildings and construction and digital health and wellbeing.  This provides us with well needed diversification in our portfolios.  Big tech and smaller disrupting companies across many more sectors will play a big part in returns.

Inflation will likely cause some collateral damage along the way.  Depending on how fast and high it moves, the biggest sector to be affected could be the residential housing market.  It might cause a cooling down of the price rises we have seen in recent years, or may have a more long term and severe impact.  A lot of that depends on whether this bout of inflation is ‘temporary’, and caused merely by Covid issues, or is ‘structural’ which means that it will be more bedded in for a long time.

Understanding inflation

Most of the information I am getting from money managers is that it will be temporary and that things will return to normal much quicker than we expect (think a couple of years!), but I am not so sure.  I think it may run a little longer.  But regardless of who is right, we need to protect the money that we have.  There are plenty of excellent investment opportunities out there whether we are living in an inflationary or non-inflationary environment.  The money managers we work with are on top of these and we can rely on them to seek out those returns where possible.

If you are a client then all you need to know is that we have been planning for inflationary rises for some time and so despite the current correction in investment markets, you really have nothing to worry about. 


Tax matters – ‘residenza
During my Covid days sat at home in front of the computer, I receive a lot of pop-ups from various fiscal websites and from Sole24Ore (the Italian version of the Financial Times).

One that caught my eye the other day was an amendment to decreto Dl 146/2021, which clarified the fiscal treatment of the ‘family nucleus’ (nucleo familiare) who have established their residence (residenza) in two separate comuni.

The crux of this is that the courts ruled that two family members ‘cannot’ establish their residenze and claim 2 x prima case in the same nor different comuni.

This would seem to be a simple case of trying to avoid paying IMU on second (or third etc) properties.  But the new law decreed that it would no longer be possible where members of the same family are living under the same roof.  Apparently the law had not been clear enough…. until now.

I am mentioning this change in the law because it also has implications for people who may be registered in Italy as resident but may have a spouse who is claiming residency in another country.  In my experience, the main reason for this is to try to save tax and whilst there may be some logic to it, where one member of the couple is working for a foreign company and maybe travelling to and from Italy rather than being permanently based here, it does still raise the question of how the fiscal authorities view the idea of the ‘nucleo familiare’ and what impact this has on our tax liabilities and where they lie.  If spouses are registered as living in different places then there is some legal implication of separation and to benefit from any tax breaks, separation must be legally registered somewhere! If not, then the tax authorities will generally consider you as one family living under the same roof, hence both resident in Italy.

It raises some interesting questions, but might be a useful discussion point with your commercialista if you think you might fall into that net.

tax of bitcoins

Fiscal treatment of Bitcoin 
More and more people I meet are starting to dabble with the idea of buying some Bitcoin to add to their portfolio.  I have been an investor for a few years, but my experience is not particularly a great one.  It tends to go through phases of stratospheric prices rises and then complete collapse.  As things currently stand I don’t see much value in the application of the buy and hold investment philosophy in relation to Bitcoin.  It would appear to be something for the active trader, and then we are getting into speculative territory!

Anyway, the point of this article is to help you understand the fiscal treatment of Bitcoin in Italy, and to remind you that you will need to declare it in your tax return.

To understand the correct application for tax purposes, we need to remember that it is actually a currency and can be traded in much the same way as any other currency.  In fact, since it is a registered currency (through the blockchain) then the Italian tax authorities treat it like any other bank account you might have.  Hence, the tax treatment falls into that very simple law of €34.20 ‘bollo’ on any account that has an average annual balance of more than €5,000 in any tax year (less than €5,000, it does not need to be declared).

However, living in Italy would not be the same without some complications.  This brings us back to the article that I wrote back in April 2021 on the same issue.  Where you hold the value of Bitcoin (or any other currency) of more than €51,645.69 for a period of more than 7 days, any transfers of that currency into another from the 8th day would be considered speculative and capital gains tax would have to be calculated.

I wrote a long article on this subject, which you can read about here:  www.spectrum-ifa.com/do-you-have-non-euro-based-cash-deposits/

For other questions, please contact me via the form below:

How do I deal with inflation?

By Andrew Lawford - Topics: Inflation, Italy
This article is published on: 18th January 2022

18.01.22

“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology respectable”
JK Galbraith

This opening quotation might seem somewhat defeatist. Surely economic forecasting, given the importance of the economy’s performance on our investments, must be necessary. The problem is that in order to have a useful piece of information, that information must be both important and knowable. There is no doubting that the economy’s future performance is important information for us investors, but to what extent can we know it?

At the risk of using excessive quotations, there is a good story from Kenneth Arrow, who subsequently won a Nobel Prize in Economics in 1972, about his time analysing long-range weather forecasts in World War II. He came to the conclusion that there was no difference between the forecasts and pure chance, and communicated this finding to his superiors. The following is the memorable reply that he received: “The Commanding General is well aware that the forecasts are no good. However, he needs them for planning purposes.”

Which leads me on to inflation, without a doubt the economic piatto del giorno being served up in all current market analyses. Following a 2020 – 2021 in which it was decided, essentially on a global basis, to close down pretty much every non-essential activity and subsequently to apply massive amounts of government stimulus in the hopes of starting things back up again, we are finding a large number of anomalous economic effects. I imagine many people will have their own stories to tell, but my particular one is this: my son got to the point where he needed a new bicycle, having outgrown his previous one. A couple of years ago, this would have been as easy as going down to the local bike shop, choosing the model and swiping my credit card. This time, however, the bike shop told me that they hadn’t had a delivery of new bikes in two months due to logistics problems. They were, however, very happy to take my son’s old bike, a buyer for which was found in a matter of hours.

There have been plenty of variations on this theme in recent times, and it would appear that the process of economic restarting, with its attendant logistics issues, has fed into the current levels of inflation that are being reported. However, it seems unwise to extrapolate one observable trend and conclude that there is some inevitability about inflation remaining at its current high levels. This is the essential problem with economics: modelling extremely complicated systems such as economies is all but impossible: there are simply too many factors to take into consideration and the interactions between them all are unclear.

How do I deal with inflation

Of course, if we are investing, then it does seem like we have to take a view on macroeconomics and position ourselves accordingly. Financial newspapers exist to provide daily analysis of current trends and allow various experts to opine about their future path. There is little downside for those prepared to make forecasts: if they happen to be right about some particularly important phenomenon, they can trumpet for all time how they called the event. Their many incorrect calls, on the other hand, will be studiously forgotten about. If we extend this reasoning to well-known hedge fund managers, those who appear to have the Midas touch, we find ourselves subject to what is known as “survivorship bias”: for the few investors with truly long-term records, there are many others who have fallen by the wayside and whose investing results have been lost in the mists of time. This gives us the impression that there are gurus out there who know exactly what is going on in the economy, but it doesn’t correspond to the hard reality of investment: most truly successful investors don’t have a strong view on macroeconomic trends, because they understand that they are unknowable and that any market timing decisions based on forecasts are fraught with difficulty.

So if we can’t divine what is going to happen in the economy, can we know anything that is of use for protecting and growing our investments over the long-term? It turns out that the most important thing for investors is the mere fact of remaining invested. JPMorgan has shown that over the period from 1999 – 2018, the average return on the S&P500 index, the most important aggregate of US shares, was 5.6% p.a. However, your return would have been a paltry 2% p.a. if you had missed the 10 best days of that period, and you wouldn’t have made any money at all if you had missed the 20 best days. Keep in mind that those returns were produced notwithstanding several gut-wrenching market moves associated with the tech bubble bursting in 2000 (which led to three years of negative returns) and the financial crisis of 2008. If we zoom out even further, the annual returns for the US stock market in the post-war period have been positive in about 70% of the years. Those are odds that you want to take.

I should add as a proviso to the above that you need to have invested intelligently, and by that I mean choosing quality asset managers that are worthy, long-term stewards of your capital and who put your interests as clients before their own. It should, of course, be a given that financial professionals put their clients’ interests first, but the various scandals over the years have shown that one can never be complacent in this regard. My job as financial adviser is to help you to choose quality investments and to make sure that you understand the basic tenets of investment and stay with it for the long-term. If you’d like to discuss your own situation further, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a free initial consultation.

With all of the above, I don’t mean to diminish the importance of inflation, but we need to keep it in its proper context: this isn’t a problem that has suddenly come out of the woodwork! It has been there all along, working quietly in the background to chisel away at your wealth. The graph below shows the effect of different levels of inflation over a number of time periods.

It should be clear that even modest levels of inflation can prove very pernicious – taking the example of a 2% inflation rate over a 20 year period, you will find that prices have risen almost 50%, and so if your capacity for generating income hasn’t risen commensurately, you will find yourself dedicating ever more of your resources to the bare necessities, leaving you less money available for discretionary expenditure. We are told that we have lived through a couple of decades of very low inflation, but I distinctly remember the prices of milk, fuel and train travel (between where I live and Milan) when I arrived in Italy in 2004, and the inflation rate based on these basic goods and services is in the region of 2 – 3% p.a. over the period 2004 – present day (the official value is about 1.3% p.a.). There is no need to get into a debate about how inflation is calculated – I fully recognise that some goods (like consumer electronics) have improved and become cheaper over this period, but I buy fuel for my car far more frequently than I buy a smartphone.

The effects of inflation on your economic well being often become clear only after a long period of time, so the best idea is to work out a plan right from the start to make sure that your expenses are going to be sustainable in the long-term. Doing this can be quite difficult however, as you need to factor in variable investment returns, withdrawal rates and inflation in order to see how your plan is likely to play out. Investing for a positive real return (a real return is adjusted for the effects of inflation) over time relies on taking a long-term view and, as with choosing the right investments, my role as financial adviser is to help you understand all the variables and to find a sustainable path for the future. If you worry about inflation, then you are right to do so, but I can help you in finding ways to protect yourself from its worst effects.

Italian financial adviser

Please also check out my latest podcast – dedicated to citizenship, visas and estate planning, available on SpotifyGoogle PodcastsApple Podcasts and Stitcher.

A Financial adviser in Italy

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: financial adviser in Italy, Financial Planning, Italy
This article is published on: 2nd January 2022

02.01.22

Being an adult in the financial services business

Immediately prior to joining The Spectrum IFA Group in 2010, I was in my 30th year and wanted to take a bold new direction in life. I was working for HSBC bank in Doncaster, Northern England, at the time, and thankfully the years there were good to me.

However, some things in life seem to change the way you think, permanently. My personal experience of this was during and after my international travels (backpacking ) in 1998/99, visiting S.E. Asia, Australasia and N. America. It was an experience that just wouldn’t leave me. After having grown up in England for the first 24 years of my life, where sunshine is a rare commodity, and then spending a year and a half in sunbaked, tropical and generally sunnier climes, on my return to England I set myself a goal: within 5 years I aimed to move abroad to a sunnier/warmer country.

During those 5 years after returning I had put my time to good use. I had retrained as a fully qualified UK financial adviser, worked on the front line of a bank call centre, worked as a sales agent for an insurance company and was a successful candidate for a financial planning manager role at HSBC bank.

But now, it was about 3 months before my self-imposed 5 year deadline and I still wasn’t anywhere near meeting my objective. Then, by pure luck, by word of mouth through some family connections (sounds very Italian!) I was approached by a local UK IFA firm (also in Doncaster) to be one of their advisers and to open up their first international office in Rome.

I can tell you that I didn’t need much convincing. It would be a commission only role, which was quite frightening as there would not be a fixed regular income. However, my urge to live somewhere warmer overcame everything and I jumped at the chance.

Moving to Italy

I had never been to Italy before, didn’t speak Italian and had no idea about the culture, quality or standard of life in the country. This was never more evident that in my first month of work in July 2004.

We were expected to dress to work, as we would in the UK, i.e. suit, shirt and tie. However, as anyone who has ever been to Rome in July will know, it is no place for a UK style heavy woollen suit, shirt and tie. In addition, I had to take public transport everywhere because I didn’t have the money to take taxis.

I still remember vividly the time when I was returning from an appointment with a 1km walk to the metro station. I was sweating so much that everyone was giving me a very wide berth. I assume that they just thought I was suffering from a deadly disease. This was my introduction to life in Italy. But I was also now experiencing the sun, beaches, mountains (I started skiing for the first time), countryside and not to forget the food! (I remember saying to my now wife when I first arrived in Italy that food was just fuel for me. That attitude soon changed when she served me my first mozzarella di bufala and introduced me to her family, who mainly originate from Southern Italy).

I lived the next 5 years in a kind of expat bubble, never making an attempt to learn the language and just focusing on my work with the same company, but at the same time becoming more disillusioned with what I saw as the future of the business and their ideas.

During those first 5 years I also split with my long term partner in the UK whom I owned a home with; never an easy thing to do. But, I also met my wife (Italian, but educated in the UK), got married in Ravello on the Amalfi coast and we tried to start a family.

Unfortunately, starting a family was not as easy as we would have liked. After a few years of trying we were told that the only route would be IVF and our hearts sank! It was a heart wrenching journey, but in the end we were lucky enough to be successful after only the second attempt (further attempts never brought more children our way) and we were blessed with a baby son.

However, as is often the case with IVF children, he was premature. Our son was born a month early, severely underweight and with serious health concerns. The next few months were some of the hardest of my life, not helped by the fact that my failure to learn the language was now coming back to haunt me. During a time when your child is at the most vulnerable point in their life, you would hope that as a parent you could communicate and understand the doctors. In my case I couldn’t and had to rely on family members to translate for me. This led to me swearing that I would never be in this situation again in Italy. The following 2 years were an eternal wall of worry, but thankfully he came through. We, my wife and I, were left with some collateral damage, but my son is now healthy and a great child. I am very proud of him.

Spectrum-IFA-Group-Logo

I am not sure why, but during those 2 years, I also decided to jump ship to another company, and after 1 year with a firm which was destined to failure from the start, I ended up meeting Michael Lodhi, CEO of The Spectrum IFA Group, with a view to taking on a position in either Barcelona or Amsterdam, and travelling from Italy a few times a week.

The conversation (abbreviated here), over a meal and wine, went something like this :

ML> “Gareth, tell me about your work in Italy.”

G> “There is no infrastructure for foreigners living here, unlike France and Spain, no serious tax or financial planning service, people are looking for professionals but can’t find anyone. I think there is a business here but it will take a few years to build.”

ML> “Hmmmm…it seems like you know the market here in Italy. Why don’t you open, build and manage our first move into the Italian market?”

G> “Well that’s what I was really wanting – deal!”

And so that was my start with The Spectrum IFA Group. I now had an idea of what I wanted to build and how I wanted to do it and I had the support to do it the way I knew it should be done.

During that period, and much before, the English speaking community in Italy were mainly being contacted by cold call by firms that would trip in and out of the country to pick up a client here and there, but there was no permanent and serious presence. I had done cold calling myself in the past but I hated it as an approach to prospective clients. It is called COLD calling for a reason. So I decided to take a closer look at the stats behind it. I found (not surprisingly) that the success rate from cold calls to taking on a new client was about 1%, if you were good!

It wasn’t long after when someone challenged me about how I was going to build the business in Italy if I wasn’t going to cold call. I turned the question around and asked: if cold calling brings, let’s say, a 5% success rate and you focus on this as your main way to contact clients, what exactly do you do with the other 95% who refuse the call? I explained that this was where I would be focusing my energies, and I did.

I estimate it took me 2-3 years of holding conferences around Italy, meet-ups with anyone of interest, writing numerous articles for magazines and websites and continuing my own E-zine newsletter, doing drop in financial planning clinics, speaking with numerous commercialisti and lawyers and spending hours in the car covering 100,000s km. All the time making the commitment that unless I was doing a 2 or 3 day event then I would return home to my wife and son at the end of every day, no matter what time I got home.

I didn’t think much about it at the time, but when I look back, I realise just how much I achieved in a short space of time and boy oh boy I learned some lessons in the meantime. I often say to people who contact me with a view to moving to Italy, “you don’t need to worry about making loads of mistakes because I have made them all for you, and paid the price already. If you follow the necessary steps I have laid out, your chances of running into trouble with the tax authorities are very small indeed”. I paid dearly for not taking the right advice in my first years of incorporation in Italy, and not understanding clearly what professionals had told me.

But, after the personal and work struggles of those years, things started to get easier. My name was now being passed on to friends and family members, my online content was, and still is, being discovered and my commitment to staying away from cold calling and building a strong online presence started reaping rewards. I had finally built the foundations of the business that I had always wanted.

Gareth Horsfall

The following years are much like anyone else’s, I imagine, as we advance through our 30s and into our 40s. The aches after the gym visits take a little longer to go away and the now infrequent evenings out on the wine take days of detox to recover from. But the life lessons, places I have seen, people I have met, knowledge of my business and life experiences seem to, in a beautiful way, replace all those things that you can no longer do. It feels like there is a natural cycle of renewal and replacement taking place.

My life is now more Italian than I ever would have imagined. After years of making no effort to learn the language, the birth of my son and the experience with the doctors gave me the impetus to ‘get my finger out’ (as we say in Yorkshire) and learn it. Whilst I am far from fluent I can live a comfortable and enjoyable life in Italy now, and learning the language made a huge difference with building relationships and friendships.

And it goes without saying that I no longer consider ‘food as fuel’. After finding out that my wife is a terrible cook, I took on the role of cook in the house. I learnt from my Italian family and found out that I am not as bad as I had thought.

Finally, one more point is worthy of note here: the UK’s decision to leave the EU. This created a bit of an existential crisis for me. It brought into question where my heart now belonged. I had never intended to, nor ever would turn my back on the country of my birth, but the subsequent years of campaigning to protect UK citizens’ rights in Italy and the UK’s hard-line stance on exit convinced me to apply for Italian citizenship. It was awarded in 2019. I am glad I have it.

Every time I look at my passport I realise just how much I am now connected to this ‘Bel Paese’, my business and my clients who are as fortunate to also live this amazing life as I am.

Inflation in Italy

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Inflation, Italy
This article is published on: 8th December 2021

08.12.21

I don’t think this E-zine can go by without writing about inflation and the impact that Covid has had on the rising cost of goods and services.  I don’t know about you but I am starting to see prices rise in Rome, particularly around food.  I was shocked to find pears in the supermarket at €5.49kg the other day.  Also, when I travelled to the UK at the end of October car hire prices were through the roof, partly fuelled by Brexit I imagine, but crazily expensive.  I was also talking to a friend who owns a company making the sun curtains that you see on balconies and terraces in Italian cities.  She was telling me that their raw material prices had risen 30% in the last few months. Lastly, there is the impetus of all these housing bonuses at the moment which means that both tradespeople and building materials are in short supply, and when things are in short supply, prices only go one way!

In the US there has been a lot of rhetoric about a ‘transitionary inflation’ which will pass once the world’s supply chain gets back to normal after Covid, when goods and to some degree services as well will start to circulate as they did pre-pandemic.  But, I think it is plain for all to see that this is now going to be a bit longer than we first suspected.  Even if Omicron turns out to be a much weaker variant and have very little impact on our health, government intervention in trying to stem the infection rate could mean that further travel restrictions are on the cards.

This all has the effect of making it more difficult for raw materials to find their way to factories, production of goods themselves (nothing gets made when people are at home), distribution, administration, shipping etc.   The list goes on.

When you bring everything together it means that supply side issues are likely to remain for some time and that has had an effect already. 

I was talking to someone at Prudential International last week and they were telling me that their indicators were showing a 6% inflation rate in the UK and 4% in Europe.  The general rate in the USA likely to be much higher, into double digits.

This has a serious effect on our savings and for any eagle eyed observer, you may have noticed that your government (Italy or otherwise), even faced with these inflation figures have not started to raise their central bank rates yet.  Why?

The answer is very simple.  Inflation erodes savings but it also erodes debt and since 2008, what have most governments around the world been creating copious amounts of? ….you got it, debt!  So, if they can hold interest rates low for as long as possible, whilst getting a 6% annualised reduction in their debt, then that is good for them.  But it is horrendous for savers and people on fixed incomes!  


inflation

I always give the example of a table that is worth €1000 today.  At a 6% annual inflation rate it will cost €1060 next year.  If my savings have been squandering away in a bank account at 0.5% interest, then my €1000 is now worth only €1005.  My money is no longer worth what it was last year and my ability to purchase the same amount of goods and services has diminished considerably.  Imagine if that were not a table but a prescription drug?

Inflation is a serious issue for many people and there is a simple way to calculate the compounding effect of this over time: The Rule of 72.  Simply divide 72 by the rate of inflation and you will find out how many years it will take to halve the value of your savings.  At 6%, your €1000 will be worth €500 in just 12 years.  Frightening given how quickly inflation can take off and difficult it can be to bring it under control.

Don’t get caught out!  Where you can, invest for the long term.  I understand it comes with risks, but the long term risk of not having enough money to pay for a retirement, schooling for children, or even healthcare expenses is significantly more problematic.

And on that happy note, I am going to leave you for this E-zine.  I am sure that you are all now starting to think about your 2022 tax return and how you can use those €s worth of tax savings!   But, before you do that, run out and order your turkey before the prices rise too high.

As always, if you would like to speak to me about any of these issues you can contact me on gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com or message/phone me on my cell +39 3336492356.  

Income Tax Brackets Italy 2022

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Income Tax, Italy, Tax in Italy
This article is published on: 7th December 2021

07.12.21

Well, it’s the moment that we have all been waiting for.  The announcement was made on the 25th November.  The new income tax bracket bands (IRPEF) from 2022.  Unfortunately, I have to report that they really are not going to make a big difference to most people, but some savings might be available.

I know I mentioned in one of my previous E-zines that there was also talk of a possible allowance being introduced as well, but this area is still being debated.  The talk is that an allowance will not be forthcoming for everyone, but that they will merely extend or enlarge the current no-tax area.  This is not the same as an allowance which everyone would receive regardless of their income; instead it is offered to those with lower incomes, in different classifications.  At present the no-tax areas apply as follows:

For employed workers: €8145pa
Pensioners: €8130pa   (this increases for the over 75s to €9000pa)
Self employed workers: €4800pa

**  You would not be taxed at all if you were earning / receiving income equating to those figures exactly.  However, the more that your total income increases over these figures, the more of the no-tax area that you lose.  Hence distinguishing this from a tax allowance.  It is more like a means-tested benefit   ***

Remember that Italy also has its highly complex system of detractions and deductions which can help to reduce your overall tax bill further.  This, with the changes made in the income tax rates, will also be under review, but I suspect it will still remain in some shape or form for the future.  The complication here is always knowing what you are eligible to deduct and how.  To keep on top of the current system of deductions and detractions, you almost need to make it a full time job, from tax deductions for installing a water filtration system in the house, to veterinary bills and expenses.  Anyway, more on that as and when I know more myself.

For now, let’s concentrate on the fact that income tax rates have now been reviewed and subsequently will change for 2022.

tax-italy-guide

Entrepreneurial progress?
I think that back in 2019, maybe earlier, I wrote an E-zine bemoaning the fact that Italy’s tax system was cutting off the opportunity for entrepreneurs and small business owners to go to the next level and start to create the next generation of SMEs (small to medium sized businesses), purely because of its taxation and ‘contributi’ system.  My bug bear was that as soon as your income went over €28000 then Italy imposed a taxation of 38% on income earned, until total income exceeded €55000, when the tax rate increased again.  This, in addition to the high level of social security contributions, was the equivalent of asking someone to run a marathon but chopping them off at the knees before they started, and as the marathon progressed (if they could even make it that far) then would start to chop more of the leg off as they progressed.  Hence, why would you even start?

(I am exaggerating a little because for some years now there has been a tax regime for self employed people earning up to €65000pa where they can pay just 15% income tax per annum, but without the opportunity to offset any business expenses.  Most small business people I know are on this regime, which is great, but what if you can, or want to, earn more than €65000pa and take your business to the next level?) 

These were always the bigger questions.  Well, thankfully, Sig. Draghi has used the cloak of Covid (or more likely the cloak of a serious amount of funding from the EU) to do something about this and has made changes to the income tax rates.  However, let’s have a look at the current system of taxation before we look at the new. 

IRPEF as things currently stand is charged as follows:

€0 – €15,000 23%
€15001 – €28000 27%
€28001 – €55000 38%
€55001 – €75000 41%
€75000+ 43%

The biggest leap here being the move from 27% to 38% after €28000pa 

In the shake up, we now go from 5 bands to 4 and the bands have been widened as follows:

€0 – €15000 remains at 23%
€15001 – €28000 will now go from 27% to 25%
€28000 – €55000 will fall from 38% to 35%

And the biggest change here is that from €55000 pa the rate will pass straight to 43%

What can be learnt from this? 
I think the lesson from this change is very simple.  One which I think fits into current world thinking.  The individual earning more (in this case €55000pa) is now going to pay more tax and those on lower than €55000pa incomes, in Italy, are going to be incentivised to spend more with lower taxes.  It’s not a stupid strategy in all honestly because people with less income will naturally spend the extra cash that is available to them.  Those with higher incomes will normally siphon off surplus income into reserves (investments/pensions etc).
So, all in all Italy is doing what a lot of countries already do.  And we are told that this is just ‘stage 1’ of the reformed income tax regime (essentially to get something over the line before the end of 2021), but more reforms are pending from 2022 onwards.  As my classic phrase goes ‘I wait to be amazed!’.



Summary
That all being said, for a lot of people it will mean some tax savings, especially those with income between €15000 and €55000.  The full saving in these tax brackets will be €1070pa.  Not to be sniffed at as the cost of utilities and food has increased substantially in the last year.  For anyone else, you are not really going to see much change at all, and I suspect the system of detractions and deductions will continue for now to help anyone reduce their income tax liabilities even further.  In Italy, it would seem, things happen piece meal and over a longish period of time.  No one politician or political party really has the political clout to push such sweeping reforms as might be needed and get them put into place, even Mario Draghi.  However, the ability to push through smaller reforms which make a big difference over time seems to be more the status quo.  As usual, we bumble along and react to things as they happen and continue to enjoy the life that Italy affords us.

Do I need a different Will as an expat living in Italy?

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Italy, UK bank accounts, Wills
This article is published on: 24th November 2021

24.11.21

Here I am again after a recent trip to the UK. I am pretty sure the whole affair of travelling internationally with a family during Covid restrictions has taken 10 years off my life. What a nightmare! The evening before we flew to the UK I spent 5 hours in front of the computer trying to work out which forms were needed, for when, and which Covid tests would be required, and when. We also had to spend approx £150 on Covid tests to travel. I have spoken to many people who have had a similar experience. The whole process was not aided by the fact that we were diverted through Barcelona because the direct flight to London had been cancelled, and even transitioning means that the necessary Covid protocols must be adhered to in the transiting country as well. Despite the administrative and logistical headache of planning all this pre-journey, the actual trip itself went well.

Wills in Italy

So, after surviving that experience and deciding not to travel outside Italian borders again until it starts to eventually settle down, I got called to another meeting in Barcelona in December. I will have to go through it all over again!

Anyway, after all that I thought I would write about something which is ordinarily outside my field of expertise in this Ezine: making a will. I haven’t touched on this subject for some time, but recently we have teamed up with another International lawyer called Jessica Zama of Buckles solicitors. She is British/Italian and is well versed in the world of whether to make a will in Italy or not, and not just for Brits. I asked her to write a piece that I could share with you about the importance of making a will in Italy when you have assets in the country, i.e. a property in most cases, which I have copied below.

However, before I get into that I wanted to write about a couple of other things which may come in useful if you need to travel, post-Brexit banking arrangements in the UK and a new Italian website that might come in handy.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance
I myself used to have travel insurance through a UK firm, pre Covid, pre-Brexit. This firm no longer offers insurance to EU resident individuals due to Brexit so before my trip to the UK I needed to shop around to find a cost effective option. Unfortunately, it was quite difficult to find a solution that wasn’t going to cost the earth. The usual Italian market suspects (Generali, Allianz, Zurich, Unipol) etc were rather more than I wanted to pay. However, on doing some research I stumbled into my favourite comparison website: facile.it It was there that I discovered that they were offering travel insurance packages from a French firm ‘InterMutuelles Assistance’.

One of my colleagues in France informed me that MAIF, MACIF and MATMUT are big French insurers and this firm is a part of the group, so likely to be a solid firm.

The French company is merely using its European license to passport its services into other EU states, in much the way that the UK firm I used to buy travel insurance from used to do. So, I wanted to communicate that there are lower cost more competitive options in the market place. This is by no means the only option and I would urge you to do your own research if you require travel insurance, but if you are interested you can find them under their brand in Italy:
www.traveleasy.it/

UK Banks closed

UK banking arrangements
A lot of my clients who are UK account holders with Natwest have now received a letter informing them that likely action to close their account will take place before the end of 2021, as a result of Brexit, and the fact that Italy has been very clear (as early as April 2020. See document HERE) that they do not want non-Italian, non-EU financial firms, advisories, or intermediaries operating on Italian soil or for Italian resident individuals. Italy, along with the Netherlands, seem to have the most strict measures in place, and it would appear that in both cases accounts of clients of Natwest are now being shut down, if they haven’t done so already.

This obviously leads to the question, what can you do for continuation of banking services in GBP? Thankfully in the last few years with the development of the Fintech industry, a myriad of options have arisen. The most popular seems to be Wise (formerly Transferwise) who are offering not just currency exchange services, but different currency accounts through which you can move money. Wise are not a bank, so you may be restricted on exactly what you can do and who can send money to that account, but it does work for some. I myself use Fineco bank in Italy and they provide current account holders with EUR, GBP and USD accounts, to which money can be sent, and then moving money between one and the other does not attract any currency conversion costs. There are also a number of online banks and services offering these options and so you shouldn’t be short of options.

The only problem
There is however one area which may still cause an issue if your UK account is closed down. UK direct debits. I myself have not been contacted yet to close my First Direct account in the UK, but should it happen it would cause a very big problem as I have a number of insurances which I took out years ago in the UK that provide protection for me and my family. However, they only accept payment through direct debit on a UK account. Should my banking services be pulled I may find myself losing my insurance. You may find yourself in a similar situation with UK direct debits. In this situation, there really is not a lot you can do about it, I am afraid.

But moving on from banking arrangements, I want to now lead into the idea of making a will in Italy. It still surprises me how many people have not done so yet. I understand it is one of those ‘to do’ list items, but the truth of the matter is that it shouldn’t be. It should be a priority item. To die, leaving an asset such as a property in Italy, without clear instructions as to how you want this asset to be treated, could create all sorts of complications for your family and/or beneficiaries. I made my will a few years ago now and whilst it probably needs updating again, I know that I have a valid Italian will in place in the event of my death.

So without further ado I am passing to the words of Jessica Zama, who wrote the following piece, and which I hope spurs you into making your own will if you have not already done so.

A very useful Italian website
From the 15th November a new Italian government website has been launched called ‘Anagrafe Nazionale Popolazione Residente’ www.anagrafenazionale.interno.it/servizi-al-cittadino/ (ANPR for short).  It allows every Italian resident the ability to download all those certificates which traditionally you had to take an appointment at the comune, to attain.  As anyone who has lived in Italy long enough, at some point or another you will need one of the certificates, mentioned below, and since they only have a 6 monthly validity the fact that you can now easily download them online is fantastic.  Other services do exist, which I have used myself to avoid queuing at the comune offices, but they do charge a pretty penny for the service.  For the moment they are also free of charge through this website, and it is expected that this will be the case until the end of 2022, at which point you may be expected to pay just the ‘bollo’ at the point of download.   The certificates include:

  • Anagrafico di nascita;
  • Anagrafico di matrimonio;
  • di Cittadinanza;
  • di Esistenza in vita;
  • di Residenza;
  • di Stato civile;
  • di Stato di famiglia;
  • di Stato di famiglia e di stato civile;
  • di Residenza in convivenza;
  • di Stato di famiglia con rapporti di parentela;
  • di Stato libero;
  • Anagrafico di Unione Civile;
  • di Contratto di Convivenza.

To enter in the website you will need a SPID or Carta d’Identità Elettronica.

Wills for expats in france
Protecting your Italian assets – where there’s a will, there’s a way

If you hold assets located in Italy, it’s important to obtain legal advice to draw up a will that covers them, regardless of whether or not you live there.

There are several reasons for doing this. If you have any specific wishes relating to the distribution of your Italian assets following your death then you need to put them in writing, in a will that is considered legally valid in Italy.  If you do not have a valid will in place, your Italian estate will pass to the beneficiaries set by Italian law (in most cases the spouse and children).

The validity of your will in Italy is crucial, particularly if it is drafted and/or signed abroad and is to cover all your Italian assets, both present and future. For example, if you were to specify in your Italian will that you wish to leave a specific property in Italy to your wife, but this is then sold during your lifetime, your Italian will would not cover the proceeds of sale held in an Italian bank account.

Your will must also take into consideration the Italian inheritance laws and succession procedures. In Italy certain relatives, such as the spouse and children, have a right to a percentage of the deceased’s estate regardless of the terms of the will. This is known as forced heirship and it must be taken into consideration when drafting a will relating to Italian assets, as it can somewhat limit your testamentary freedom.

However, there may be the possibility to avoid this restriction by electing for the law of your country of nationality to apply to the will and the succession (thereby allowing for more freedom in disposing of your assets) although you would need legal advice on whether this can be applied in your case and how to draft your will so that the Italian forced heirship rules are avoided.

It is also important to consider the wording of the will and the legal terminology used within.  A will signed in another country may potentially cover all your worldwide assets, including your Italian assets, but its wording may cause issues regarding the administration of your Italian estate in the future. Therefore, once again it’s important to obtain legal advice on this subject.

When you also have a separate will which covers your assets in another country (even if this will excludes Italian assets), it’s important that your lawyer checks to ensure that there are no conflicts between the two wills which could render one or both invalid and thereby potentially leave your assets exposed in both countries.

Holiday rental owners in Italy

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Italy, Tax in Italy
This article is published on: 29th October 2021

29.10.21

It would seem that governments really do exploit disruptive / destructive events to tighten the tax net on citizens and this has, once again, been used effectively during Covid.

This time it is the turn of the short-term rental market (I assume short-term means anything up to a month in duration)

The Italian government is about to launch a platform to collect relevant information on ALL activity, across Italy, involved in short-term lodgings / holiday lets. The objective being to create a clear map, across the country, of who is involved in this activity.

Everyone who is involved in short-term rental will be required to register with the platform and will be provided with an identification code specifically for their activity. This code will need to be quoted on every advert for a rental where a rental is advertised on a ‘homes 4 rental’ style website, with the local estate agent or on social media. Failure to quote the number will generate a fine of between €500 and €5000 for every advert where the code is not listed. The fine will be doubled for a repeat offence!

Some regions, such as Lombardia, already have this system in place. They operate the Cir (codice identificativo regionale). This information is automatically communicated to the comune in which the short-term rental is located. If a region does not operate the system, owners will now be required to register on the national platform and obtain the identification code this way. The information gathered will be passed back to the respective comuni.

The legislation for the platform is set to pass within the next few weeks and then will go into force 90 days after the publication in the Gazzetta Ufficiale. The specific date to list the identification code will be communicated at this time.

Holiday rental owners Italy

Just one more bureaucratic hurdle
This is clearly another administrative burden that rental property owners are going to have to jump through in the search for income and/or profit from property rental.

The government are trying to weed out the ‘in nero’ rentals that have clogged the market in the years preceding Covid, particularly in the cities. These have changed the landscape of the cities so much that palazzi (much like the one I live and work from in Rome) are now full of apartments catering to foreign holidaymakers, rather than people who live and work in Rome. It is the same story around the world in big cities.
In the Italian government’s favour, a lot of these rentals are undeclared for taxation purposes and try to fly under the radar, but it’s difficult to see how an identification code requirement will flush them out.

Many of the people I know who are involved in this activity are unlikely to be affected as they are conforming to local and national requirements already. However, occasionally I do get contacted by people who have a home in Italy and are renting it out to holidaymakers on overseas holiday rental websites and running all the earnings through a foreign bank account, with the assumption that they do not need to therefore declare anything in Italy. Obviously, this is wrong and my advice, as always, would be to ensure that you are meeting the various fiscal and administrative requirements in Italy.

If you own a property in Italy and generate any income from it, then it must be declared to the Italian authorities first! The Agenzia delle Entrate do regularly troll through holiday rental websites and cross reference against tax returns.

Oh, and if you are in any doubt. ‘I didn’t know’ is never an excuse, so get informed!

I hope you found this article useful. I am still waiting on the latest structural tax changes to be announced shortly. There is lots of press flying around about what and how things will be changed. At time of writing the only thing we know is that the ‘catasto’ on properties is being slightly changed and the partita IVA forfettario regime will be phased out within the next 2 years. For the rest I am still waiting. I will let you know as soon as I do.

In the meantime, if you would like to speak to me about your financial plans for life in Italy, if you would like to simply know if your money will last as long as you and/or if you are concerned about ensuring you will have enough money for all your different life stages and expenses, then do get in touch. I am happy to help. You can contact me on gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com or on cell +39 3336492356.

My initial consultations are free and there is no obligation to discuss things further, if you so wish.

Investment bonds in Italy

By The Spectrum IFA Group Italy - Topics: Investment Bonds, Investment Risk, Investments, Italy
This article is published on: 22nd October 2021

22.10.21

If you are resident in Italy, or planning to move here, it is important to complete a review of your investments to avoid unnecessary and expensive tax liabilities locally. It is well known that how to handle your finances is one of the major challenges of moving to a new country – the tax and legal systems are different, and on top of this, everything is in a language you might not fully understand. An experienced adviser based in Italy will help to ensure your finances are arranged both tax-efficiently and appropriately for your individual circumstances.

The best time to carry out a review of your investments and to develop a long-term financial plan is before you make the move. This is something many people don’t consider, but acting early allows you to make the most of valuable planning opportunities and to avoid costly mistakes, for example with the timing of a property sale or taking a pension lump sum. But even if you are already here, it is never too late to make sure you are making the most of your money.

There are many ways of saving and investing as an Italian tax resident, including with banks, in directly held portfolios, in collective investments, and in trust and pension structures. Taxation in Italy is complex, and you will need an accountant to help you with tax returns. One structure that is highly tax efficient, which simplifies annual tax declarations and is also widely used across Europe, is the investment bond.

The 10 benefits of investment bonds in Italy

There are several advantages to using life insurance investment bonds for Italian residents:

  1. Tax deferral during the accumulation phase – unlike a directly held portfolio which attracts ongoing capital gains tax and income tax, investment growth within a bond is not taxable (income and gains are able to accumulate on a ‘gross roll up’ basis)
  2. Low effective tax rates when withdrawing funds from the policy – when withdrawing funds from an investment bond, the withdrawal is split into two components: the initial capital, and the growth element. Tax of 26% is due only on the growth element of the withdrawal, so effective tax rates are low.
  3. Gains are calculated net of all costs – directly held investments in Italy are always less efficient than a life insurance bond.
  4. Availability of asset management services otherwise inaccessible to Italian residents – there is a wide range of investment options, including EU authorised funds, discretionary portfolios and index trackers, all available in the currency of your choice.
  5. Your money is outside the Italian financial system – investments are held securely in Ireland or Luxembourg.
  6. Simplification of reporting and ongoing tax administration – there is only a single asset to declare in your tax return whatever the number of investments within the bond, as opposed to the complicated declarations necessary for directly-held foreign assets.
  7. Reduction in VAT – asset management services in Italy generally attract VAT at 22%, but using a life insurance bond results either in a substantial reduction to, or an exemption from, VAT.
  8. Inheritance tax savings – beneficiaries named in a life insurance bond receive the proceeds free from Italian inheritance tax.
  9. Portability – the investment bond structure is widely recognised in other jurisdictions, so you do not necessarily have to encash your investment if you relocate. However, care is necessary to take into account the differences between tax laws, so take advice prior to moving jurisdictions.
  10. Time apportionment relief on return to the UK – if you decide to return to the UK, investment bonds are particularly attractive as time apportionment relief under UK tax rules state that only investment growth generated whilst resident in the UK is taxable.

Whilst the ideal time to review your finances is before you move, we can also help if you are already resident in Italy. Contact one of our advisers (free of charge and without obligation) for an introductory discussion and an outline of how we can help.

Market volatility

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Investment objectives, Investment Risk, Italy
This article is published on: 21st October 2021

21.10.21

We are undeniably in full swing after the Italian summer. Almost everything seems to be operating on a normal basis again, although ‘normal’ is always subjective depending on where you live in Italy. Roma doesn’t really qualify for normal, even on it’s best days!

Just how much people are getting back to normal again after Covid has amazed me. The memory of lockdown and ‘esercito’ trucks rolling out of Bergamo seems to have disappeared into the small corners of our minds. It might just be a self-protective mechanism, or maybe, like me, you are just happy to be able to go about your life in a relatively normal way again.

Normal for me is also talking to and seeing clients in person regularly, of which the latter has been somewhat missing for the last 18 months. I was reminded of this on a telephone conversation with a client the other day who said, ‘I haven’t seen you for a while Gareth’. It was said in such an innocent way, almost forgetting the last 18 months of various travel restrictions. A completely inoffensive remark and it made me realise that I haven’t seen many of my clients for quite some time now and that I really must get back on the road again. So that is my plan over the winter and coming months. I feel starved of client contact, something which I really cherish, and so I will be getting out there very soon.

Anyway, I don’t want to go on too much about my work plans as I have something much more interesting to write about…financial markets. Well, interesting for me at least!

As I am sure you are acutely aware there are millions of in-depth, factual and accurate analyses of the current global economy and the response of financial markets to Covid. I don’t wish to get into that (If you would like a recent world market roundup then just email me and I can send one through easily enough). What I do want to talk a little about is how we respond to financial market volatility (i.e. the rising and falling valuation of your portfolio) as the Covid recovery continues.

Market volatility

“When a long-term trend loses its momentum, short-term volatility tends to rise.
It is easy to see why that should be so: the trend-following crowd is disoriented”.

George Soros

The Covid recovery is likely to mean a prolonged period of uncertainty for economies and companies. The initial market momentum after Covid and subsequent recovery is stalling a little at the moment. This is not a long term structural problem, as most indicators point to a return to ‘normality’ (there goes that word again! What is normal anymore?), that being travel, consumption, leisure etc, within a year or so. But the global recovery is not taking place uniformly. Herein lies the problem. Some emerging markets for example are still suffering from high Covid infection and death rates and battling the pandemic. Supply issues mean that many raw materials in our Western economies are scarce and we are seeing price rises as a result, and while this continues it means that there are more risks for companies and individuals. This inevitably means more volatility in our investment portfolios than we have seen in the last two years, which have largely been positive.

My usual advice when we enter periods of volatility is ‘Don’t constantly monitor your investments’ – that well worn recommendation that doesn’t really help anyone’s anxiety. The fact that we now have 24/7 access to information can be a curse when it comes to your investments.

The value of your investment can go down as well as up
I understand nervousness around investments. Is my money going to be there when I most need it? Is it safe from fraud? Will I recoup those losses or are they lost forever? I invest my own money and like anyone I like to see numbers in black rather than red. But I also understand that it’s a matter of patience, time and calm, rather than frustration, anxiety and rash decisions, that will see you through any period of volatility. It should be noted at this point that most of you who are reading this newsletter will have invested through the Covid crash, which was markedly more worrying than the current pull back in prices. So, when looking at our portfolios it is always good to have perspective. You may remember from 2020 that crashes happen quite suddenly and dramatically in response to a very specific trigger, whereas pull backs in stock market prices are often talked about for weeks or months and hypothesised on for what seems like ages before anything actually happens.

Success in investments is not about whether you climb that wall of worry or not (we all worry about our money) but whether you make rash decisions based on factors which are outside your control.

What is exchange rate risk?

Are you a person who is more susceptible to making rash investment decisions?
You might be interested to hear that the University of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have conducted some interesting research on personality types and decision making.

They wrote a paper in August this year, entitled ‘When do investors freak out? Machine learning predictions of panic selling’ and discovered that the investors who tend to ‘freak out’ with greater frequency fall into one or several of the categories below:

  • Male
  • Over the age of 45
  • Married
  • Have more dependents
  • Self-identify as having excellent investment experience or knowledge.
  • (It does bear mentioning that I fall into every category! – scary thought.)

In addition to the above, they identified other characteristics in panic sellers. Only 0.1% of investors panic sell at any point in time. However, when there are large market movements, they occur up to three times more.

Interestingly, 30.9% of panic sellers never return to reinvest in risky assets. However, of those that do, nearly 59% re-enter the market within six months.

The really sad fact is that the median investor earns a zero to negative annual average return after the panic selling. This is the most worrying statistic of all. The evidence is therefore clear: panic selling leads to losses.

But regardless of the figures and the logic coolheadedness just can’t complete with human irrationality, and the same mistakes happen again and again, even if logic dictates it should be the other way around. In one way, that’s why I am here. To help you navigate that mind swamp!

I am reminded of a few clients who contacted me around the time of the Covid market crash and said that this was a new world event, a new norm and that things would never be the same again. I encouraged them to ride the wave, and they are today sitting in a much better financial position then they were before. I had no way of knowing what would happen in financial markets, and I can tell you I did worry myself, but I do understand human nature after working in this business for over 20 years.

I do know that whatever event creates a crash, the only truth is that when markets fall there is an opportunity to buy more of the same at reduced prices! Capitalism is not going to fall, just yet!

Italy – 300,000 tax disputes, trusts and 7% tax regime

By Andrew Lawford - Topics: Italy, Moving to Italy, Retiring to Italy, Tax in Italy, UK pensions in Italy
This article is published on: 12th October 2021

12.10.21

First, let’s start with some good news. It was recently announced that the number of outstanding tax disputes winding their tortuous way through the Italian courts had dipped below 300,000 for the first time. If it doesn’t sound like much to be proud of, consider that back in 1996 it was almost 10 times that number! It just goes to show how much things have already improved, and yet much still remains to be done if we compare this statistic with a similar-sized country like the UK, where there are fewer than 30,000 outstanding disputes. Considering that almost 50% of the disputes in the courts relate to amounts lower than €3,000, it should be easy to find ways to tidy the system up (Mr Draghi, we are awaiting your reforms with bated breath!).

Now let’s look at a couple of recent clarifications/consultations from the Agenzia delle Entrate (Agenzia) – I try to keep people updated on issues that may be of interest to them, with the goal being that of not ending up in the legion of 300,000 referred to in the paragraph above.

7% pensioners regime Italy

A recent ruling (interpello) from the Agenzia has offered some further clarity on the 7% tax regime. Technically, a ruling only applies to the individual who asked for it, but they are obviously indicative of the Agenzia’s thinking on the topic at hand. In this particular example, we have a US resident who is transferring residency to an eligible town in southern Italy (for more basic details on the regime, first have a look at this article). Their pension is in the form of withdrawals from a US IRA account under a SEPP regime (Substantial Equal Periodic Payments) which allows the individual to make periodic withdrawals from the account prior to their ordinary retirement age (which in this case would be 59 years old). After a long introductory disquisition on the subject, the Agenzia has clearly stated that this kind of pension is eligible, the main reason being that it derives from the working activities of the individual in question.

A couple of other points that are also clear from the ruling: 1) there is no minimum age requirement for the 7% regime and; 2) even one-off payments received upon the termination of a work contract could qualify, as long as these derive from pension funds accumulated for that specific purpose during the individual’s working life.

If you find yourself in a grey area, applying for a ruling is a great way to get clarity on your personal situation and is money well spent when considering the alternative of being audited at some point after you have opted into the regime.

7% pensioners regime Italy

Trust consultation document
Anyone who has listened to one of my early podcasts on the subject will know that trusts are a thorny issue for Italian residents – they are formally recognised, thanks to the fact that Italy ratified The Hague Trust Convention, which came into force in 1992 – but from there it has been a constant source of trouble, mainly relating to how they should be taxed. Anyone who has any kind of link with a trust should make sure that they get a working idea of its potential consequences from the Italian point of view. I say “potential”, because there isn’t a great deal of clarity on the subject. The only thing for sure is that the Agenzia is taking a greater interest in these structures – hence the recent publication of a consultation document that seeks to give a cohesive vision of trusts in the Italian context.

You can expect some changes before it becomes definitive, but I am summing up its main points in a series of questions you should be asking yourself (and your advisers) if you have any kind of connection to a trust.

Is the trust itself Italian resident?

  • The fact that a trust has been set up outside of Italy doesn’t mean that the Agenzia cannot consider it to be an Italian resident (the same is also true of company structures)
  • The consultation document indicates that the basic criteria upon which a trust will be considered resident in Italy are the location of its registered office, its centre of administration, or its principal activities
  • There is a simple presumption of Italian residency for any trust that has at least one settlor and one beneficiary resident in Italy
  • A presumption of Italian residency also exists when an Italian resident individual transfers assets to a trust set up in a non-white list country
  • An Italian-resident trust is taxed at IRES rates (Italian corporate taxation) regardless of when distributions are actually made to the beneficiaries

What kind of trust is it (regardless of its residency)?

  • The consultation document discusses two types of trust: “opaco” and “trasparente”, with the distinction essentially being whether or not the beneficiaries have the right to receive distributions from the trust (trasparente), or are only amongst those for whom it is a possibility, but not a right (opaco). In simpler terms, we might call the “opaco” a discretionary trust and the “trasparente” a naked, or transparent trust
  • If you are the beneficiary of a naked trust, essentially you will be taxed on a “look-through” basis, as if the trust didn’t exist. This will involve the potentially difficult process of reconciling the trust’s reporting to the Italian reporting requirements for individuals
  • If you are the beneficiary of a discretionary trust, you are likely to be taxed at financial income tax rates (26%) on any distributions

Is the trust set up in a tax haven or does it otherwise enjoy preferential tax treatment?

  • If a discretionary trust is set up in a tax haven, or otherwise happens to enjoy a preferential tax regime, the trust’s income is automatically attributed to its Italian beneficiaries, regardless of whether the trust has actually made a distribution. You could end up paying tax on amounts you haven’t actually received
  • This point follows the similar regime for companies set up in tax havens or enjoying low tax regimes

Gift/inheritance taxes

  • People often set trusts up as vehicles for estate planning. One main source of doubt over the years has been the moment at which Italian gift or inheritance taxes fall due. The doubt has been created by the fact that the Italian Supreme Court (Cassazione) has oscillated between two competing interpretations
  • The first interpretation is that taxes are due at the moment the trust is set up, and should be paid at appropriate rates considering the relationship between the settlor and the ultimate beneficiary. This approach was favoured by those who wanted to pay the taxes now under the relatively low Italian IHT regime, in the anticipation of higher taxes in the future
  • The second interpretation is that taxes are due at the moment of final distribution to the beneficiary concerned
  • Interestingly, both approaches have been applied in the Italian courts, but it seems that the second interpretation is destined to become the definitive one. This puts people who have already applied the first interpretation in something of an awkward position

Will I be subject to foreign assets declarations (IVAFE/IVIE) as a result of being considered “titolare effettivo” (beneficial owner) of the trust’s assets?

  • This is quite a complicated point and is intertwined with the fact that recent reforms have made Italian resident trusts subject to foreign asset declaration rules
  • In some circumstances, even the beneficiaries of foreign discretionary trusts may have to declare the assets held by the trust due to the rules relating to beneficial ownership
  • The penalties for non declaration are such that, if you find yourself in a grey area, you should probably make the declaration (which is a fairly difficult thing to do properly)

Don’t underestimate the level of sophistication that the Agenzia is reaching with its interpretations of trust instruments – they can and will dig into the nature of a trust in order to understand exactly how it works and increasingly they have the expertise to do so. If you do have a connection to a trust or are thinking about setting one up, now might be a good idea to have a chat and review your situation. There are a limited number of circumstances in which they might make sense (for example in terms of protecting vulnerable individuals), but in most other cases we find that there are easier and more “Italian-friendly” ways of reaching the goals people have with their trusts.

If any of the above has raised doubts or queries, I’m always happy to hear from people by e-mail, or even just drop me a WhatsApp message and we’ll organise a time to speak.