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DETRACTIONS FOR INCOME TAX PURPOSES IN ITALY

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Income Tax, Italy, Tax, tax tips
This article is published on: 4th December 2019

04.12.19

I am often asked which expenses can be detracted from income in Italy. These serve to reduce your potential tax liabilities.

Unlike a lot of countries where allowances are offered on a certain amount of income each year (e.g. the UK and the first £12500), Italy does not offer any such allowance, but instead uses a complicated system of detractions and deductions of certain living expenses. That list covers a multitude of items, such as eco bonus for re-construction work to your home, funeral expenses and medical expenses.

A new criteria that has been imposed as of 2020 is that a number of these must now be paid only by traceable means of payment (bonifico, bancomat or credit card). If they are not paid with one of these methods then they are not deductible.

The following table, taken from an article in Sole24Ore is a good reference tool to see which expenses can be deducted, at what % of the total cost and whether they can be paid in cash or not.

I hope you find it useful. If you are not claiming for any that you might be eligible for then I would advise you have a conversation with your commercialista about them.

Sterling after Brexit

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: BREXIT, Currencies, Elections, Italy, UK General Elections
This article is published on: 3rd December 2019

03.12.19

In this article I want to look at what has happened to sterling since Brexit and the outlook. In 2015, when the world seemed a lot more secure, GBP v EUR was trading over 1.40 and life seemed good. Anyone holding GBP based assets and incomes would find that their money went a long way. Today it is trading at 1.17.

With all this confusion it inevitably causes some uncertainty. This seed of uncertainty has shown itself nowhere better than in the continued daily swings of GBP v EUR.

It has been a while since my last E-zine. I am sure that it won’t go unnoticed that this E-zine is coinciding with the UK general election on December 12th. At the present time the Conservatives are polling for a small majority, but it would seem to be anyone’s guess as to the ultimate result.

A RECENT HISTORY OF STERLING
Around the start of 2016, after the Brexit fuse had been lit, sterling started to fall as the Leave campaign gained ground and the markets reacted nervously to a potential Leave outcome.

sterling history

Immediately after the Referendum, June 24th 2016, when the result was announced, GBP fell the most against a world basket of currencies since the introduction of free floating currencies in 1970. On June 24th 2016 it had it’s largest ever one day fall of 13%. To put this into context, when George Soros famously ‘broke the Bank of England’, and made billions by betting against sterling in 1992, resulting in its subsequent ejection from the exchange rate mechanism, sterling only fell by 4.3%. In 2009 at the height of the financial crisis sterling lost 16% but over an 11 trading day period between 8-23 September 2009. The Brexit effect was huge.

I remember calling some currency brokers in the City of London early in the morning of June 24th 2016 and asking what was happening on the trading floor. The only responses I got were “fortunes have been made this morning!” and “it’s chaos over here”.

Roll on 2019 and as you will see from the charts below, since 2017, after the drop, sterling has traded within a range of values and has only experienced a ‘relative’ peak around the middle of this year.

STERLING CHART 2015 TO 2019

STERLING CHART 2015 TO 2019

STERLING CHART 2017 TO 2019

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR GBP V EUR?
In my travels around Italy to talk to clients this is the most asked question. Since the highs of 2015, there has been an approximate 20% loss in the value of your GBP assets and incomes. For anyone living on a fixed income, i.e. pensions or living from assets, this is starting to have an effect. In the past year the number of clients asking to top up their income from their assets has increased. This withdrawal effect represents a net reduction in your overall asset base, when that money might have been spent on future medical needs, inheritance for children, or just for future living costs.

Therefore, it is no surprise to me that I am asked frequently for my opinion on the matter, and additionally whether you should be thinking about converting assets into euro, to hedge against further falls.

MY RESPONSE
I have been speaking to asset managers in London and currency specialists over the last year about this subject to try and get a feel for the ‘word on the street’. I can tell you that the theme has always been the same and nearly all asset managers say the same thing. Sterling is desperately undervalued if we measure it against the fundamentals such as productivity of the economy, GDP v debt etc. Very simply, this means that when compared against all measures, sterling should be trading quite a bit higher against the Euro. The uncertainty surrounding Brexit is depressing the value more than anything else, rather than the actual event itself.

The rational thinking is that the currency markets, at this point in time: 3 years after the vote, are desperate for an outcome, whether that be a deal or remain (we cannot exclude no-deal, but for now it appears to have been put to rest). If we are to assume that the Conservatives win a majority (no matter how small) then there could be a bounce in sterling in anticipation that Boris Johnson’s deal is likely to be passed in parliament and provide the certainty that the financial markets are desperately searching for. The deal being passed ‘could’ create conditions for ‘another rimbalzo’ in the price of sterling. My guess is that it would bounce quickly after any decision was taken, although these are only educated guesses.

caution

You may now be thinking, ‘how much would it likely rise?’. Well, if I knew that then I would be a very rich man indeed. In all honesty, no one can say for sure. I am not a betting man but I wouldn’t be looking to place any sizeable bets on it even if I were.

I remember that at The Spectrum IFA Group annual conference in January this year in Portugal, we had a speaker, David Coombes from Rathbones Asset Managers. He gave his outlook for sterling based on the 2 parameters he had set for the fund he manages. In the event of no deal he had GBP/EUR at 0.9 and in the event of a return to remain he placed GBP/EUR at 1.4. He went on to say that for any scenario in between you can pick your own point.

Going further in my own assessment of things, I personally think that if a deal is passed, or remain wins (in my dreams), then sterling is going to rise, but by how much I wouldn’t like to say. However, we must remember that ‘getting Brexit done’ is a illusion in itself. Passing a deal in parliament is only the start. The UK then has to formally leave the EU and start negotiating trade deals around the world. Some will likely fall in place very quickly, Canada, Australia, South Africa, maybe even the USA, but the deal with the EU and important future trade deals with India, China etc will likely take years and may not be as good as Brexiteers might hope for.

To give you an example of how difficult these trade deal negotiations might be, let’s take the example of Switzerland versus China and their trade deal which they struck in 2013. Everyone is aware of the rapid growth of the Chinese economy and how almost every nation in the world would like to strike a free trade deal with China to access the billions of growing middle class individuals and a rapidly growing consumerist economy. Switzerland is one of very few countries outside the Asia Pacific region to do so. However, Switzerland had to make some large sacrifices to get that deal, mainly that the Chinese negotiated FULL and free access to the Swiss economy for a period of 10 years during which time Switzerland would have only very LIMITED access to certain sections of the Chinese economy. The Swiss deemed this to be a good deal! It just goes to prove that deal making around the world is not going to be as easy as the Leave campaign would like us to believe.

Any protracted deal making phase may well be a negative effect for sterling and after any initial bounce on the back of some certainty, you might see sterling enter a volatile period once again, certainly as the unravelling from the EU also takes effect. I don’t buy into Project Fear and think that the UK will find its way in the world outside the EU, but like any divorce it will get messy for some time. The question is for how long and what impact will this have on the currency.

MY ADVICE
In summary, if you have money in sterling and ask me for advice, I will say that you should not convert it into euro right now. I will caveat that with the fact that neither I nor the best currency expert in the world can tell you what will happen, but it is a reasonable assumption that sterling will rise when the next steps of Brexit are resolved one way or the other. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. If you need to convert to euro then I would suggest doing so in tranches, or holding on until after Dec 12th to see what happens. Then pick your time, keep an eye on the rate and convert on the peaks.

(I am adding this note after having completed this E-zine. Our rep from Currencies Direct, our preferred currency exchange partner, called me about 5 minutes after completing this text and we had a chat about GBP expected movements in relation to the elections. She said that they are thinking that GBP v EUR could bounce to the mid 1.20’s if Boris Johnson wins the election with a majority. This is not a prediction, merely a hypothesis!)

The attack on cash in Italy

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Italy
This article is published on: 8th October 2019

08.10.19

There are 17 different regulations for the use of cash in Italy, from the €15000 limit on shopping for foreign tourists to a €1000 limit on money transfers. 20 years of regulations of cash in a country where it is estimated that 86% of transactions are completed with the use of cash.

But changes may be afoot if this coalition gets its way.

THE PROPOSED CHANGES
The M5S and PD government are, like any good Italian government, looking at ways to rebuild this country’s coffers and balance the books. I say this with a modicum of tongue in cheek, because although that is all they ever seem to talk about, whether they ever get the chance to do anything about it before the coalition falls apart and another set of politicians comes in and changes the proposals yet again is anyone’s guess. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt this time round.

The following proposals are ones which might seriously affect the way you do business or conduct your life in Italy.

The Italian coalition government are looking at how they can incentivise the use of traceable means of payment, i.e. bancomat, credit cards and bonifico, and increase their usage in line with other Northern European countries. To do this they are looking at monetary incentives in the way of a discount in the rate of IVA (VAT) on products and services or imposing penalties on high levels of cash withdrawals at the ATM.

Under the proposals, if you pay by electronic means instead of paying by cash then you could be eligible for a discount of 2% on IVA. However, if you pay by cash then the IVA will increase by 1%.

Using the example of paying cash in a restaurant, you would get an IVA discount of 2% on the 10% normally charged if you paid by card i.e. 8%, or alternatively an IVA rate of 11% if you paid in cash. A nifty move, if it ever comes into force, and one which could certainly catch many people out. If these proposals are implemented by this government or any other, then it might be time to review how you make and/or receive payments to think about benefitting from this discount.

ATM WITHDRAWALS
The second way that they propose to fight the black market of cash payments is to apply a tax on monthly cash withdrawals from ATM’s, or the sportello, where withdrawals exceed €1500 per month. A 2% tax would be applied if you superseded this limit. Equally, the proposal seeks to reward those who use electronic means of payment with a 2% tax credit directly into their account. How they will calculate this is still being disputed.

It remains to be seen how the proposals with be implemented, but both are currently being considered seriously with a view to adding an amendment to the recently approved raft of measures in the Legge di Bilancio 2019. Don’t get caught out if they come into force!

These proposals and rules are changing almost daily at the moment and just this morning I have seen another, which should come into force, and which will allow deductions for income tax purposes, e.g. scontrini at the farmacia or the Ecobonuses for house renovations, ONLY if they are paid by bancomat, credit card or bonifico.

In short, they are trying to disincentivise the use of cash as much as possible. This comes with a promise that if sufficient revenue is generated for the state, then the rate of IVA will not increase in 2020 and 2021 (as is proposed) and they will also look at tax deductions for individuals and families. The mind boggles.

Tax breaks in Italy

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Italy, Tax, tax advice, Tax Relief, tax tips
This article is published on: 7th October 2019

07.10.19

I have been writing these articles for 10 years this year, after sending out my first one in 2009. Looking back at the very first one just the other day, I saw how it had developed and how the concepts I discuss have changed dramatically. This got me thinking about the way that the world has changed as well during this time. Last Friday I joined the Global Climate Strike in Rome. There were about 250,000 students, protesters and concerned people; marching to spread our concern for how we treat the world we live in. It certainly got me thinking about how politics is going to have to change significantly in the coming years to meet the needs and desires of these disgruntled voters.

Which leads us nicely to the new coalition government in Italy and their changes in the Legge di Bilancio which were approved on the 30th September. In the Legge there are many new rules that will come into force from 2020, some eco based (but not enough) and a number which may affect you. Below I have selected a few of the changes in the tax law which might interest you.

1. If you are in the market for a new car, then incentives will be given, up to €6000 for purchasing a new electric, hybrid, small gas or small diesel car.

2. BUT, if you buy an SUV or an ‘auto lusso’, then you will taxed up to €3000.

3. Anyone who is working online might be caught in the trap set to try to tackle evasive tax practices by the big tech companies. Italy is following the French lead and introducing a tax of 3% on web based business revenues generated in Italy.

4. The flat tax of 7% for retirees moving to, and getting residency in Italy is fully approved from January 2019. The main caveat is that you must move to a village of no more than 20,000 inhabitants in any of the following regions:

Sardinia, Molise, Abruzzo, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicilia

Other terms and conditions apply, so check carefully before assuming you automatically qualify.

5. Income tax deductions will be available for anyone who carries out invoiced home renovation, purchases eco domestic appliances, completes seismic work on their house, purchases sun curtains for balconies or buys mosquito blocks for doors, amongst other property related deductions. The following article (in Italian) provides a nice summary (once again conditions apply, so make sure you check the small print or speak with a commercialista before going ahead).

www.theitaliantimes.it/economia/proroga-bonus-ristrutturazioni-mobili-verde-ecobonus-legge-di-bilancio_011019/

However, please remember that this work must be ‘invoiced’ work and paid for by electronic means. If you pay for it in the black or in cash (even if invoiced), then it is not deductable. Although paying in the black is illegal, it will often mean you can negotiate a discount on the full price. Whilst this might make paying in cash may seem attractive, it won’t afford you any income tax deduction so may turn out to be more disadvantageous.

6. The canone RAI (TV licence fee) has been reconfirmed as €90 per annum. No price increase will be applied, at least for this year.

7. And the pièce de résistance … if you thought that IMU and TASI were hard enough to get your head around, the latest news is that they are going to be unified. No prizes for anyone who can come up with the new acronym. TASIMU???

Watch out for your uber-rich neighbours

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Italy, Tax
This article is published on: 18th May 2019

18.05.19

As the rest of the world is starting to talk more frequently about closing in on the uber-rich and making them pay more tax, Italy has gone the other way.

2 years ago Italy introduced a new ‘flat tax’ regime designed to attract the super rich into the country. Anyone can register under this regime whereby they pay a one-off payment of €100,000 per annum to the tax authorities and become resident in Italy without the requirement to declare any of their other worldwide incomes, gains or assets.

Whilst the uptake for this tax regime was slow, Italy has now started to market it more aggressively overseas and they have seen a 30% increase of requests to register, year on year, mainly from the UK (che sorpresa! The super rich are leaving the country with the threat of Brexit) along with Americans, North Europeans and Russians. They now get to keep their money and live ‘La Dolce Vita’

Providing a way out for the uber-rich has never been more popular!

We need to talk about China…

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Investments, Italy
This article is published on: 17th May 2019

17.05.19
  • There are more Christians in China than Italy and the Vatican combined
  • By 2030, China will add more new city-dwellers than the entire U.S. population
  • By 2025, China will build enough skyscrapers to fill TEN New York-sized cities
  • America’s fastest “high speed” train goes less than half as fast as the new train between Shanghai and Beijing (150 mph vs. 302 mph)
  • China has more pigs than the next 43 pork producing countries combined
  • China’s economy grew 7 times faster than America’s over the past decade (316% vs. 43%)

If you hadn’t already guessed, this article is about the economic powerhouse: China. Listed above are some interesting facts just to whet your appetite. However, given the current market turmoil surrounding Donald Trump and his China tariffs, I thought it would be a good idea to clear up some of the myths surrounding China, with the help of our friends at Blackrock Asset Management.

5 Myths about China’s economy

Economic growth is unsustainable

There is still lots of room for growth
The Chinese economy has been growing quickly for more than 20 years, and hit a peak of 14% in 2007, according to the World Bank. But things have started to slow in the last few years. Growth cannot continue indefinitely and China does have a problem with high levels of personal, corporate and government debt. However, even at today’s slower pace of growth at approximately 6% per annum, China will continue to grow more than twice as fast as many developed economies. China has seen growth of 6-10% over the past 7 years. Even a basic level of growth is enough for the financial markets to grow and for domestic reforms to be pushed through.

High debt means that China is high risk

China is actually reducing debt at a good pace
Many Chinese companies hold a great deal of debt and Chinese corporate debt has reached 165% of GDP, according to an IMF report. (Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden have higher corporate debt to GDP ratios!)

The Chinese government is serious about addressing the high levels of debt and has signalled that corporate debt restructuring is now high on the agenda. Whilst this is a positive move for the economy it causes investors to worry about whether the Chinese authorities will be able to engineer a soft landing. Policymakers have been practical in their approach to reducing debt by making structural changes on one front but also ensuring that there is sufficient liquidity to avoid any stress. It sounds like good financial planning to me. Pay down your debt but maintain a good cash level in case of emergencies.

China also has a very high level of personal (retail) investors in its financial markets, and with such a high percentage the Chinese government is more likely than most governments to intervene should there be any danger of sharp falls in equity markets. Economic hardship can trigger social unrest, and the Chinese authorities do not like civil unrest!

Increased protectionism in the US will hit China hard

Despite what Donald Trump would like to make us believe China is an increasingly important player in global trade
The US-China relationship and some kind of trade war seem inevitable especially under the Donald Trump regime. This will affect international markets, without a doubt. However, despite all the noise over tariffs, the ambitious Belt & Road initiative is still in progress. This is China’s way of boosting trade and stimulating economic growth across Asia by building a massive amount of infrastructure to connect it to other countries. In addition, the US has walked away from the Transatlantic Trade Partnership and this offers China the chance to play an even bigger role in terms of trade integration in the region. This basically means that whilst America is battening down the hatches, China is opening itself up, making more allies and expanding its global reach of power.

BlackRock believes that trade tensions between the US and China will continue for a further period but does not think it will escalate into a full-blown trade war, although it does remain a risk.

It is difficult to get accurate economic data about China

There are more ways than one to skin a cat, so are there more ways than one of digging for money
Investors worry about the accuracy of economic data that comes out of China. This is where technology can come to our aid in the guise of satellite imagery. It can provide an alternative source of up-to-date information. For example, it is possible to form a picture of the ‘metalness’ on the ground as a way to measure the number of new factories being built, or existing ones expanded. This information helps to verify the data from the Chinese government. It is also much faster than relying on quarterly valuations.

Surprisingly, this information is so detailed that the economic activity of individual companies can be compared. Big Brother is watching you!

China has a liquidity problem

The tide may be beginning to turn
The inclusion of China in the Emerging Markets financial Indices is already starting to see more funds flowing into China. Going forward, more Chinese shares are likely to be added to the indices, driving even more money into the region.

China already makes up 32.7% of the Emerging Markets Index and will continue to take a larger proportion as China continues to deregulate its capital markets and make them more accessible to foreigners. If China achieved full market inclusion in the Emerging Markets Index, it would account for 50% of the total index of ALL emerging markets and it could eventually account for 30% of the emerging markets bond indices.

The strength of the US dollar together with the extended period of quantitative easing has held money in the US, but that trend is now changing with funds starting to flow back into Asia from the second half of 2017.

There is also a forthcoming Stock Connect scheme, linking the Shanghai and London Stock Exchanges, which will also give foreign investors greater and easier access to the shares of companies listed in mainland China.

All these developments, together with the broader structural reforms being carried out within China, may increase liquidity and as these five myths are debunked, the Chinese stock market may start to get the increased international attention it deserves.

As a client of The Spectrum IFA Group, China and other emerging markets will make up a proportion of your portfolio. Whilst the financial markets are highly volatile, the growth of investment is higher than in other developed markets. Yet, it is not a question of whether you should invest in volatile financial markets or not, but more the question of how much you should allocate to them based on your own personal circumstances and attitude to risk.

The asset managers we work with take care of those decisions on your behalf, so you don’t have to.

The Spectrum IFA Group: A corporate partner, a generous friend

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Belgium, corporate responsibility, France, Italy, Spain, Spectrum-IFA Group, Switzerland
This article is published on: 16th May 2019

16.05.19

As a small NGO, Street Child EU is always on the lookout to build relationships with corporate partners as a means of strengthening our long-term fundraising ambitions. We are always grateful when, after approaching an organisation, they take the time to contemplate our vision and give consideration for the potential benefits of our projects. Yet, even with our proven track-record, this is a competitive industry, and securing regular funding is a painstaking and uncertain process. Thankfully, every so often, we encounter a corporate organisation that immediately identifies with our philosophy and subsequently demonstrates an admirable commitment to transforming our ambitions into reality – The Spectrum IFA Group is one such case.

Over the years, this Financial Services Organisation, has shown an unwavering dedication to providing hope to some of the world’s most marginalised groups and disadvantaged children, their donations to Street Child thus far reached 14,000 € . Street Child’s relationship with The Spectrum IFA Group stretches back to 2016, when they provided us with a generous donation for our Girls Speak Out programme. This project was set in the difficult context of post-ebola Sierra Leone and Liberia. Our mission aimed to support at least 20,000 girls to access and sustainably remain in quality education. When The Spectrum IFA Group provided us with 3,750 € we could immediately family business grants for the Street Child team in the capital of Sierra Leone, central Freetown. This meant that 65 individual caregivers were given the means to protect and nurture the vulnerable children in their care. The grant also enabled an extra 65 girls and 65 of their siblings to attend school – totalling 130 children for whom education had previously been out of reach. Moreover, the donation has had a wider impact of providing an additional 195 family members with access to an increased income. Overall, this has been a great source of optimism in the community, wedging open a door of opportunity for future generations of children in Freetown.

In 2017, The Spectrum IFA Group once again willingly answered Street Child’s call to action by providing support for our Breaking the Bonds Project in Nepal. Street Child was implementing an ambitious plan to reverse the effects that decades of discrimination have inflicted upon the Musahar community. With a donation of 5,000 € we made great strides in our efforts to free Musahars from bonded labour and disrupt this cycle of poverty. The donation has enabled 27 Musahar girls to complete our livelihoods support program which, through a careful combination of business skills training and life skills workshops, has given these Musuhars the resources and skills needed to propel them towards economic independence. In 2018, The Spectrum IFA Group reiterated their support for the Musahar community by donating an extra 3,000 € to the cause.

This organisation has always been interested in receiving project updates from the field, and we have always happy to oblige with photographs and case studies. They have kindly used these materials to show off during presentations at company events, encouraging even more donations by The Spectrum IFA Group’s staff. It is important for us that our corporate partners show off the projects they have funded with this kind of pride. It is important that corporate organisations engage with NGOs out of a genuine interest in social progress and The Spectrum IFA Group clearly does so.

All to often corporate partnerships cannot stand the test of time, but the relationship between The Spectrum IFA Group and Street Child is strong and looks set to stay. We have already shared positive initial conversations in relation to our new project in Afghanistan and furthermore, an extra 2000 € donation already indicated for a new Musahar project. We are tremendously grateful for the trust and support The Spectrum IFA Group has continuously offered us. Our experience with The Spectrum IFA Group is a testament to the fact that the NGOs and Corporate organisations can positively bridge the gap between these differing industries in order to pursue a common goal.

1

Soti, a Musahar in Nepal has benefitted from business skills training to establish a steady income for herself and her children.

2

In Central Freetown, Sierra Leone, Aminata been supported through the Girls Speak Out programme. She can now attend School regularly and has aspirations to one day become a teacher

*Note: The names of individuals have been changed to protect their privacy and identity

New Tax Laws in Italy

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Italy, Tax, tax advice
This article is published on: 14th March 2019

14.03.19

If you have been reading my previous articles, you may have read about tax breaks that are in the pipeline for Italian residents.

They have been proposed by Matteo Salvini and his party La Lega. The proposals that are the most interesting from my point of view are the following:

FLAT TAX OF 7% FOR RETIREES MOVING TO ITALY

This was introduced into the ‘Legge di Bilancio 2019’. In short, anyone who moves to Italy and is in receipt of a pension income from abroad, can benefit from a flat tax of 7% on their income for a period of 5 years after becoming resident, based on the criteria that:

a) you must establish residency in one of the following regions, Sicilia, Calabria, Sardegna, Campania, Basilicata, Abruzzo, Molise e Puglia,

b) the town/village must have less than 20,000 registered inhabitants.

c) you must NOT have been resident in Italy in the last 5 full tax years prior to taking the offer.

d) you can opt out of the regime if you feel it does not fit your circumstances.

The idea is to re-populate the southern regions of Italy which have been decimated over the last 20 years due to lack of employment opportunities and mass migration to the large Italian cities and Northern Europe. The aim is to try and draw in foreign money and also Italians abroad who may wish to move to Italy in retirement.

CHANGES TO THE INCOME TAX BANDS

From calendar year 2020 there are proposals afoot to reduce and simplify the current income tax bands. Currently there are 5 tax bands in Italy:

On the first $15000 23%
€15001 – €28000 27%
€50,000 – €75,000 41%
+75,000% 43€

The initial proposal was to reduce the rate of taxation to 15% on the first €65000 of income and then 20% above. Whilst that has been introduced in 2019 for self employed people on a partitia IVA, the proposal on personal income has been scaled back somewhat since the initial proposals, mainly due to concerns over balancing the books. The latest proposal doing the rounds is to reduce the number of income tax bands, but the rates do not move much:

On the first €28,000 23%
€28,000 – €75,000 33%
€75,000 43%

An income of €28000 per annum gross would amount to an annual saving of €520pa.
An income of €50000 per annum gross would amount to €1620pa

These are not figures that are going to change many people’s lives in a big way, but something is better than nothing. However, all this is hypothetical at the moment as we wait to see the final proposals and implementation of the law. It is unlikely that we will know more at this point since Salvini is quite likely to force another general election this year in lieu of his gaining popularity and the demise of M5S. Since the flat tax was his proposal, if he becomes PM, then further changes could be in the pipeline. Watch this space!

So, all in all I don’t see any great game changers for you or me, but who knows. At least we have the sun, sea, mountains, food and ‘la dolce vita’.

Taxes affecting residents in Italy

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Italy, Tax
This article is published on: 13th March 2019

13.03.19

Well, before I start this article I thought I should let you know that I am now a citizen of Italy. My citizenship journey is almost over. I received confirmation that my application for cittadinanza has been approved and in their words, ‘ definitivo’.

All I can tell you is that it was all a bit of an anti-climax at the prefettura. I was hoping for a band, a hug from the chap who had administered my application and a bowl of pasta con sugo di pomodoro e basilico….nothing!

In fact, all I got was the door slammed in my face after being handed a brown envelope to take to the comune. To be fair to him I have to now book an appointment with the comune to go and do the ‘giuramento’, which means changing my carta d’identita into one for an Italian citizen, and to swear on the Italian constitution. I assume it will be a little more pomp and circumstance than the prefettura office, but I shall keep you informed. However, it is official!

I had never dreamed of getting ‘cittadinanza’ in Italy until the big ‘B’ word arrived in my life. Without wishing to get hung up on that particular subject, it has changed my life and I know many of your lives have changed as well. One of those is, of course, taxation. For many it has meant deciding between the UK and Italy for residency purposes. That has implications and I have been a long time advocate of planning your financial life before making the leap of residency into another country. Italy is a higher tax country but the burden can be reduced, or ways can be found to make sure you can enjoy ‘la dolce vita’ without getting hung up on tax matters.

What is most important is understanding, and so every year I like to run a summary of the tax laws which mainly affect us and any proposed changes. There will also be some changes for UK home owners, post Brexit, which I will touch on and the proposed changes to the existing tax rates and the potential tax incentives.

A summary of the taxes which affect most residents in Italy

The first thing you need to remember, as a fiscally** resident individual of Italy is that you are subject to taxation on your worldwide earned and non-earned income, capital gains and assets (including property). It is your job to make sure that you report these to your commercialista each year to complete your tax return. But before you do it for the first time, a financial planning exercise can come in useful.

** Fiscal residency generally means being registered as a resident at your local comune/municipio.

TAX ON INCOMES

EMPLOYMENT
If you are employed or self employed then there are multiple options available, from partita iva, partita iva regime forfettario, rientro di cervello, amongst others. I won’t go into detail here as these really need to be looked at on a case by case basis, but needless to say that there are financial planning opportunities if you are working, or intending to work in Italy. If you have any questions in this area you can contact me on gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com

PENSIONS
Most of my clients are in, or close to retirement and so understanding how your pension will be taxed as a resident in Italy is of paramount importance.

PRIVATE PENSIONS AND OCCUPATIONAL PENSIONS
If you are in receipt of a pension income and it is being paid from a private pension provider overseas / occupational pension provider or you are in receipt of a state pension / social security, then that income has to be declared on your Italian tax return. If you have paid tax already on that income then a tax credit will be given for the tax paid in the country of origin (assuming that the country has a double taxation agreement with Italy), but any difference between the tax rates in the country of origin and Italy will have to be paid.

I often hear stories of people who are told by their commercialista that their state pension / social security pension is not taxable in Italy. This is absolutely NOT the case. The UK state pension, as an example, is 100% taxable in Italy as is US social security. It is not excluded from the double taxation treaties and therefore must be declared in Italy. Failure to declare could mean fines and penalties.

GOVERNMENT DERIVED PENSIONS
It is a good idea to define what is meant by government paid pensions. The definition according to the Italy/UK double taxation convention1988 is, paid from:

” a political or an administrative subdivision or a local authority”

This generally means civil servants of any kind and foreign office employees but would also include teachers, NHS workers, military personnel, police men and women, fire service etc. In these cases, the pension awarded is taxable only in the state in which it originates, and tax is generally deducted at source in that country of origin.

But there are some tax idiosyncrasies to look out for here. On the positive side, this income is not taken into account when calculating the tax on your other income sources in Italy, e.g. rental income, and it is not declared on your tax declaration in Italy.

On the negative side, for those of you who are thinking of becoming citizens of Italy, these pensions are only taxed in the state of origin UNLESS you become a citizen of Italy and then they are taxable in Italy as well. So for anyone thinking about cittadinanza, plan before you leap!

INVESTMENT INCOME AND CAPITAL GAINS
As of 1st January 2017, interest from savings, income from investments in the form of dividends and other non-earned income payments stands unchanged at a flat tax rate of 26%. Realised capital gains are also taxed at the same rate of 26%.

(Interest from Italian Government Bonds and Government Bonds from ‘white list’ countries are still taxed at 12.5% rather than 26%, as detailed above. This is another quirk of Italian tax law as this means that you pay less tax as a holder of Government Bonds in Pakistan or Kazakhstan, than a holder of Corporate Bonds from Italian giants ENI or FIAT).

PROPERTY OVERSEAS
Property which is located overseas is taxed in 2 ways. Firstly, there is the tax on the income and, secondly, a tax on the value of the property itself.

1. The income from property overseas.

Overseas net property income (after allowable expenses in the country in which is located) is added to your other income for the year and taxed at your highest marginal rate of income tax.

Where many properties are generating all your income, this can prove to be a tax INEFFICIENT income-stream for residents in Italy. It is better to have a diversified income stream, pensions, investments and property, to maximise tax planning opportunities and allow you to redirect income from the most tax efficient source at any one time. Relying solely on one type of asset for income in retirement is generally not a good idea.

2. The other tax is on the value of the property itself, which is 0.76% of the value. (IVIE)

A) Value must be defined in this instance. For properties based in the EU, the value is the Italian cadastral equivalent. In the UK that would be the council tax value NOT the market value. You will find that the market value will, in most cases, be significantly more than the cadastral equivalent value.

B) In properties located outside the EU the value for tax purposes is defined as the purchase price or value at time of ownership, where this can be evidenced, otherwise the value of the property is defined as the current market value.

** BREXIT TAX CHANGE** Once the UK leaves the EU the definition of value of the property will change as per the explanations above. This will affect any UK national living in Italy, who owns property in the UK post Brexit, and depending on your circumstances you could find yourself paying more or less in taxation on the property.

DISPOSAL OF UK PROPERTY
If you are thinking about moving to Italy and are looking to dispose of second properties in the UK before the move, then you may be entitled to take advantage of a tax break. If you have owned the UK property for more than 5 full tax years then it is no longer deemed a speculative transaction and you will not be capital gains tax liable, as a resident in Italy, on the disposal.

However, you may also qualify for a tax break in the UK as well, because although non-UK residents are liable to taxation on the disposal of UK property, the purchase price of the property is taken at the point at which the legislation was introduced: 6th April 2015 or later, if applicable. So if you have owned the property for a long time and seen some large capital gains, you could dispose of the property and benefit from a largely reduced tax rate as a result of this cross border financial planning loophole.

TAXES ON ASSETS
1. Banks accounts and deposits
A very simple to understand and acceptable €34.20 per annum is applied to each current account you own. This includes fixed deposits, short term cash deposits, CD’s etc. The charge is the equivalent of the ‘imposta da bollo’ which is applied to all Italian deposit accounts each year.

2. Other financial assets
Lastly, we have the charge on other foreign-owned assets (IVAFE). This covers shares, bonds, funds, portfolio assets, gold holdings, art, classic cars etc or most other types of assets that you may hold. The tax on these is 0.2% per annum based on the valuation as of 31st December each year.

Also, remember that if you have a portfolio of managed assets that are NOT held in a suitably compliant Italian investment bond, then all the separate funds/shares/assets are considered “individual” and MUST be reported individually on your tax return each year. That also includes reconciling any income payments that have been made and also any capital gains that have been realised. A reference to the Banca D’Italia EUR/GBP or USD exchange must be made for each transaction on the correct date.

All this talk of a flat tax

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Income Tax, Italy, Retirement, Tax, tax advice, Tax Relief
This article is published on: 8th June 2018

08.06.18

The current political environment in Italy is one which I find very interesting, notably in how it is perceived in foreign media and presented to us through the usual media outlets. In particular, I reference the constant use of the word ‘Populism’ and ‘Populist Government’. I confess that I had to have a quick look at the definition of populism before writing this Ezine and was interested in finding out that the exact defintion, according to Wikipedia, is:

‘Populism is a political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against a privileged elite’

I have a confession to make that if I can pick and choose only this broad defintion of Populism then I think I can fit myself into a part of the populist ideal. (Clearly it is more complicated than this but I am merely trying to make my point, and as a regular reader of my E-zine’s you will understand my usual approach!)

However, I think it is worth exploring the idea that the Lega and M5S coalition have put together of a flat tax. Although a flat tax for eveyone, no matter how rich or poor is completely obscene in my opinion the ‘flat tax’, proposals, which will launch at 20% for businesses as of July 1st 2018 and 15% – 20% on 1st Jan 2019 for individuals, assuming the Government holds together, actually make a lot of sense to me.

A radical reform of the Italian income tax system is about to take place, and one which is long overdue in my opinion. Not for any populist reasons, but for more practical reasons which I will expand on below.

The proposed flat tax regime
If you want to have a look at the Contratto per il Governo di Cambiamento, then you can do so HERE. It makes interesting reading, if not full of more blurb than actual facts at this stage. However, its a start.

So, going back to the issue of the flat tax. The proposal, soon to be put into force, is to reform the tax regime into 2 flat tax rates, namely 15% and 20%. This sounds very new and certainly will win a lot of those populist votes. But first let’s take a look at how income is currently spread in Italy and the following chart shows just who it would affect:

It’s quite interesting to note from this chart that 80% of the tax paying population of Italy earn up to €29000. The median declared income is €19000pa. Those may sound strange numbers but when you consider the current Italian tax rates (see chart below), you can start to form an idea that there is probably a little bit of fiddling of the figures. After €28000pa in reddito complessivo the tax rate jumps from 27% to 38%. With this in mind, the proposal of a flat tax could potentially bring in alot of, currently, undisclosed (let’s call it what it really is: ‘in nero’) money to the Government coffers.

A QUICK REMINDER OF ITALIAN INCOME TAX RATES
(IRPEF – Imposte sul reddito delle persona)

€0 – €15000  = 23%
€15000- €28000  = 27% (€3450 + 27% on the part over €15000)
€28000 – €55000  = 38% (€6960 + 38% on the part over €28000)
€55000 – €75000  = 41% (€17220 + 41% on the part over €55000)
over €75000  = 43% (€25420 + 43% on the over €75000)

How might it work in practice?
The new proposal is to have a flat tax of 15% on a combined ‘reddito famigliare’ of upto €80,000pa. If your ‘reddito famigliare’ is above €80,000pa then the flat tax rises to 20%.
A proposed maximum tax of €3000 would apply for every member of the family where they have a individual ‘redditto complessivo’ of no more than €35000pa. This would be limited to families where the ‘redditto famigliare’ is between €35,000- €50,000 pa.

In short, the most generous tax deductions are for those who have a ‘redditto famigliare’ between €40000 and €60000pa.

A straniero example……
This all sounds very exciting and some what overly generous for a country which has historically taxed its citizens up to the eyeballs. However, let’s use an average straniero example to see what difference it would make.

Let’s assume that we have a retired couple, with state pensions (€8000pa each) and private pensions of €18000 and €3000 respectively. They also own a property in their home country which generates a UK income of €8000pa (jointly owned). They have investments and savings, but for the purposes of this example they are not relevant as the proposed measures are for income tax only.

Under the current regime the income of each individual would be subject to taxation.

Spouse 1: €8000 + €3000 + €4000= Total €15000pa The tax rate applicable would be 23% therefore the tax would be €3450

For the purposes of this example I am not including any benefits, or credits that might be avaiable to any one individual or another

Spouse 2: €8000 + €18000 + €4000 = €30000pa Spouse 2 exceeds both band 1 and 2 and will enter the higher rate tax bracket creating a taxable liability of €7720

THE TOTAL INCOME TAX BILL WOULD BE: € 11170 per annum

Under the new proposals both spouse 1 and spouse 2 would pay a flat tax of 15% on their combined income , meaning a total tax bill of €6750

A SAVING OF €4420pa

Let’s take a breath and calm down for a moment
So, before we all start getting very excited we all know the Italian Government is not the most coherent at the best of times and we are in an unprecedented era. It may be that this proposal is watered down yet and we get a half way house offer, but I expect that simplification and lower tax rates are on the cards. In the end the country still has to balance the books and attract foreign investment. If they don’t have enough money coming into the Government coffers to keep the system running smoothly (for lack of a better word :0)) then the money will soon dry up and punitive tax rates will have to be imposed to reap that which has been lost.

My soap box moment
And so I move onto my favouritie part of this E-zine. My soap box moment. You see, I have been wanting to write this formally for a long time but never really had the opportunity to do so. I would go on record as saying that I am actually in favour of this radical overhaul of the Italian tax system and whilst I see this proposed flat tax regime as being a little unequally distributed, I do think its necessary and despite what the bankers, economists and bureaucrats tell us, I actually think it would be a good thing for Italy.

The entrepreneurial zone
I have always waxed lyrical that, what I like to call the entrepreneurial zone, in Italy, is completely dead. Any good economics book will tell you that 80% of employment and growth in a society comes from small to medium sized businesses. That is the shop that opens and gets so many customers that they need to employ a young person to manage the business in the mornings, or a new online business which grows rapidly and needs to employ 5 new people to manage operations. It’s worth repeating that 80% of growth in an economy and job growth comes from this area. Not the Vodafone’s of this world or the multitude of other multinational businesses that pop up on the high street. It’s the small businesses and one man bands that grow into medium sized firms that cumulatively turn over billions in revenue each year. This is real growth. And this is what Conte ( the new Prime Minister) talked about in his first address to Parliament when he said that he wanted Italy to grow its way out of debt and not have to impose more austerity. He is absolutely right. The economics speak for themselves.

Which brings me back to the entrepreneurial zone. This is the area which I think is the most important. To take a business from nothing: an idea, a start up, to revenue of €50,000 each year and onto €250,000 each year you need incentive. It is in the Governments’ interest to incentivize you because you are going to employ the people and pay the taxes that will contribute towards 80% of the running of that country. And from there you may have the skills to turn that business in a multi million euro revenue business employing hundreds of people and contributing back even more into the running of the society. The problem with Italy is that after €28000pa in revenue they effectively chop you off at the knees (the tax rates rise astronomically + there is the dreaded social security contributions to pay. INPS) and let you see if you can hobble along and survive whilst they come running after you to chop off your arms, and then take the rest. It’s like being chased by a mad axe man without your legs and seeing if you can hobble faster than he can catch up with you before he hacks the rest off. It just doesn’t work. In my opinion, this is one of the main problems in Italy and why I think both Di Maio and Salvini have got the right idea when it comes to taxation. (The rest of their policies are open to debate, although some of those also have a lot of merit!)).

I am reminded of the conversations I regularly have with clients who recount stories of their children who set up businesses in Italy and either struggle on barely being able to keep the businesses afloat and or eventually closing down. A young business needs all the revenue it can get in that ‘ entrepreneurial zone’, that area between €0 and €100,000 pa. If a business is going well most of that income is going to be re-invested anyway and used to employ people or purchase goods and services. Europe has to support Italy at this time and allow that zone to flourish and provide opportunities to young and old entrepreneurs alike.

So who is responsible for change
There is always a counter argument for every case and clearly in this case, given the cultural back drop to Italy’s tax collection issues there will be economists who will argue that if income tax revenue were to drop drastically by lowering rates so much then how will Italy, ‘The State’, balance its books, after all there is nothing to say that people will suddenly start declaring all their income because the tax rate is more favourable. That is why the proposed tax regime has to be followed by some hardline clampdowns on tax evasion. Otherwise, it just won’t work.

I am going to follow these proposals closely, and feed back to you, to keep you abreast of any legislation changes. (Watch out for the summer months as they like to slip new laws in whilst everyone is on holiday). I am completely in favour of a total overhaul of the Italian tax system and dispute what the media, economists, and supposed experts say (I sound like a Brexiteer). I think drastically cutting tax rates in Italy, whilst having a short term impact on Government revenue would attract foreign investment in droves ( I mean if you had the chance to set up a factory in Huddersfield or one in Umbria, which would you choose?), it could increase investment rapidly, create jobs, create subsidiary businesses servicing the bigger ones, incentivize larger business to relocate because of the tax rates and could create a new economic boom for Italy. That being said, if it isn’t put into place with some heavy Governmental supervision then it could all fall apart and Italy’s days in Europe would be numbered. And therein seems to be the folly of the whole idea. Europe, whilst I love the European project dearly, has not treated countries like Italy favourably and should it continue on its current path without allowing any kind of change and only implementing austerity, then the likelihood is that Italy would eventually decide to Italexit.

Government has to lead
Italy, like any government around the world has to take the lead in forcing through sensible change. The young business people I know who are barely making ends meet are never going to fully declare every euro they earn when they have families to feed, medical treatments to take care of and childrens schooling costs to pay. And given the choice of making a ‘few’ euros ‘in nero’ and being able to look after the family versus paying into a corrupt state which merely extracts the money from you by osmosis for its own nefarious means, the choice is simple. Most families, if not all, will take that risk. They just have to. Or they move abroad!

So I am in favour of Di Maio and Salvini’s tax plans. I hope they manage to find a solution that will help everyone, mainly the poor and the entrepreneurs who want to prosper but don’t have the ability to do so because of draconian tax measures which should have been ditched long ago. It won’t be an easy ride, but I hope it’s a success. And in the end, should it pay off it may just keep Europe together. Can you imagine Di Maio and Salvini going down in the history books as the saviours of Europe!

(You don’t need to write to tell me that my artistic licence has been abused in this article, just enjoy and let’s see what happens. I, for one, am moderately positive about the future if they can bring about positive change in the tax system in the way in which they are proposing to do).

Given the proposed changes in taxes in Italy, it will be an important time to take a look at your own tax and financial planning arrangements and make sure that they are as tax efficient as possible.