IF IN DOUBT, DECLARE THE ACCOUNT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Gareth Horsfall

Gareth HorsfallIf you live in Italy and or have financial interests in Italy you can contact Gareth Horsfall directly on: gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com to request more information about how he may be able to help you. Alternatively you can complete the form below and a message will be sent to him. If you would like to read more about Gareth's work you can follow his blog on tax and financial planning in Italy HERE

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