Tel: +34 93 665 8596 |


Citizenship or Residency in Italy?

By Gareth Horsfall
This article is published on: 10th July 2023

Cittadinanza v Residenza – which to choose?

I decided to write this article because a number of people have asked me about the tax advantages of becoming an Italian citizen. My aim here is to give some clarification on the financial planning considerations if you are thinking about a permanent stay in Italy.

I opted for Cittadinanza as a result of Brexit. When my EU acquired rights were going to be stripped away from me I needed to make some decisions and for me cittadinanza was the right thing to do (with an Italian wife and child in Italian school, it seemed a no-brainer). Thankfully, as a resident in Italy married to an Italian my cittadinanza seemed to be right of passage rather than any decision that the preffetura took. I was lucky and I also managed to squeeze in before the language test was introduced…phew! (although I could pass that now).

If you are left wondering which option is best for you, I thought I would write this article to help lay out some facts. I hope it helps.

Cittadinanza and residenza

They are 2 very distinct definitions, often confused, but inherently connected from a legal and fiscal point of view.

As ‘stranieri’ living in Italy it is not unusual to get confused by some of the terminology regarding our legal status, and for Brit’s who were resident in Italy pre-Brexit, they now have additional legal implications which they have to deal with. For the rest of the non-EU world, you have probably been experiencing some of these issues that Brits are now facing. for some time, so you could probably tell us a thing or 2 about it.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 states that every individual, in every part of the world, has a right to legal citizenship. No individual can be arbitarily stripped of their legal citizenship, nor of the right to change it.

What is cittadinanza?

Cittadinanza is simply defined as the condition of an individual belonging to a state with the rights and duties that this relationship entails; among which are political rights, i.e the right to vote and the possibility of holding public office, and the duty of loyalty to the state and the obligation to defend the state, within the limits and methods established by law.

Cittadinanza gives the individual the right to vote, access to public services, diplomatic protection and legal recognition. It can be acquired by birth (ius soli o ius sanguinis), by marriage or naturalisation and every country has it’s own different criteria for obtaining cittadinanza.

Cittadinanza has some distinct advantages, such as the right to vote in national elections, unlimited travel with the passport, access to social and health services and protection by the government.

Requirements for application
In the case of Italy, a language test must be passed to level B1, declaration of prior residence in other countries is required, evidence that you don’t have a criminal record in other countries and income requirements etc. In addition, specific requirements may be needed depending on whether you are applying based on birth, marriage, or residency.

residenza in Italy

What about ‘residenza’? What is it?

Residence is the place that an individual is considered fiscally resident.

Residence determines the obligation to pay taxes in a specific state or jurisidction. Generally speaking it is based on the period of time that one spends in a country but is also determined by other factors such as whether you are registered in a specific country and whether it is your habitual abode i.e the place where you spend most of your time. (Read on for more details on this).

Residence refers to the legal status of an individual in a country and guarantees the right to live and work without citizenship. Residenza, in much the samw way as cittadinanza has a number of advantages, such as the right to access health care the option to work, buy property and make investments in Italy. Residenza can be temporary or permanent and the permesso di soggirono comes in various forms. To obtain residenza an individual must satisfy various documentary requisities, financial criteria and possibly language competency (not necessarily)

Quick note 1. I am frequently asked whether being registered at the Anagrafe constitutes fiscal residency. The answer, in the main is YES. There might be situations for business people, for example, who have interests in Italy and other countries and who require residenza anagrafica but not ‘fiscale’, for their business needs. However, for the majority of people who are coming to live and reside in Italy there will be no doubt that your fiscal residency is in the country if you meet just ‘ONE’ of the criteria below.

(**US citizens can transfer their residency to Italy but will have an obligation to report in the US as well. This creates numerous tax and financial planning issues and so should be planned carefully**)

Quick note 2. Is it possible to be a resident of nowhere because you travel extensively and do not spend more than 183 days a year in any one country? This is absolutely NOT possible! By definition, every individual must have a place of habitual residency whether you spend 183 days a year there or not. You cannot choose your residency status. It is a matter of fact!

Definition of residenza in Italy
You must remember that the definition of residenza in Italy is defined through the income tax code and therefore residenza and taxation are intrinsically connected. An individual is considered subject to taxation and fiscally resident for the majority of a tax period (calendar year) if they meet one or more of the following requirements:

1. You are registered at the anagrafe
2. You spend more than 183 days a year in Italy, i.e it is your habitual abode.
3. You are domiciled in Italy. (Your domicile , by Italian definition, being the place where you have established your main centre of business and/or personal and affairs.

Differences between cittadinanza and residenza

Differences between cittadinanza and residenza

Whilst different concepts they do coincide with each other.   As we have already established, cittadinanza determines your citizenship whereas residenza determines that you are fiscally required to pay taxes in Italy.  You can be a citizen of Italy but also reside in another country and visa versa.  The principle differences however, are as follows:

  1. Legal Status: Cittadinanza constitutes a legal and political status with certain rights specific duties.  Residenza fiscale relates exclusively to the fiscal rules and regulations.
  2. Acquisition: Cittadinanza can be acquired through birth, marraige and naturalization rights, whereas ‘residenza fiscale’ is determined, principally, by how much time you spend, or are allowed to spend,  in Italy
  3. Permanence: Cittadinanza is usually permanent unless it is revoked or voluntarily renounced, whereas residenza can change over time according to your personal and/or economic circumstances.
  4. Rights and privileges: Cittadinanza offers certain rights, as discussed above, whereas residenza merely affects your tax obligations, tax benefits and residency rights in Italy.
Tax in Italy

Does your tax position change if you obtain cittadinanza

This is a particularly pertinent question for Brits who lost their EU national status as a result of Brexit but which is also interesting to other nationalities who decide to live in Italy, and who may also want to obtain cittadinanza.

The simple answer is that your fiscal tax status will NOT change as a result of moving from residenza to cittadinanza.  However, there are cases, which vary from country to country and therefore you will need to either refer to the double taxation treaty yourself or get a professional to look for you.

In general the main fiscal difference between cittadinanza and residenza is regarding  government derived pensions  (pensions paid by the state, which you worked for, and are directly linked to the type of employment i.e teachers, military, police, health care professionals from a public setting).  If you are receiving a pension from a government derived service then with residenza it will normally be taxed ONLY in the state in which the pension is being paid.  However, if you obtain cittadinanza then the same pension could become subject to taxation in Italy as well.  Double taxation issues are dealt with in the double taxation treaty, but it may mean you end up paying more taxation in Italy on the same pension than you would be in your home country.

***Government service pensions are NOT social security or state pension payments***
State pensions and social security payments are,  in nearly all cases, taxable as a fiscal resident in Italy. (Commercialisti often misunderstand  these and assume they are government derived pensions from employment, as described above.  They are not!  

When to move to Italy

When to move to Italy and register on the anagrafe

Knowing when to move can also make the difference between paying taxes in Italy in the year you move and paying them after the next fiscal year.

If you register after July 3rd then under the 183 day rule you will not be considered fiscally tax resident in Italy until the following full calendar year (only Italian sourced income will be taxable from the point of payment). Conversely, if you do register as resident before July 3rd in any year, then you will be considered fiscally resident for the ‘whole’ calendar year.

But don’t make the following mistake that I have seen many times:

If you make a request for residence before July 3rd and let’s say you don’t have all your documentation, so you delay the application until after July 3rd. Once everything is submitted and residenza is granted, it will be back dated to the original request. This might mean you are now considered fiscally resident for the whole tax year. Therefore, benefitting from the July 3rd rule means that you MUST NOT apply for residency before this date!

The period from July 3rd to Dec 31st is a HUGE financial planning opportunity because you potentially have the tax jurisdiction in which you are currently living to take advantage of and replan your finances for a tax efficient life in Italy. One simple move might be to sell some assets to benefit from capital gans tax reliefs that Italy does not have. Pre-planning and discussion is essential. When people contact me about a move to Italy, my first question is what date are you planning on registering, and is it flexible? It gives you time and opportunities, which could make a big financial difference.

Better the money in your pocket than in the Italian tax mans pocket!

If you are in any doubt about which option might be best for you and how best to plan your finances for your life in Italy then please feel free to get in touch on or on +39 3336492356.   
Always happy to help!

Article by Gareth Horsfall

If you live in Italy and or have financial interests in Italy you can contact Gareth Horsfall directly on: 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

Contact Gareth Horsfall direct about: "Citizenship or Residency in Italy?"

    The Spectrum IFA Group is committed to building long term client relationships. This form collects your name and contact details so we can contact you about this specific enquiry. For further information, please see our Privacy Policy.