Tax and residency in Italy
By Gareth Horsfall
This article is published on: 12th January 2015
No 1. Expat tax Grief
Not a week goes by these days, where I am not contacted by someone who has a question about their residency in Italy, and what that means for them fiscally. Either by people who are about to move to Italy or others who have already been living here for some time and want to become ‘in regola’.
The conversation then naturally flows into the minutiae of exactly what are the taxes that need to be paid in Italy.
So, I would write and explain those pesky taxes that apply to expats who have income being paid and/or assets held in other countries. It may act as a good guide for those who are thinking about, or in the process of, doing something about their Italian tax returns for 2014.
Where to start?
Well, firstly I start by confirming that, as a resident in Italy, you are subject to taxation on your worldwide assets and income (with some exceptions). That means that if you are a resident in Italy then you are required to declare your assets and income, wherever they might be located or generated in the world.
TAX ON INCOME
If you are in receipt of a pension income, for example, and it is being paid from a private pension provider overseas or a state pension, then that income has to be declared on your Italian tax return (nb. different rules apply to Government service pensions, where tax is generally deducted at source in the country of origin and there is no further requirement to report the income in Italy). If tax is deducted at source in the country of origin, the income must still be declared again in Italy. A tax credit will be given for the amount of tax paid in the country of origin (assuming that 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.
It is a similar picture for income, generated from employment. This is a slightly more complicated issue that depends on many factors and, therefore, I shall not dwell on it here. If you have any questions in this area you can contact me on the details at the bottom of this page.
INVESTMENT INCOME AND CAPITAL GAINS
This is one area where Italy excels above other countries, in that its system of calculation is very simple. As of 1st July 2014, interest from savings, income from investments in the form of dividends and other income payments are taxed at a flat 26%. Capital gains tax is the same rate of 26%.
** Interest from Italian Government Bonds and Government Bonds from ‘white list’ countries is still taxed at 12.5% rather than 26%, as detailed above. This is another quirk of Italian tax law as this means it is more convenient, from a tax position, to invest in Government Bonds in Pakistan or Kazakhstan, than it is to buy corporate Bonds from Italian corporate giants ENI or Unicredit. **
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. Income from property overseas.
Unlike rental property located in Italy, which is taxed at the rate of approx 23% depending on what kind of rental you operate, overseas income from property is added to your other income for the year and taxed at your highest rate of income tax.
There is one advantage to this, in that tax in the country of origin has to be applied to the income in the first instance. Therefore, the net income (after expenses) in the country of origin is added to your other income in Italy for the year. This can be quite useful if the property/ies are investment properties, the expenses are high, the country of origin allows multiple deductions and the net income position is low. However, as I have written before, if you are reliant on the income to live on, then a high net income position (before declaration in Italy) can result in a much lower net amount (after Italian tax) depending on the amount of other income you receive each year. Once your total income for the year moves above €28,000 you enter into the punishing 38% tax bracket in Italy.
This can prove to be a tax INEFFICIENT income-stream for those hoping to live in Italy by relying on income from property overseas.
2. The other tax is on the value of the property itself, which is 0.76% of the value.
However, value must be defined in this instance. For EU based properties, the value is the Italian cadastral equivalent. In the UK (the area I am most familiar with), that would be the council tax value NOT the market value. You will find that the market value will, in most cases, be more than the cadastral equivalent value.
In properties located outside the EU, the value for tax purposes is defined as the market value of the property ONLY where evidence cannot be provided of the purchase value of the property, in which case this would be used instead.
TAXES ON ASSETS
It would not be right that other assets escaped Scot free!
BANK ACCOUNTS AND DEPOSITS
A very simple to understand and acceptable €34.20 per annum is applied to each current account you own. However, from 2014 every deposit account that you own overseas with an ‘average’ balance of €5,000 in it, each calendar year, is taxed at the rate of 0.2% of the average balance throughout the year. 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.
Lastly, we have the charge on other foreign-owned assets (IVAFE). This covers shares, bonds, funds, portfolio assets or most other types of assets that you may hold. The tax on these is 0.2% per annum, (from Jan 1st 2014) based on the valuation as of 31st December each year.
This guide is only meant to be a broad outline of the taxes that affect most expats. It is not a full tax list and does not take into account personal circumstances. It is intended to be a guideline to help you make the right decisions.
My experience over the last 4 years has been, in most cases, that expats will end up paying more by being resident in Italy (which most seem to accept as OK, for the lifestyle they can lead) but, there are often a number of financial planning opportunities, to protect, reduce, and avoid certain taxes, that few take advantage of.
If we haven’t discussed these already or if you would like an initial chat to discover whether any of those opportunities are open to you then please feel free to contact me. There are no fees for enquiries and consultations.