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The attack on cash in Italy

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

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 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.

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 A 2% tax would be applied if you superseded this limit.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.

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

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