Italy 'flat tax' offer attractive for wealthy

 ROME -- In order to make the Italian tax system more attractive, the “Legge di Bilancio” 2017 introduced a flat tax on foreign incomes, applicable to individuals who transfer their tax residence to Italy.

 In this article we will examine the point of view of the Italian Tax Authorities and the terms for joining this favourable regime.

 The flat tax, as underlined by the operators and by the Italian Tax Authorities (see press release of March 8, 2017), is independent from the amount of foreign incomes earned by an individual.

 The option foreseen in paragraph 1 of art. 24-bis of the Presidential Decree n. 917/86 (the so called T.U.I.R.) grants to individuals who transfer their tax residence in Italy, the opportunity to apply a flat tax on incomes arising from foreign sources; this flat tax is alternative to the income tax (i.e. IRPEF) for individuals calculated with different tax rates on different thresholds.

 The aforementioned rule appears highly innovative because it is possibile to apply, only to foreign incomes and regardless of their amount, a flat-rate substitute tax, equal to € 100,000 for each fiscal year; it has been possible modifying the general principle of the taxation on a global basis (i.e. adding all incomes arising from different sources and from different countries) according with art. 3 of the Presidential Decree n. 917/86,

 The option can only be exercised by those subjects who have not been resident in Italy for at least 9 of the previous 10 years and who transfer their residence in Italy. The facilitation (which is a benefit) is effective, if not revoked and if the conditions remain, up to a maximum of 15 fiscal years. It is interesting that there are no particular constraints in terms of permanence and exit from the aforementioned regime; according to which the law currently establish, the taxpayer may, at any time, decide to opt for the ordinary tax regime, or transfer his own tax residence abroad, without affecting, in any way, the benefits received with reference to previous fiscal years.

 It is also interesting to underline that, for the first time was introduced into the Italian tax system an individual flat-rate tax, abandoning the traditional scheme with the application of taxes linked to thresholds applied on the total income of the year.

 Moreover, the paragraph 6 of the aforementioned art. 24-bis, establishes that, at the moment of the request an individual can request the application of the option also to members of his family (on the basis of which established by art. 433 of the Italian Civil Code) extending to them the benefits of this regime for the same period; in this case, the amount of the flat-rate tax is reduced to € 25,000 for each family member.

 With this extension of the regime, it is clear that the aim of the law is to encourage the transfer of rich families in Italy.

 With particular reference to the extension of the regime to the family members, there are some aspects that currently are not clear.

 To be more precise the law does not specify more details about age and if the other family members are allowed to have other incomes; making an extensive application of this regime, it would be possible, in theory, to give also to the family members a more favorable treatment than the subject who exercises the "main" option.

 The Italian Tax Authorities with the official statement of 8 March 2017 foreseen by the art. 1 paragraph 157 of “Legge di Bilancio” for 2017 specified the operating procedures with which it is possible to access to the regime.

 The option able to join the regime is effective:

 - with the filing of the tax return referred to the fiscal year in which the beneficiaries transferred their residence in Italy or

 - with the filing of the tax return referred to the following fiscal year in which the beneficiaries transferred their residence in Italy.

The aforementioned statement establishes that the taxpayer has also the faculty to file with a specific ruling  addressed to the Italian Tax Authorities in order to receive from them the green light for the application of the regime; however, this faculty seems not to be aligned with which established by the art. 24bis of the Presidential Decree 917/86 (T.U.I.R.) that foresees a preliminary ruling as a necessary condition for the access to the regime.

This change in the obligation of the prior ruling seems referred either to the need of simplification but also to the will of not discouraging the use of the new discipline due to some doubts raised by authoritative doctrine with particular reference to the obligation of the ruling as a condition for joining the regime.

 To be more precise, an access to the regime conditioned to an unquestionable judgment of the Italian Tax Authorities seems to entail a violation of the art. 23 of the Italian Constitution according to which, only the law can impose an obligation in terms of taxes.

 Summarizing, according to the experience of ConsultingCentre and considering all aspects (change of life, city and country, movement of the family etc.), this regime seems really favourable for an individual who has foreign incomes of at least 450,000 euros; in case of a family with four members without incomes excluding the taxpayer who exercise the option, the foreign incomes should be higher than 600,000 euros.