Italian Silly Taxes
By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com
It seems that the Italian national debt rises every year and it is almost a given that in order to reduce the debt, all there is to do is levy silly taxes. These crazy taxes are perceived as unjust and many people find ways not to pay up.
However, these silly taxes breed evasion, so it is fun to watch both sides become very creative in avoiding them. Here are a few silly Italian national and regional taxes:
- Balcony tax: while most Italian homeowners do not pay any real estate taxes for the first home, they are assessed a balcony tax, an elevator tax, garbage tax, phone line tax and more.
- Visit to the doctor tax: this was designed to finance health assistance for the needy.
- Automobile cigarette lighter: since the sale of matches was part of the state monopoly, a cigarette lighter in the car was considered to be bypassing the match tax. So il bollo – a one time stamp tax -was imposed. It had to be visible on the car’s console. You risked a fine if il bollo was not displayed properly.
- TV tax: this tax started in Italy with the introduction of television transmissions in the early 1950’s. Because reception was free and there were no commercials, a yearly tax called il Canone was invented. It became so difficult to collect these taxes that recently the government has asked Enel, the electric power company, to include the tax with their bill to each customer. If you don’t pay, you will not have electricity or any TV.
- Believe it or not, if you own a piano, have crested silverware, or have servants, there is a tax for it all.
- If you post a “For Sale” sign you must pay for the privilege.
- Lately, there has been a lot of talk on taxing Google access.
Last month a friend called me to say that a tax was assessed on his driveway, since it leads to a public road and, therefore, was taxable. He lives on a new development and for the past few years, the community has been pleading with the authorities to pave the road. With no response, the homeowners decided to pave the road themselves. Right after the paving was completed, the access tax was imposed.
Back in the 1st Century, both Emperor Nero and Vespasian taxed urine, since the lower classes urinated in pots that were then emptied in cesspools. The urine was used in tanning, and they also extracted ammonia from it to clean and whiten woolen togas.
Vespasian’s son, Titus, despised the tax, and made it very known to his father. Vespasian then offered his son a gold coin, which he threw into the urine pot. This was to teach Titus that the value of money should not be tainted by its origins. Therefore, even today there has never been a tax, silly or not, that the tax collector has not liked to collect.
I’m surprised that a “Ministry of Silly Taxes” has not been set up in Italy yet. The Monty Python comedy troupe created a “Ministry of Silly Walks” in Britain, so why can’t Italy have one for silly taxes?
Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.
Informative and entertaining article. Thank you.