FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

In the Republic of Yachts

The rich don’t pay taxes. Everybody knows that. Especially in Italy, where governments have maintained firmly on the side of the 1%.

So no surprises then that new levies on large cylinder cars, yachts and private jets, introduced in December by the premier Mario Monti, have been a bit of a flop.

The tasse sul lusso were designed to placate the 99% who over the past 18 months have been forced fed with a poisonous array of austerity medicine including tax hikes and cuts to pensions, welfare and public services.

In particular the taxes on luxury were a ploy by the unelected millionaire premier to head off calls for a much more comprehensive wealth tax, or patrimoniale, in a country where private wealth stands at 8.6 trillion euros, according to the Bank of Italy, or more than four times the country’s public debt mountain of around two trillion euros.

If the top 50% richest were taxed at a rate of 2%, that could raise more than 100 billion euros, plenty to fix Italy’s dire public finances at a stroke with plenty left over to slash the near 11% unemployment rate, reverse swinging cuts to public services and lift the zombie economy out of recession.)

But even if the top 1% – the 240 000 Italian families that own 13% of Italy’s wealth, or one trillion euros, according to the Bank of Italy – were taxed, as in France, at a rate of 0.5% (the lower end of a wealth tax that rises to 1.8%), that would yield a very respectable 5 billion-plus euros a year.

But premier Monti, a former European Commissioner and member of the Bilderberg plutocrats club, wasn’t about to do that to his friends in the Italian and global elite. Hence his symbolic swipe at their ostentatious life-style.

To be sure it must have been entertaining to see some of the on-the-spot tax inspections that began in March in Cortina d’Ampezzo, a fashionable ski resort where many owners of Ferraris, Maseratis and Lamborghinis declared incomes of less than 24,000 euros a year.

Or this summer, when Italian tax police turned up at quaysides unannounced, boarding yachts and checking owners’ details against their tax files. In one of their first tax raids in April in the southern port of Bari inspectors found yachts owned by people who declared almost no income. One of the most shameless cases was a 1.2 million-euro yacht whose owner had never filed a tax return.

But the tasse sul lusso haven’t delivered on expectations, according to financial daily IlSole24ore.

They were supposed to have raised 387 million euros for the taxman. Instead he’s received just a quarter of that, or 92 million euros.

The biggest tax dodgers have been owners of the yachts of over 10 metres in length. By 31 May they should have paid a total of 155 million euros. Instead they coughed up just 23 million euros. One reason was a technical loophole taylor-made for high net worth individuals and their expensive accountants.

Originally the tax on boats was to be paid by anyone docking their yacht in Italian waters. The tax would have been applied on a sliding scale, reaching around 22,000 euros a month for a superyacht over 70 metres. But in March parliament passed an amendment exempting foreign owners – among them a wave of Russian oligarchs with their billions pillaged from their state and less fortunate compatriots –  following heavy lobbying by their friends in maritime businesses and associations.

Nevertheless, the charges still applied to Italian owners of boats. So what do you do if you are one of these? Nothing could be easier for a deep pocketed Italian with access to the best legal and financial advice money can buy than to change the ownership of the boat, arranging for it to be transferred to an obliging non-resident. That way the ports have been full, but the state coffers still empty.

The Treasury hasn’t done much better with the owners of aircraft and helicopters. By July 31 they had only paid 2% of the expected tax revenues. In this case, the circular on the implementation of the tax levy was conveniently late, and the date of payment is variable. So, later this year perhaps a bit more spare change from the pockets of the super-rich may yet get to the Italian finance ministry in Rome.

Despite headlines suggesting a reign terror waged against the elite by the tax authorities, Italy’s 1% can rest easy. La Dolce Vita rolls on…

Tom Gill is a business and political journalist in the UK and Italy. He currently writes on European matters from a radical left perspective at www.revolting-europe.com.

COMING IN SEPTEMBER

A Special Memorial Issue of CounterPunch

Featuring recollections of Alexander Cockburn from Jeffrey St. Clair, Peter Linebaugh, Paul Craig Roberts, Noam Chomsky, Mike Whitney, Doug Peacock, Perry Anderson, Becky Grant, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Neumann, Susannah Hecht, P. Sainath, Ben Tripp, Alison Weir, James Ridgeway, JoAnn Wypijewski, John Strausbaugh, Pierre Sprey, Carolyn Cooke, Conn Hallinan, James Wolcott, Laura Flanders, Ken Silverstein, Tariq Ali and many others …

Subscribe to CounterPunch Today to Reserve Your Copy

 

More articles by:

Tom Gill edits Revolting Europe.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
November 14, 2019
Laura Carlsen
Mexico’s LeBaron Massacre and the War That Will Not Cease
Joe Emersberger
Oppose the Military Coup in Bolivia. Spare Us Your “Critiques”
Ron Jacobs
Trump’s Drug Deal Goes to Congress: Impeachment, Day One
Paul Edwards
Peak Hubris
Tamara Pearson
US and Corporations Key Factors Behind Most Violent Year Yet in Mexico
Jonah Raskin
Love and Death in the Age of Revolution
Robert Hunziker
Climate Confusion, Angst, and Sleeplessness
W. T. Whitney
To Confront Climate Change Humanity Needs Socialism
John Feffer
Examining Trump World’s Fantastic Claims About Ukraine
Nicky Reid
“What About the Children?” Youth Rights Before Parental Police States
Binoy Kampmark
Incinerating Logic: Bush Fires and Climate Change
John Horning
The Joshua Tree is Us
Andrew Stewart
Noel Ignatiev and the Great Divide
Cesar Chelala
Soap Operas as Teaching Tools
Chelli Stanley
In O’odham Land
November 13, 2019
Vijay Prashad
After Evo, the Lithium Question Looms Large in Bolivia
Charles Pierson
How Not to End a Forever War
Kenneth Surin
“We’ll See You on the Barricades”: Bojo Johnson’s Poundshop Churchill Imitation
Nick Alexandrov
Murder Like It’s 1495: U.S.-Backed Counterinsurgency in the Philippines
George Ochenski
Montana’s Radioactive Waste Legacy
Brian Terrell
A Doubtful Proposition: a Reflection on the Trial of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7
Nick Pemberton
Assange, Zuckerberg and Free Speech
James Bovard
The “Officer Friendly” Police Fantasy
Dean Baker
The Logic of Medical Co-Payments
Jeff Mackler
Chicago Teachers Divided Over Strike Settlement
Binoy Kampmark
The ISC Report: Russian Connections in Albion?
Norman Solomon
Biden and Bloomberg Want Uncle Sam to Defer to Uncle Scrooge
Jesse Jackson
Risking Lives in Endless Wars is Morally Wrong and a Strategic Failure
Manuel García, Jr.
Criminalated Warmongers
November 12, 2019
Nino Pagliccia
Bolivia and Venezuela: Two Countries, But Same Hybrid War
Patrick Cockburn
How Iran-Backed Forces Are Taking Over Iraq
Jonathan Cook
Israel is Silencing the Last Voices Trying to Stop Abuses Against Palestinians
Jim Kavanagh
Trump’s Syrian See-Saw: From Pullout to Pillage
Susan Babbitt
Fidel, Three Years Later
Dean Baker
A Bold Plan to Strengthen and Improve Social Security is What America Needs
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Trump’s Crime Against Humanity
Victor Grossman
The Wall and General Pyrrhus
Yoko Liriano
De Facto Martial Law in the Philippines
Ana Paula Vargas – Vijay Prashad
Lula is Free: Can Socialism Be Restored?
Thomas Knapp
Explainer: No, House Democrats Aren’t Violating Trump’s Rights
Wim Laven
Serve With Honor, Honor Those Who Serve; or Support Trump?
Colin Todhunter
Agrarian Crisis and Malnutrition: GM Agriculture Is Not the Answer
Binoy Kampmark
Walls in the Head: “Ostalgia” and the Berlin Wall Three Decades Later
Akio Tanaka
Response to Pete Dolack Articles on WBAI and Pacifica
Nyla Ali Khan
Bigotry and Ideology in India and Kashmir: the Legacy of the Babri Masjid Mosque
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail