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Italy ups income from unpaid tax recovery

March 1, 2016

Italian authorities have announced they secured a record amount of payments from tardy taxpayers across the nation. The successful haul came on the back of a campaign appealing to people's conscience.

Euro banknoted and coins
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Reinhardt

Italy recovered a record 14.9 billion euros ($16.2 billion) in unpaid tax in 2015, following a fresh no-questions-asked appeal to suspected dodgers to put their financial affairs in order.

The national tax agency said Tuesday the total sum raised from anti-evasion campaigns was up from 14.2 billion in 2014 and had more than tripled in the last decade.

Some 315,000 residents were sent letters last year inviting them to quickly correct any "potential errors or oversights" in their annual returns, with an assurance they would not be treated as culprits and would only face reduced penalties, if any. Surprisingly, nearly half of those targeted took up the offer.

Tax havens - Illegal and unfair?

Taxation experts hastened to add, though, that the unexpected windfall remained rather tiny in comparison to Italy's huge overall losses to endemic tax evasion, which were estimated to amount to roughly 90 billion euros annually.

Nearly half of the total loss is down to non-payment of VAT, while a third relates to the avoidance of payroll taxes, reflecting the size of Italy's shadow economy.

Less mercy on other fraudsters

In a separate statement Tuesday, the country's tax police, the Guardia di Finanza, said it had started investigating money transfers from an empty shell company two Germans had set up in Ancona to bank accounts in Germany and tax havens in Asia.

Police said the two men had issued 23 million euros worth of fake invoices to avoid value-added tax payments of 5 million euros. The fraudulent scheme had allowed them to "sell goods at more competitive prices," police officers said in a note.

The Germans in question were reported to judicial authorities so that criminal proceedings might be opened against them.

hg/ng (dpa, AFP)