Italy is dealing with a financial crisis that placed it just behind Greece on the list of dangers to the stability of the euro, and with €1.9 trillion in public debt the country hasn't hesitated to turn over its couch pillows searching for every contribution. It started a couple of years ago with the Guardia di Finanza targeting superyacht owners, and it has continued with the financial police going after supercar owners.
In December 2011, the police noted the license plates of roughly 150 Lamborghinis, Ferraris and other high-dollar cars at the Cortina d'Ampezzo ski resort and gave the registration info to the tax office. The tax office checked on the declared incomes, and in nearly 60 cases found owners that claimed to be making less than €40,000 per year – this in a country where the base price of a BMW M3 is €70,700. In an especially bad case, one business owner owned a Mercedes-Benz but had no tax records and a wife on public assistance.
The focus on owners of expensive cars has since spread to other hotspots for the rich like Rome, Milan, Portofino and Florence, and owners have responded by selling their cars at massive discounts. There have been reports of owners so worried about getting stopped by the police that they won't even drive them to the dealer to be traded in, but want the dealer to come pick them up. Entrepreneurs in Eastern Europe and South America are taking advantage of the clearance sales.
Tax cheats are estimated to cost Italy €120 billion per year, and the new efforts along with huge new taxes are expected to reap more than €160 billion annually.