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.


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  • 37 Comments
      Rich Dion
      • 2 Years Ago
      Reminds me of my senior tax dodging senator, john "lurch "kerry. He buys a yacht from new Zealand and registers it in Rhode island to avoid mass tax. This from a person who never met a tax increase he didn't love. Difinetly a 1%er.
      over9000
      • 2 Years Ago
      Can you imagine if this is done in America? There would be an outrage!!!
      gtv4rudy
      • 2 Years Ago
      This type of behaviour exists in many industrialized countries these days but in Italy the crooks are taken too lightly.
      jvshenderson
      • 2 Years Ago
      Good for the cops. These people don't deserve the pleasure of owning one of these cars if they didn't come by it honestly...
      cashsixeight
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is BRILLIANT. They need to do this here, so sick of the 1% getting even more while I struggle to drive 20 year old cars.
        Chris
        • 2 Years Ago
        @cashsixeight
        Yeah, let's harass people driving nice cars, and assume they must be cheating the system. People with your mindset are the reason I could never consider myself a liberal. Now, I am not saying people should not pay their taxes, but people like you take it too far with such ignorant rants.
          Carlo Sirna
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Chris
          Now: here are some facts about italian tax payers, taken directly from our IRS equivalent agency: - goldsmith shop owners declare, in average, 12,300 euros/YEAR (!!!) - hotel owners declare, in average, 11,900 €/year - car resellers: 12,000 - boat resellers: 14.000 - beauty centers/hair stylists: 5,300 € In other words: employees seem to earn 4-5 times more than their bosses. The fact that the Finance Guard is making all these controls is not unmotivated: actually it came out that, checking the tax declarations, the vast majority of yacht owners declares no more than 20.000 euros/year... there are simply 40-50 luxury cars circulating in italy for every tax payer that declares an income high enough to afford a car like that. I am simply just asking myself why did they wait until 2012 to do these checks! Oh, yeah, sorry... our politicians...
        caddy-v
        • 2 Years Ago
        @cashsixeight
        Maybe if you get the hell off the couch and quit feeling sorry for yourself, you just might make something out of that jealous life of yours.
      Zoom
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wish our government would go after robberbarons and tax cheats. Except they've paid off all the politicians.
        mmapying
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Zoom
        ron swanson for president !
        clquake
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Zoom
        The politicians ARE the robberbarons and tax cheats.
        Jake
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Zoom
        It's not like middle class people don't cheat on their taxes too. It's just not with such dramatic numbers. I know lots of people who handle things under the table; they're cheating too. Only bad when rich folks do it, I suppose.
          Wyrmdog
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jake
          I don't think anyone claimed that. When people with means are witholding that means from the very society (with its infrastructure, resources and manpower) that enabled their ascendance out of petty greed so they can have luxury items while others jockey for any job they can get to buy food or keep roofs over their heads because people just like the ones misreporting their incomes laid them off...that's what makes people angry. It doesn't excuse others for their behavior, but the behavior of other groups isn't what this article is about. The Eurozone is struggling and these people (and yes, everyone that dodges their social responsibility in similar fashion) are helping bring it down, one drop at a time, through myopic self-interest.
      William
      • 2 Years Ago
      The first thing that should be done in Italy, and every other country that has unsustainable debt levels, is to cut spending. Work for the government for 20 years and get a pension and benefits for life? Even social security programs need to be adjusted. In Greece, their constitution guarantees government workers lifetime employment. I lived in Italy for a while. They are actually proud of their widespread underground (non-taxed) economy. Business done "cash only" is widespread. This type of tax avoidance is rampant. Tax levels should drive the spending, not the other way around.
        Typesbad
        • 2 Years Ago
        @William
        Typical. The article and even your comment illustrate that there is widespread cheating on taxes. Huge amounts of revenue are not coming in due to lax and corrupt tax enforcement. this lack of revenue results in huge debt and response is "cut spending". In short, the wealthy cheat, the rest get cheated.
        Ardelo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @William
        Wait, we're not "proud" of our underground economy; sure, it exists and it's widespread, but we are fighting against it and with results. You (as Americans or others) see the Italians only as Mafia, pizza and Bunga bunga but it's only a stereotype. There are millions of Italians that work hard, that pay the taxes and that in this period are genuinely angry with those cheaters; and be careful, we hate only the cheaters, not the real rich people.
          cashsixeight
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ardelo
          Wait, so you aren't all mobsters or pizza/meatball chefs?
      KaiserWilhelm
      • 2 Years Ago
      Italy is corrupt as the day is long, they've practically invented and perfected organized crime!
      xaviqaz
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Italy is dealing with a financial crisis that placed it just behind Greece on the list of dangers to the stability of the euro" Are you serious? Portugal, Ireland, even Spain, are in worse financial shape . Second, the Eurocrisis has a lot to do with the ECB not being like your Fed. The ECB doesn't do open market transactions. The ECB is not allowed to buy the debt of the governments directly or put in place counter cyclical measures. Italy is truggling with a 3.9% budget deficit because (among other reasons) they have no monetary sovereignty. While the U.S. can afford a 10% budget deficit and skyrocketing public debt thanks to the Fed and the international dollar standard. And third, manufacturers of these cars have little to worry since they export the vast majority of production.
        Making11s
        • 2 Years Ago
        @xaviqaz
        "'Italy is dealing with a financial crisis that placed it just behind Greece on the list of dangers to the stability of the euro' Are you serious? Portugal, Ireland, even Spain, are in worse financial shape" Portugal, Ireland and Spain are all in worse financial trouble, but Italy's debt crisis is worse for the Euro. For starters, Italy's GDP is nearly double that of Spain's, Ireland's, and Portugal's COMBINED. They play a huge role in the regional and global economies, and they account for over 12.5% of the EU's GDP. Their financial collapse would also carry much more symbolism than a collapse from those other three. After all, they're founding members of the G8, the EU and the Eurozone, and they're the 8th largest economy in the world. I agree with you about the ECB and Italy's auto industry, though.
        Jarda
        • 2 Years Ago
        @xaviqaz
        -Ireland
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      getoffmydinghy
      • 2 Years Ago
      Good. They're probably the same people driving 5 under in the left lane in a paddle shift supercar. F 'em.
        Cuzoe
        • 2 Years Ago
        @getoffmydinghy
        The Italians do quite a few things slowly, but drive is not one of them, lol. And they certainly love their manuals, you would be extremely hard pressed to find even one automatic at a rental company. On the other hand, having lived here for ~5 years, there is certainly a good deal of wool being pulled over the eyes of their government. At least this shows they may stop pretending otherwise.
        Carlo Sirna
        • 2 Years Ago
        @getoffmydinghy
        The only people respecting speed limits in italy are the ones who know where speed traps are and the old man over 80 years old. trust me.
          Carlo Sirna
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Carlo Sirna
          I know perfectly: i live in italy, near milan (bergamo, actually). Since I know that there are speed traps in the A4 Highway, I do not speed on the A4. this is perfectly coherent with what I said. And actually there is a lot of people who is luky enoug to don't need at all to travel on that road for their normal needs. (and are luky enough to don't have to pay theyr absurd fees) Since I know that there are NO controls on the state road I do for going work, I reach easily the 150 km/h every day in that road. I have been doing this in the last 20 years and I have never received any ticket, Not to mention what does my colleague who has a Corvette. He has reached 270 km/h on the milan east tangential.
          gtv4rudy
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Carlo Sirna
          The Autostada (highways) is speed contolled by approx. every kilometer along the way so you have to keep your speed at an average of no more than 130kph or 80 mph. or else you are mailed a fine.
      GasMan
      • 2 Years Ago
      I might point out that income and wealth are very different. If someone has a wealth of $100 Million and lives off the income on their investments, in a down year his income is likely to be zero because his investments lost money. So it could be perfectly legit to have a $200K supercar and declare no income. Now it that goes on year after year...
        Carlo Sirna
        • 2 Years Ago
        @GasMan
        If you can explain how you can own a 200k supercar you won't get any problem from the Finance Guard: you will just be called to explain and you will pass the check. having an expensive car is just an indicator of possible tax fraud, not a crime by itself.
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