Does Italy Really Need Another New Tax?

By Global Tax Weekly

Seemingly, yes it does. Well, the economy doesn’t, but the Government surely does. National Statistical Office figures show that Italy’s tax-to-GDP ratio exceeded 50 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, yet the budget deficit nudged back up to three percent of the economy last year. The Government could of course make a greater effort to cut expenditure, but that’s not as easy as raising taxes, or creating new ones. But where do you go next as a government when you’ve taxed virtually everything in sight already? According to Paolo Grimoldi, a Northern League member of the Chamber of Deputies, you turn the clock back to medieval times and slap a copyright tax on heraldic designs. I had to check it wasn’t April 1 when I first read this story. But, alas, it came too late for that, and Grimoldi doesn’t appear to be joking. In fact, his proposal won’t necessitate the invention of a time machine to bring the money back from the Middle Ages because there are well over 6,000 coats of arms currently in existence in Italy. And it could be a tax that keeps on giving (to the state) because each new generation will have to re-register their coat of arms. As a result it could raise substantial sums of revenue for the Government, says Grimoldi. Not only this, because (presumably) the tax will only affect a handful of rich people, or those with aristocratic pretensions, the vast majority of taxpayers (and voters), in all likelihood, won’t be that bothered about it. It’s either genius or one of the silliest things I’ve heard of in a while in the world of taxation. I can’t quite decide yet. Still, you could imagine what they’re saying in the Finance Ministry: Ministry Official Number One: “I hear this Grimoldi chap from the Northern League has come up with a new tax idea.” Ministry Official Number Two: “Oh yes, what’s that then? There’s hardly anything left to tax, so we’re running out of those!” Ministry Official Number One: “He wants us to tax heraldic shields.” Ministry Official Number Two, indignantly: “Heraldic shields? What planet is he on?! This isn’t the 14th century!” Ministry Official Number One: “Says it could raise a lot of money, though. Apparently, when the head of the family kicks the bucket, the kids will have to pay to keep their cherished coat of arms.” Ministry Official Number Two, devious smile beginning to break out: “Really? Hmmm. Interesting. They’re all rich aren’t they, these people with coats of arms? And even if they’re broke, they still won’t vote for us anyway. I’ll find the minister.”

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