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BREXIT

A Brexit checklist for Brits in Italy

The uncertainty surrounding Brexit has many Brits living in Italy worried. Here's our guide to what you need to think about before the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

A Brexit checklist for Brits in Italy
Brits in Italy need to start planning for Brexit now. Photo: nelka7812/DepositPhotos

As we count down the months to the UK’s official departure from the EU, the British public remains divided on how it will affect our future.

For British citizens living in Italy, the uncertainty and lack of specific information surrounding Brexit is causing many to worry about what they need to do before March 29th, 2019.

To help Brits in Italy best protect their rights and safeguard their financial interests, both in Britain and their country of residence, The Local has consulted immigration lawyers, financial experts and regular residents to create the following guidance to help you prepare for Brexit.

An expat's view: 'There will almost certainly be a bureaucratic nightmare'

Christopher Namurach, founder and director of The Business End, a company that provides language services to Italian businesses, moved to Rome from his hometown of Cardiff 18 years ago.

We asked him about his concerns over Brexit and what advice there is available to expats like him.


Anti-Brexit protesters in Rome. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

What was it like moving to Italy from the UK 18 years ago?

“It took three months to make the move, as I had the luck to have found an apartment almost immediately after I decided to stay. It was a bit of a culture shock, as Italy is vastly different from Wales in so many ways.”

What are your concerns about how Brexit will affect your life in Italy?

“My main fear is that there will almost certainly be a bureaucratic nightmare as Italy is not the most organized of countries.”

Who have you approached for advice about how you could be affected by Brexit? What advice have you been given?

“I have done my own research online and I will be attending a meeting organized by an expats group in Rome in the next few days.

“The advice that is most often given is to have faith in the system…”

What are you planning to do to prepare for Brexit? 

“I will be applying for Italian citizenship once the Italian government decides the rules for doing so.”

What do you think about the availability of guidance for expats like you?

“There are a lot of people offering advice but I find that a lot of is contradictory and, at best, incomplete. I think that one has to bear in mind that not even the UK is sure of the conditions and eventual outcome of Brexit.”

READ ALSO: Brexit planning: What you'll need to do if there's no deal


Photo: DepositPhotos

The expert's advice: 'Brexit does not mean a total lack of legal protection'

Marco Mazzeschi is a leading Italian immigration lawyer based in Rome. Here's his rundown of the main points for Brits to consider. 

The law and our rights

“A loss of the right to residence and other rights deriving from having European membership would not mean a total lack of legal protection for British nationals residing outside their country, more precisely, the total renunciation of the right to move, reside and work as they do at present.

“The UK, despite Brexit, will remain bound by the rules of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which safeguards the right to respect for private and family life and one’s home (Article 8) and the right to property and to the peaceful enjoyment of possessions (Article 1 of Additional Protocol 1 to the ECHR).

“Naturally, the chances of being able to reside in another country of the Union after Brexit will increase in proportion to the length of residence and the family and professional ties of each individual. Protection from the ECHR cannot replace the rights derived from the Treaties and the EU’s legal system. In particular, the full enjoyment of all rights deriving from European citizenship will disappear with Brexit.”

Citizenship and residency

“In order to minimize any possible negative impact of Brexit, UK citizens who have lived in Italy and are officially registered as residents for more than four years should apply without delay for Italian citizenship. They are required to prove absence of criminal records and have filed tax returns in Italy for the last three years before the citizenship application, with a taxable income of not less than €8,000.

“For those who are not entitled or interested to apply for citizenship, and have not registered yet with the local authorities, they should register as residents as soon as possible.

READ ALSO: The ultimate guide to getting residency in Italy


Photo: DepositPhotos

“UK citizens residing in Italy are advised to apply for the following documents from the city council (comune) where they are registered:

  • UK citizens living in Italy less than five years: attestazione di regolare soggiorno (also called attestazione di soggiorno, attestazione di regolarità del soggiorno or attestato di regolare soggiorno).
  • UK citizens living in Italy for five years or more: attestato di soggiorno permanente (also called attestazione di soggiorno permanente).”

Driving licence

“Brexit will also impact on many other aspects of British expats living in Italy, such as the right to use their UK driving licence.

“It is advisable to convert the UK driving licence into an Italian one, even if still valid and not strictly required. After Brexit happens, anyone who wants to drive in EU member states might have to register for an International Driving Permit.”

Healthcare and family benefits

“As to healthcare and family benefits, no provisions have yet been included relating to the UK’s ongoing participation in the European Health Insurance reimbursement procedures, which may increase healthcare costs for employers.

“Furthermore, it will no longer be possible to benefit from the rules to facilitate the mutual recognition of professional qualifications between the Member States.”

The checklist: What action can you take now?

Although there will be no change in your status as an EU citizen until the end of the transition period on December 30th, 2020, it is never too early to prepare and protect your interests, particularly your finances.
 

If you haven't done so already, now is the time to start thinking about the following: 

  • If you are not yet registered with the local authorities in Italy, do so urgently. This will help demonstrate that you are legally resident and therefore eligible to benefit from the citizens’ rights agreement. 
     
  • Have you been living in Italy for five continuous years or more? If so, you can apply for permanent residency and/or citizenship to lock in your rights and benefits.
     
  • Convert your UK driving licence into an Italian one.
     
  • Get all your paperwork in order, including your bank and business accounts. Ensure you have evidence of filed tax returns, etc. 
     
  • If you are thinking about buying or selling property, consider doing this now while you are still an EU citizen to avoid potentially higher taxes post-Brexit.
     
  • If you are running a business or worried about your pension, savings, investments or inheritance issues, you should take professional (regulated), personalized advice to Brexit-proof your finances as much as possible.
     
  • Keep up to date with news regarding Brexit and check for updates and advice on the British Embassy’s website and social media.

Are you a Brit living in Italy? How is Brexit affecting you? What preparations are you making? Tell us your story: email [email protected].

For members

READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Do you need to cancel your residency when leaving Italy?

How do you cancel your residency permit when leaving Italy - and do you even need to do so at all? The Local looks into the rules.

Reader question: Do you need to cancel your residency when leaving Italy?

Question: My partner and I are leaving Italy after several years of living here. Do we need to cancel our residency? If so, can you advise us on how to go about doing this?

Most people know that you need to register as a resident in Italy if spending more then 90 days in the country. But what should you do if you decide to leave?

Do foreign nationals need to deregister as a resident, and under which circumstances? And how do you go about doing cancelling your residency?

We asked the experts to talk us through when you should deregister as an Italian resident and the the steps involved in cancelling your Italian residency.

Should you bother cancelling your residency?

As is so often the case when it comes to complex bureaucratic questions, the answer is: it depends. Both on your personal circumstances and on the type of residency permit you hold.

If you’re relocating away from Italy permanently then deregistering as a resident and informing the authorities of your new address is a legal requirement – and you’d want to do so anyway, says Nicolò Bolla of the tax consultancy firm Accounting Bolla.

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between Italian residency and citizenship?

On the other hand, if you’re moving away on a temporary basis, you’re not required to cancel your Italian residency.

“If, for instance, you undertake a two-year assignment somewhere, you can still remain a resident and benefit from all the coverage a resident has, such as healthcare,” Bolla explains.

You might want to hold on to your Italian residency in the short term if you're not sure whether the move will be permanent.
You might want to hold on to your Italian residency in the short term if you’re not sure whether the move will be permanent. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

There’s no official time limit for this – you could leave Italy for a number of years while maintaining your residency and then return to live in the country as if there had been no break.

That means that if you’re leaving Italy and aren’t sure whether you want to return, you might want to keep your residency status, at least in the short term (it’s possible to be legally resident in both Italy and another country).

Financial planning and property consultant Daniel Shillito warns: “you want to be sure if you’re leaving the country that it was a permanent decision, and that you weren’t aiming to come back to live – because if you do want to, it could be tricky and quite administrative.”

For British citizens in particular, he points out, “having an Italian residency these days is a valuable thing, it’s not easy to get again.”

This all applies to those with permanent or long-term residency.

If you have a temporary residence permit, you will no longer be considered resident in Italy as soon as it expires – so you may decide it’s not worth bothering to cancel your residency if it’s due to expire anyway shortly after you leave.

Why does it matter?

There are multiple factors to consider here, the biggest of which is taxes.

If you’re resident in Italy, you’re expected to pay taxes here. However, if you’re moving to a country with which Italy has a double taxation agreement or dual tax treaty, you’re protected from being taxed twice on the same income. Many states, including the UK, America, Australia and Canada, have dual taxation treaties with Italy. 

READ ALSO: Can second-home owners get an Italian residence permit?

If you’re moving to a country which doesn’t have a double tax agreement with Italy, on the other hand, you’ll be legally required pay the full amount of Italian tax on your income even if you spend very little time in Italy, so will almost certainly want to cancel your residency.

Even if you’re moving to a country that does have a dual tax treaty with Italy, you may still want to deregister as an Italian resident in order to avoid having to deal with the paperwork involved in proving you’re a dual resident whose tax obligations are limited.

There’s also a third category of emigrant: for those moving to a country on the EU’s tax haven blacklist, such as Panama, simply deregistering as an Italian resident won’t keep the tax authorities at bay. The burden of proof is on the individual to demonstrate they actually reside in the blacklist country and aren’t just trying to evade Italian taxes.

In these situations, Bolla advises clients to register as resident in an intermediate third country after leaving Italy and before moving to the blacklisted country in order to avoid the extra bureaucracy.

READ ALSO: What taxes do you need to pay if you own a second home in Italy?

Do you need to cancel your residency when leaving Italy?

There are multiple factors to consider when deciding whether to cancel your Italian residency. Photo by FABIO MUZZI / AFP.

Other considerations

Besides where you pay your income tax, you’ll want to consider other factors such as official correspondence, tax breaks, and timeframes for residency-based citizenship applications, Bolla says.

If you maintain Italian residency, the authorities will expect to be able to reach you at your registered address, including for things like traffic fines or notifications of tax audits. If you no longer have any link to that address and no one to forward your correspondence on to you, you could end up in a sticky legal situation.

It’s also worth taking into account the fact that new Italian residents can access certain tax breaks that aren’t available to people who’ve lived here for a while. If you cancel your residency and then return to Italy at a later date, you’ll be eligible for those incentives in a way that you wouldn’t be if you’d kept your residency.

On the other hand, Bolla notes, maintaining Italian residency could work in favour of those interested in pursuing citizenship through residency.

An individual must be continuously resident in Italy for 10 years before they can apply for Italian citizenship based on their long-term residence status.

In theory, maintaining your Italian residency while you’re temporarily abroad could mean that period still counts towards towards those ten years and you won’t have to restart the clock on your return – though it’s important to consult a professional if you’re considering this option.

How can you go about cancelling your residency?

There’s no standardised national protocol for cancelling your residency. Instead, you’ll need to contact the comune, or town hall, you’re registered with to inform them of the change and ask them what you need to do.

The process could be as simple as sending a few emails, without even having to set foot in the building. There may also be a form to fill out. Because things vary from one municipality to another, you’ll need to contact your local comune to find out exactly what’s required.

Generally the process can only be completed after, not before, leaving the country, because you’ll need to provide your new address and possibly supporting documentation proving that you’re now resident elsewhere.

“You say me and my family – and then you list all the members – are no longer residing in your town, please deregister us, and our new address is (e.g.) 123, Fifth Avenue, New York,” says Bolla.

If you have a Spid (Sistema Pubblico di Identità Digitale or ‘Public Digital Identity System’) electronic ID, Bolla notes, in many towns and cities (such as Milan), the process can be completed online through the comune‘s website.

You should expect to receive confirmation that you and your dependents have been deregistered as Italian residents, so it’s worth following up until you receive this.

READ ALSO: How to use your Italian ID card to access official services online

Shillito advises using a PEC (Posta Elettronica Certificata, or Electronic Certified Mail) email account if you have one when communicating with your comune about deregistering. 

Messages sent between PEC accounts are certified with a date and time stamp to show when you sent them and when they were received, with a record of receipt automatically emailed to you as an attachment. Within in Italy they have the same legal value as a physical lettera raccomandata (registered letter).

“That secure email communication is official, you’ve got a receipt showing it’s been received,” says Shillito.

“That way you’ve got evidence and a record that you’ve communicated it to them, in case anything went wrong in the future and the Italian government decided to claim you were still living in Italy.”

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