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EXPLAINED: What is Italy’s PEC email and how do you get one?

If you're looking to save time, paper and postage costs, swap registered mail for registered email. Here's how you can use PEC, or certified email, to send your most important messages in Italy.

EXPLAINED: What is Italy's PEC email and how do you get one?
How do you use 'certified email' in Italy? Photo: Sigmund/Unsplash

What is PEC?

PEC (pronounced “peck”) stands for Posta Elettronica Certificata, or Electronic Certified Mail.

It’s essentially an email account that gives you proof your message arrived.

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 – though not outside it – they have the same legal value as a physical lettera raccomandata (registered letter).

As of early 2021, according to the Italian government’s statistics, there were around 12.8 million PEC addresses and nearly 4 million messages exchanged by PEC.

Who needs a PEC?

Anyone over 18 who lives in Italy can get a PEC, as well as Italian nationals who live abroad.

For some people it’s compulsory: as of October 2020 all businesses registered in Italy are required to have a PEC account by law, including self-employed professionals and ditte individuali (sole proprietorships) – basically anyone with a partita IVA, or VAT number.

Even if that’s not you, you can chose to get a PEC in order to get more Italian admin done online. If you need to send important documents or an official request, for instance to change your registered address or register a contract, you can do it via PEC from home without having to print forms or go to the post office.

READ ALSO: Beat the queues: 19 bits of Italian bureaucracy you can do online

In some cases PEC may be the only way to send something online: if you’re writing to a PEC address, messages from a regular email account usually won’t get through. (You may be able to configure your PEC to receive messages from ordinary email accounts, and you can always write from a PEC address to a regular one, but in either case the messages won’t be certified.)

That’s a hurdle UK nationals in Italy have run into as they try to make appointments with the police immigration office, or questura, to apply for a post-Brexit residence card, or carta di soggiorno. Booking involves emailing the questura‘s PEC address, which has to be done from another PEC account.

If you only need to use PEC occasionally and don’t think it’s worth opening your own account, ask someone else with a PEC – e.g. your employer, accountant or lawyer – to send the message on your behalf: it doesn’t necessarily have to come from an account in your own name. 

How do you get a PEC?

PEC accounts are managed by government-approved private providers, with the Poste Italiane, Aruba and InfoCert (Legalmail) among the most used.

Find a full list of authorised PEC providers here. You can find the details of their services, as well as how to apply, on each company’s website. 

The exact procedure for opening an account varies depending on which company you choose, but most providers allow you to do it entirely online. It usually involves entering your personal information (including your codice fiscale, or tax number), choosing a username and password, signing a contract, and showing a copy of your official ID. 

In most cases you’ll also have to pay for a PEC account, with fees usually charged on an annual basis. 

How much does a PEC cost?

It varies by company and what level of service you choose: Aruba‘s basic package starts at €5 plus VAT per year, rising to €40 plus VAT for a “premium” option with more storage and an option to get notifications via SMS.

The Poste Italiane charges €5.50 for one year, €9 for two years and €10.50 for three years (not including VAT), with the option to add storage for an extra fee.

READ ALSO:

It’s worth shopping around to find the deal that suits you best, especially as providers regularly run promotions offering discounts or free trials

You might also find that a PEC comes included for free with certain bank accounts, particularly business ones.

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EXPLAINED: What is Italy’s new digital invoicing rule for freelancers?

Italy is bringing in new rules from July that mean changes for freelancers on the 'flat tax' rate. Here’s what you need to know about the new ‘fatturazione elettronica’, or digital invoicing system.

EXPLAINED: What is Italy’s new digital invoicing rule for freelancers?

Italy has been slowly moving more of its bureaucratic systems online in recent years, and in many cases this has made it quicker and easier for residents to access services and get their considerable amounts of Italian life admin in order.

It was hoped that the new electronic invoicing rule would do the same for freelancers on Italy’s flat-tax regime, by doing away with the existing need to print out invoices and affix tax stamps by hand.

READ ALSO: Beat the queues: 19 bits of Italian bureaucracy you can do online

But a close look at the details of the new rules shows that it probably won’t make life easier for those on the flat tax rate, who have so far been spared the bulk of that infamous Italian red tape – but now need to get to grips with a new online system.

Known as the ‘regime forfettario‘, Italy’s flat-rate tax scheme for individuals and small businesses was introduced in 2015 to encourage more commercial activity by slashing tax rates and simplifying bureaucracy.

New freelancers who choose this tax system generally pay somewhere between just five and 15 percent tax on earnings, regardless of overheads.

READ ALSO: The pros and cons of Italy’s five percent flat tax for freelancers

Little has changed since its inception seven years ago, but freelancers using the scheme now need to be aware of new rules coming into force from July 1st, 2022.

How you invoice – how you send, receive and store receipts, therefore – is due to move from analogue to digital, bringing new requirements and know-how on digital invoicing software.

Here’s what’s changing for freelancers with the so-called ‘fattura elettronica‘.

Who is required to send electronic invoices?

While this was already a requirement for the self-employed on other tax regimes, those on the flat tax rate will now be included from July 1st.

They were previously exempt, but that changed under the PNRR (National recovery and resilience plan or piano nazionale di ripresa e resilienza) – the Italian government’s plan for using EU funding for post-pandemic economic recovery.

Digital invoicing is intended to fight Italy’s major problem with tax evasion, as well as to further automate accounting processes.

For now, not all freelancers under this tax scheme need to move to digital accounting – only those who received an income in excess of €25,000 in the previous year are required to comply with the new rule.

It will then extend to all freelancers using the flat-rate scheme from January 1st, 2024.

From that date, everyone subscribed to the ‘regime forfettario’ will have to switch to electronic invoicing and there are hefty penalties in place for those who don’t.

How will electronic invoices work?

Italy’s tax authority has defined a couple of notable differences between the digital or electronic invoice (fattura elettronica) and a paper invoice (fattura di carta) in its updated guidelines.

Firstly, the digital invoice has to be created using a digital device (a computer, tablet or smartphone), and secondly it has to be sent to the client via an ‘Interchange System’, the so-called Sistema di Interscambio (SdI).

READ ALSO: ‘Smart working’? Here’s what you need to know about going self-employed in Italy

Italy’s flat-rate tax scheme is going digital. Photo by Christian Dubovan on Unsplash

This electronic postal system checks whether the invoice contains the required data for tax purposes, as well as checking the verified e-address (or the so-called PEC address) of the recipient.

In doing so, the electronic invoice automatically checks that the VAT number (partita IVA), or the tax code (codice fiscale) depending on who you send the invoice to, really exist.

Once the checks are completed, the system sends the invoice to the client, which will trigger an alert to the freelancer with a delivery receipt, showing the date and time the document was delivered.

How can you send an e-invoice?

There are a few accounting software options on the market if you’re now faced with having to send electronic invoices.

Some charge a fee of around €1-€4 per month or come at a cost per transaction.

Platforms such as ‘Aruba‘ or ‘Fatture in Cloud‘, are competitive and may offer you a free trial before you deciding to buy.

The Italian revenue agency (Agenzie delle Entrate) has also created free-of-charge services to help send and receive e-invoices. These include websites as well as apps for completing the required steps, which are detailed in their guide here.

You can access their Invoices and Receipts (‘Fatture e Corrispettivi‘) portal to benefit from these free services.

You’ll either need a Spid ID (‘Sistema Pubblico dell’Identità Digitale‘), a Carta Nazionale dei Servizi (CNS) or accounting credentials known as Fisconline/Entrate, which are issued by the Agenzie delle Entrate.

You can also delegate this task to an intermediary, such as an accountant (commercialista) who would do this on your behalf, the revenue agency stipulates 

What about the Italian tax stamp?

Until now, freelancers issuing invoices under the ‘regime forfettario‘ have had to attach a €2 stamp, called a ‘marca da bollo’, to every invoice over the value of €77,47.

So what happens when e-receipts go digital and you can’t physically stick a stamp on a document? Well, that goes digital too and the Inland Revenue has issued a 16-page guide on how you need to go about it.

It seems the previously attractive ‘light’ accounting of this regime is about to get bogged down by time-consuming bureaucracy too.

Authorities will systematically check that the fee has been paid each quarter for all the invoices that require it.

As a general rule, you can see if there are any discrepancies by the 15th day of the first month following each quarter on their Invoices and Receipts portal.

You or your intermediary have until the end of that month to fix any accounting errors, but make sure to check with an accountant if you have any difficulties or need specific advice for your personal circumstances.

Once you receive your final stamp duty bill for each quarter, you can pay either via IBAN, which you set up on the portal, or by filling out an electronic F24 form – details of how to do that are included in the guide.

For further information and FAQ’s, see Italy’s Inland Revenue Agency website on the electronic invoice here.

Please note The Local cannot advise on personal cases and seeking expert financial advice is recommended.

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