SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

PROPERTY

Property: Do you have to be Italian to claim Italy’s building bonuses?

Italy has plenty of schemes on offer allowing those buying or renovating in Italy to save substantial amounts of cash. But who can access these funds? Here's what you need to know about how nationality and residency play a part.

There are funds on offer to help with buying and renovating property in Italy. But are you eligible to claim them?
There are funds on offer to help with buying and renovating property in Italy. But are you eligible to claim them? Photo by Nils Schirmer on Unsplash

Italy’s various building bonuses have hit the headlines internationally, attracting interest and curiosity from all over the world.

Who wouldn’t be tempted by schemes that promise to pay for your move to Italy or give you the cash needed to renovate a home?

READ ALSO: The building bonuses you could claim in Italy in 2021

While there are various terms and conditions attached to such schemes, and not all turn out to be as attractive as they may initially sound, there really are considerable amounts of money on offer for those looking to move, buy and renovate.

Italy’s so-called ‘superbonus 110‘ and its other raft of home improvement bonuses have aroused attention and kickstarted many building projects – so much so that many homeowners are now facing delays due to a shortage of building companies caused by the demand.

The ‘superbonus’ offers a tax rebate on up to 110 percent of the expenses incurred for certain property restorations, while other smaller bonuses have fixed limits on how much you can claim.

But can anyone benefit from these schemes? How does nationality or residency affect the rules? Here’s an overview of how different personal circumstances play a part.

Houses in Italy
Homebuyers can grab a one-euro bargain. Photo by Dimitry B on Unsplash

Cash incentives to move to small Italian towns

Firstly, let’s look at the famous €1 houses across the whole of Italy, as more and more municipalities are joining in with this idea month after month.

Pettineo in Sicily has recently launched its version, broadening its appeal by allowing people to buy unused and neglected properties and transform them into not just homes, but tourist accommodation and shops too.

It joins a growing list of €1 properties and each area will have its own criteria, but so far, these schemes seem to be open to buyers from anywhere of any nationality.

The comune of Patrici in the region of Lazio, for example, is offering properties for one euro in its historic centre – and the terms extend eligibility to those from ‘third countries’, i.e. outside the EU.

OPINION: Why Italy must put its forgotten ‘ghost towns’ up for sale – or risk losing them forever

This is also true for the municipality of Cantiano in the region of La Marche, who is hoping to expand its residential base by putting properties on the market for €1, also to non-EU citizens.

But things are different with other schemes that offer cash bonuses to people moving to a particular area.

Piedmont recently announced plans to offer lump sums for people looking to move there for work or to start a business, in an attempt to revitalise some of its smallest towns.

There’s a €10 million pot of funds available to attract newcomers to municipalities with under 5,000 inhabitants, and the grants available must be used to renovate a home.

Out of that financial aid, you could personally obtain an allowance of between €10,000 and €40,000 – and there’s more available if you’re under 40, in a bid to attract younger people who’ll boost the economy for longer.

One reader contacted The Local to say they would apply for the scheme, as it ticked their wish list perfectly. Almost immediately, the most desirable properties had been snapped up and he said he was struggling to reach the agents to discuss further.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, he wouldn’t be able to proceed anyway, as this particular scheme is only open to Italian citizens, those who hold an EU passport or people living in Italy with a long stay residence permit of 10 years (permesso di soggiorno), according to the scheme’s eligibility criteria.

READ ALSO: Visas and residency permits: How to move to Italy (and stay here)

Houses in Burano, Italy.
Buying property in Italy comes with small print. Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

As he’s British, he no longer falls into that category since Britain left the EU – and of course this goes for Americans, Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders too, for example.

The only way around it is to get EU or Italian citizenship, which for the latter can take years to obtain. Or if you have a family member who’s eligible, they could apply but all the documents and deeds would need to be in their name.

Not all move-to-Italy schemes are the same, though.

Santa Fiora in Tuscany, for example, is offering to stump up funds, paying up to 50 percent of your rent if you’ll move there and work for yourself remotely.

READ ALSO: Will Italy really pay you to move to its ‘smart working’ villages?

It makes no mention of the programme only being open to Italian or EU citizens – and even has an application form in English.

As such schemes are complex and vary, remember to check the guidelines of who can participate before you proceed.

The building ‘superbonus’

The Italian government’s famous building ‘superbonus’ promises homeowners a tax deduction of up to 110% on the expenses related to making energy upgrades and reducing seismic risk.

While very few people would actually be eligible to claim the promised 110%, there are still substantial savings to be made.

Under this incentive, there are two notable bonuses available for restorations: the ‘Ecobonus’ and the ‘Sismabonus’ and you can use both in conjunction.

The good news for people with non-EU nationality is you don’t need an Italian or an EU passport to access them. You don’t even need to be legally resident in Italy, as it’s open to second home owners too.

READ ALSO: 

The bonus is available to property owners, regardless of nationality and residency.

However, if you’re not a resident in Italy, your options for accessing the bonus are narrower.

A possibility for residents paying income tax is to use the tax deduction method over five years, which works well if you want to offset high taxes from your income.

Therefore, to go down this route, you must be an Italian resident paying income tax, known as ‘IRPEF’.

The percentage you can claim back will be tied to your Irpef tax bracket, meaning only those making the very largest tax payments would be eligible for the full 110%.

Alternatively, non-residents can transfer the tax credit to another party in return for a commission, such as tax credit institutes or banks.

Or, you can apply for a discount on the invoice (sconto in fattura), effectively trading your tax credit to the contractors. This means the supplier recovers the bonus on your behalf, taking a slice of it as a fee.

Which plan you choose depends on your personal circumstances, such as whether you hold residency in Italy, or how much income tax you pay.

Property renovation works.
Financial aid is on hand for property renovation for all nationalities. Photo by Vitor Pádua on Unsplash

Other building bonuses

Homeowners in Italy can benefit from even more building bonuses which are currently valid until the end of 2021.

There is a government pot for furniture, landscaping gardens and optimising water consumption, but most of these bonuses are for people who pay income taxes in Italy, as they are mainly tax-deductible schemes.

READ ALSO: How you could claim Italy’s building bonus multiple times for the same property

This means nationality isn’t as important as whether you pay income tax. Accessing bonuses such as the renovation bonus (Bonus Ristrutturazioni) require you to be a taxpayer in Italy, allowing you to offset the taxes on your income.

For a full list of the building bonuses on offer and who can claim, click here.

Help with mortgages for those under 36

People under 36 years old who want to buy their first home in Italy can apply to get financial help with getting on the property ladder.

The scheme aims to eliminate VAT on taxes relating to deeds transfers and the mortgage on the purchase of a home, and help young homebuyers (defined as under 36) secure a mortgage – the high upfront cost of which is often cited as one of the factors behind the high number of people in Italy still living with their parents well into their 30s (and beyond).

READ ALSO:

At the time of purchase, the buyer pays 3% registration tax (imposta di registro) if you buy from a private individual, or 4% VAT (IVA) from a company or corporation (except for a few special cases), plus fixed mortgage and land registry taxes.

This ‘prima casa‘ bonus can save buyers up to €9,000 on the costs of buying a first home.

But can anyone access this form of help to buy a first home? The Local understands that many real estate agents, mortgage brokers and other professionals in Italy may tell non-Italian buyers that they don’t qualify as they are not Italian.

However, several of The Local’s members and writers have been able to claim this tax cut successfully.

According to Italian law, there is nothing stopping non-Italian citizens from accessing this scheme. If you’re able to buy a house in Italy, you’re eligible to benefit.

You do need to already be a resident in Italy as the bonus comes in the form of tax deductions, which means that you need to be paying income tax in order to claim these credits.

Note: if you can’t benefit from this scheme but want to get a mortgage in Italy anyway, you don’t already have to be living here. Click here for a guide on how non-EU citizens can get a mortgage for a property in Italy.

Other bonuses for people living in Italy

Aside from property-related bonuses, further tax breaks are available to people who are legally resident in Italy – and these don’t take your nationality into account either.

The newest such offer is the spa bonus (bonus terme), which is open to everyone legally resident in the country and, from November 8th until the funds run out, offers €200 per person to access spa facilities. There are no other requirements apart from being over 18.

READ ALSO: Italy’s spa bonus: How you can claim €200 towards a relaxing break

Italy has a wide range of other subsidies on multiple areas of living costs, many of which are tax deductible and therefore will usually require you to be a taxpayer in Italy.

From baby bonuses to pet tax breaks, from glasses bonuses to TV discounts, it’s worth looking into how you could cut down those hefty bills with our Italian government tax bonus guide.

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

PROPERTY

How to avoid hidden traps when buying an old property in Italy

Buying a cheap home to renovate in Italy sounds like the dream, but it can quickly turn nightmarish amid restrictions, red tape, and bickering relatives. Silvia Marchetti explains some of the most unexpected pitfalls and how to avoid them.

How to avoid hidden traps when buying an old property in Italy

With so many Italian towns offloading cheap old properties for sale, lots of people have been tempted by the chance to buy a fixer-upper in a sunny, rural area and live in the perfect idyll. And most are oblivious at first of what risks the purchase might entail. 

The older the properties are, the more potential traps along the way.

READ ALSO: The Italian towns launching alternatives to one-euro homes

There have been several villages in Italy eager to sell €1 and cheap homes that have had to give up on their plans once hidden issues came to light.

Back in 2014, the towns of Carrega Ligure, in Piedmont, and Lecce nei Marsi, in Abruzzo, tried hard to sell their old properties off at a bargain price but just couldn’t get past Italy’s labyrinthine red tape, hellish property restrictions, and scores of bickering relatives.

Both towns’ mayors found themselves chasing after the many heirs of unknown property owners who had emigrated in the 1800s. All existing relatives, who technically owned small parcels of the same house (whether they knew it or not), had to all agree on the sale.

Under Italian law, over time and generations a property ‘pulverizes’ into many little shares depending on how many heirs are involved (if one single heir is not named).

You can end up in a situation where you agree with two owners that you’ll buy their old house, and then one day another five knock at your door saying they never gave their consent, nullifying your purchase. So it’s always best to check beforehand the local land registry to see exactly who, and how many, are the owners, and where they are. 

READ ALSO:

In Carrega Ligure and Lecce nei Marsi, families had long ago migrated across the world and the many heirs to some properties were impossible to track down.

But there were also other obstacles.

“We wanted to start the renovation project by selling dilapidated one euro houses, and then move on to cheap ones, but the tax office would not agree on the price – saying that the old properties had a greater value, that they weren’t classified as abandoned buildings but as perfectly livable houses in good shape”, says Lecce nei Marsi mayor Augusto Barile. 

This meant buyers would have ended up spending tons of money in property sale taxes.

“Even if these were just small houses, potential property taxes start at €700, and could have been much higher,” he explains.

“This would have been a nightmare for any buyer finding out about this at a later stage, after the purchase”.

Barile says the town hall had not made a prior agreement with the tax office to reclassify and ‘downgrade’ the value of the old buildings, which also required an update of the land registry. 

READ ALSO: The hidden costs of buying a home in Italy

Council officials in the village of Carrega Ligure faced a wall of red tape when they tried to sell off abandoned properties. Credit: Comune di Carrega Ligure

Several potential buyers I spoke to back then said that when they found out about the tax office’s involvement by word of mouth (mostly thanks to village gossip at the bar while sipping an espresso), they fled immediately without even taking a look at the houses. 

The best advice in this case is to pay a visit to the local tax bureau ahead of any formal purchase deal and make sure that the old, dilapidated house you want to buy is actually ‘accatastata’ (registered) as such, or you might end up paying the same property sale taxes as you would on a new home. Hiring a tax lawyer or legal expert could be of huge help.

In Carrega Ligure, where old shepherds’ and farmers’ homes are scattered across 11 districts connecting various valleys, a few abandoned homes located near pristine woods came with a nice patch of land – which turned out to be another huge problem.

Old estates often cannot be disposed of due to ‘vincoli’ – limitations – either of environmental or historic nature, that do not allow the property to be sold, or simply due to territorial boundaries that have changed over time, particularly if the original families haven’t lived there for a long time.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s cheap homes frenzy is changing rural villages

In Carrega Ligure it turned out that “a few dwellings located in the most ancient district couldn’t be sold because of hydrogeological risks. State law forbade rebuilding them from scratch, as floods and mudslides had hit the area in the past”, says Carrega Ligure mayor Luca Silvestri.

Meanwhile, other properties were located within or close to the protected mountain park area where the village districts spread, and where there are strict rules against building to preserve the surroundings.

Another issue was that a few old homes came with a patch of land which was quite distant, on the opposite side of the hill, says Silvestri, making it inconvenient for buyers looking for a house with a back garden.

In this case, checking territorial maps, and speaking to competent bodies such as park authorities if there are ‘green restrictions’ in place, can spare future nuisances.

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.

SHOW COMMENTS