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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.

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For members

MONEY

What you need to know about opening a bank account in Italy

There are a few things to know before choosing the right place to put your cash in Italy. Here’s our guide to finding the best bank for you.

What you need to know about opening a bank account in Italy

Money makes the world go round, they say, and even in notoriously cash-friendly Italy, your life will be a lot easier if you have somewhere to put it.

But with daunting paperwork, confusing opening hours and array of diverse offerings, interacting with Italian banks can be challenging.

Here’s our guide to opening a bank account in Italy to get you started.

Step one: Know what’s out there

I come from Canada, where you can count the number of big banks on one hand. That means Italy’s banking sector can be a little dizzying in comparison. At the time of writing, Italy has more than 20 banks with assets of more than €10 billion. 

Among the biggest names in Italy are Dutch-based ING, Germany-based Deutsche Bank, Italy’s own Unicredit, and the Banca Nazionale di Lavoro (now owned by France’s BNP Paribas).

READ ALSO: Which are the best Italian banks for foreigners?

Alongside these big national banks, there are regional providers like the Banca Popolare di Puglia e Basilicata or the Banco di Sardegna, which confusingly operate branches far from their respective homelands. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find a Pugliese bank next to a Venetian one in Lombardy, or encounter a local bank that has just a handful of branches throughout the country.

Consider the fees applied to transactions and cash withdrawals when choosing your Italian bank account. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)

Disrupting the banking world in recent years has also been the emergence of a whole new crop of online banks, like N26 and HYPE, which offer very low fees by operating no physical branches.

And lastly, there’s the post office: Poste Italiane, in an unholy alliance of paper-based bureaucracy, also operates a consumer bank notorious for slowing down postal lines everywhere.

Knowing the lay of the land will help you pick out the best offering for your life and location. Consider your choice carefully. When we arrived, we chose N26 for its low fees and easy sign-up. But soon, we needed a bigger bank that could offer services like a fideiussione (renter’s guarantee).

Choosing the right bank is about more than knowing if it has a branch in your area — as you settle, a bank’s mortgage offerings, insurance, or high-interest savings accounts may become more important to you.

Step two: Decide what account you need

Technically, if you’re over the age of 18, you’re eligible to open an account in Italy — but most account types are only available to residents, which includes foreign nationals who are here because of a valid job offer or degree program.

The most common account type is a conto corrente or current account (a checking account for American readers). These accounts are designed with daily transactions in mind, meaning there are often opportunities to save on fees by maintaining a minimum deposit or balance.

Ask an expert: Which are the best UK banks for Brits living in Italy?

To earn higher interest, you can place your savings in a conto di risparmio or savings account, which offer fewer transfers and transactions in exchange for higher interest. There is also the conto di deposito, a more restrictive but even higher-interest savings account designed for parking your money just to earn.

Lastly, there are conti correnti esteri, foreign accounts, which can offer deals on wire transfers or allow you to use your home currency and save on exchange fees. These accounts don’t require you to be an Italian resident, making them a good choice for people staying for an indeterminate time.

Step three: Review costs

There’s a reason some of Italy’s nicest buildings belong to banks — this country’s banking fees are among the highest in Europe.

Though comparisons are hard to come by, in 2009 the European Commission found that fees in Italy could be four or five times the amount for the same accounts in the Netherlands, Ireland, or Germany.

But choose the right offer, and they don’t have to be — one analysis found these fees could vary by as much as 10 times between banks.

On average, a typical current account cost nearly €95 per year in 2022, with high-interest savings accounts costing even more. But that average dropped to just €25 for online-only accounts like those offered by N26.

A branch of Unicredit bank in Milan. (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP)

In exchange for these fees, banks offer a range of different services — everything from higher interest to lower transaction fees.

Most banks won’t charge a setup fee, but may charge to issue you with your first debit or credit card. Other services, like cheques, wire transfers, or even ATM withdrawals above a monthly limit are likely to be met with other fees.

Il Sole 24 Ore, one of Italy’s leading financial newspapers, has an online tool that will help you compare bank offers, automatically deducting your expenses from your anticipated interest to show you exactly how much your account is likely to cost.

Make sure to read the fine print — some “fee-free” accounts are promotional offers and expire after a year or so, leaving you paying hefty fees. Others look expensive, but are free if you maintain a low minimum balance or make monthly deposits of just a few hundred euro.

Step four: Visit a branch or sign up online

Now that you know the account type and bank you’re looking for, you can dive into the paperwork.

For a variety of reasons, it’s generally best to wait until you are in Italy to open your account — even in the case of online accounts or conti esteri. Banks will want to mail you your card and know a fixed address in Italy, and you will need an Italian tax code (codice fiscale) to get started in any case.

For online accounts like N26 and HYPE, paperwork is often minimal and requires filing out a few online forms and uploading your ID. 

In physical banks, by contrast, it can be quite extensive, involving a lot of fine print in Italian. If your language skills are poor, consider bringing a friend who can help you review your contracts, or select a bank that you know offers counter service in English.

To open an account, you’ll need the following documents:

  • ID or a passport;
  • Codice fiscale;
  • Residency permit (or, if you’re a non-resident, proof of address like a bill or piece of certified mail); and
  • Proof of your employment income (i.e., a contract or tax return).

Businesses will also need to provide the company’s registration certificate, a certificate of good standing, and statements of the financial status of all shareholders with more than a 20 percent stake in the company.

Take these to your local branch to get the process started. Make sure to check your local bank’s opening hours first — Italian banks are notorious for taking long lunches and closing early in the afternoon.

Closing an account

If you’ve decided it’s time to say goodbye to your bank, it’s unfortunately not quite as simple as visiting a branch.

In most cases, you will need to send a registered letter or raccomandata to your local branch before you show up in person, including signatures from everyone on the account.

And as usual, make sure to read your contract carefully — some banks will even charge a fee to close your account.

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