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ECONOMY

Italian parliament gives final approval to 2022 budget

The Italian parliament on Thursday passed the government's 2022 budget, giving the green light to a package of measures including cuts to income tax rates for many lower earners.

Italy's lower house of parliament
Italy's lower house of parliament approved the 2022 budget on Thursday. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The lower house passed the budget by 355 votes to 45 just one day before the end-of-year deadline, after approval from the Senate came last week.

The budget reduces income and business taxes by some 7.5 billion euros in 2022, cutting the number of income tax bands from five to four as previously agreed.

It also sets aside almost four billion euros to shield consumers from soaring utility bills from January, and extends current generous subsidies on energy-saving home improvements under the ‘building bonus‘ scheme.

READ ALSO: Rising energy prices: How to save money on your bills in Italy

After months of uncertainty for homeowners amid speculation as to how this scheme would continue into 2022, the superbonus on single-family homes was approved.

More of Italy’s numerous tax ‘bonuses’ have also been extended and, in some cases, increased. Authorities have given the green light to raise the ceiling of deductible expenses for the furniture bonus, for example, from €5,000 to €10,000.

The new budget assumes Italy’s gross domestic product will grow by 4.7 percent in 2022, Reuters reports.

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MONEY

EXPLAINED: Why people in Italy might have to carry more cash from now on

Italian retailers will no longer face fines for refusing card payments on amounts lower than €60, after the government put the brakes on a recent push towards electronic payments.

EXPLAINED: Why people in Italy might have to carry more cash from now on

Italy’s new budget bill is set to add yet another controversial chapter to the country’s long and troubled history of card payment laws.

Under Italy’s new budget law, retailers will no longer be fined for refusing card payments for smaller amounts – a controversial move that is expected to have a knock-on effect for shoppers.

READ ALSO: Key points: What Italy’s new budget law means for you 

Fines for retailers refusing card payments on amounts lower than €60 will now be suspended until at least June 2023, according to a clause included in the text of the 2023 budget law published to media on Wednesday.

As set out by the bill, the six-month suspension will allow the newly created Ministry of Enterprises and Made in Italy to “establish new exemption criteria” and “guarantee the proportionality of the given penalties”.

And, though it isn’t yet clear what new exemptions the government is currently considering nor what exactly is meant by “proportionality”, what’s certain is that residents who had started to make more purchases by card will now have to repopulate their pockets with some good old banknotes because businesses – from taxi drivers to cafes and bars – might not accept card payments for small amounts.

Fines for businesses caught refusing card payments had been introduced by Draghi’s administration back in June 2022, with retailers liable to pay “a €30 administrative fee plus four percent of the value of the transaction previously denied”, regardless of the amount owed by the customer. 

Euro banknotes in a wallet

Under Italy’s new budget law, retailers will no longer be forced to accept card payments for transactions under €60. Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

The measure angered retailers who lamented having to pay hefty bank commissions on every electronic transaction – some business owners even went as far as openly defying the law and organised themselves into a protest group (Comitato No Pos, roughly meaning ‘Anti-point-of-sale committee’). 

Given the government’s new legislation, it seems like their efforts might just have paid off. 

But, while many business owners will no doubt be happy with the suspension, others have already raised doubts about the potential ripple effects of the government’s move.

Aside from shoppers having to carry more cash than they’re currently used to, many political commentators are warning that the suspension might be a “gift to tax dodgers” in a country where, according to the latest available estimates, tax evasion costs state coffers nearly €90 billion a year.

The same was said about another of the government’s recent changes: raising the cash payment limit from 2,000 to 5,000 euros.

READ ALSO: What’s changing under Italy’s post-pandemic recovery plan? 

A previous government led by Giuseppe Conte had introduced several measures aimed at encouraging the use of electronic payments, most of which have since ended or been rolled back.

The introduction of fines for businesses refusing card payments was one of the financial objectives set out within Italy’s Recovery Plan (PNRR), which expressly refers to the fight against tax evasion as one of the country’s most urgent priorities. 

It is therefore likely that the new cabinet will at some point have to explain the latest U-turn on Recovery Plan policies in front of the EU Commission.

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