‘Psychologist bonus’: Italy offers €600 discount on mental health services

Italy on Monday opened up applications for funding towards the cost of therapy amid an unprecedented mental health crisis primarily affecting young people.

‘Psychologist bonus’: Italy offers €600 discount on mental health services
The pandemic has triggered an unprecedented demand for mental health care services. Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP

Italy’s residents can now claim a new ‘psychologist bonus’ (bonus psicologo) intended to help people struggling with the effects of the pandemic to access mental health services.

From Monday July 25th, applications can be made via the Italian social security office (INPS) website for vouchers worth €600 per person towards the cost of treatment.

READ ALSO: How is Italy addressing its pandemic-induced mental health crisis?

With a total fund worth €10 million, the vouchers are means tested and will be available on a first-come first-served basis until October 24th.

The patient must have an Isee (a calculation of relative household income and wealth) of under €50,000 to be eligible for the fund, which can be used when visiting professionals registered with Italy’s Albo degli psicologi (Register of Psychologists).

The funding was announced in February as part of the milleproroghe budget amendment bill, with Health Minister Roberto Speranza describing the improvement of mental health services in the country as “crucial”.

The bonus is set to be accompanied by an additional €10 million in funds aimed at strengthening existing health facilities and recruiting new mental health professionals.

The approval and implementation of the fund was welcomed by many politicians and prominent mental health experts as a step in the right direction for Italy, which is in the midst of a mental health crisis.

Some, however, were less impressed, as news outlets noted that the €10 million budget proposed for the psychologist bonus would benefit just 16,000 people; less than 0.0003 percent of Italy’s population of 59.5 million.

Italy was hit early and hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and – as in the rest of the world – people across the country have spent the last two years struggling to cope with the fallout.

There are now widespread reports of a mental health crisis in Italy affecting younger people in particular.

Recent studies show that an estimated one in four adolescents now has symptoms of clinical depression and one in five are showing signs of anxiety disorders.

In January 2021, the Bambino Gesù paediatric hospital in Rome reported a 30 percent increase in hospitalisations of children aged between 12 and 18 due to self harm after the first wave of Covid.

Meanwhile, mental health care provision in Italy varies significantly from one part of the country to another, as the healthcare system is decentralised: operating on a regional rather than a national level and administered by local health authorities (Aziende Sanitarie Locali, or Asl).

Italy’s local health authorities on average allocate just 3.2 percent to 3.3 percent of their budget to mental health, compared to upwards of 7 percent to 8.5 percent in places like Germany, France, and the UK, according to estimates made in 2020 by the Italian Society of Psychiatry.

Some Italian regions, however, are further ahead of the game than others.

In August 2020, Campania introduced a regional law granting all residents the right to be assigned a psicologo di base or ‘primary care psychologist’, the mental health equivalent of a GP, through their Asl.

Lombardy is now also set to follow Campania’s lead in establishing a network of a primary care psychologists, with Lombardy’s Regional Council reportedly voting unanimously in favour of the motion in January 2022.

See more information about claiming the ‘psychologist bonus’ on the INPS website here (in Italian) or speak to your accountant for assistance with claiming.

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KEY POINTS: The tax changes in Italy to know about in 2023

From a proposed 'flat tax' to VAT, Italy is planning a raft of changes that you should be aware of as part of longer-term reforms. Here's a quick overview.

KEY POINTS: The tax changes in Italy to know about in 2023

The Italian government is preparing a set of major reforms to the tax system by 2027, and the first changes set to come in to force over the next two years were announced on Thursday, March 16th.

The existing tax system in Italy, which has been in place since 1971, is often criticised for being overly complex and for placing too high a tax burden on employees and businesses – one of the factors regularly blamed for Italy’s longstanding problem with sluggish economic growth.

READ ALSO: Flat tax for all? Italy announces plan to overhaul tax system

Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti has said the planned reforms will reduce this tax burden “gradually” and make investment and commercial activity in Italy “more appealing”.

Few details of the reforms were immediately given on Thursday, but here’s a look at what we know so far about the initial changes coming in 2023 and how they could affect you.

‘Flat tax’ and income tax changes

The government has confirmed it is planning changes to the way the amount of personal income tax you have to pay is calculated, and that it will push ahead with longer-term plans to bring in a so-called flat tax, which was one of the flagship promises made by the coalition of right-wing parties which took power following September’s general elections.

The coming reforms will initially reduce the number of income tax (Irpef) brackets from four to three, with the ultimate goal of a single tax rate for everyone by 2027 – when the current government’s term in office is set to end.

Irpef (Imposta sui Redditi delle Persone Fisiche) is the main income tax in Italy and applies to all employees, many self-employed workers (regular partita Iva holders, but not those on the flat tax rate) and pensioners.

This tax is the cornerstone of Italy’s fiscal system. It injected just shy of 206 billion euros into state coffers in 2022, accounting for around 38 percent of the country’s total tax revenue last year (544.5 billion euros).

The first reforms came in 2021, when the number of income tax brackets was cut from five to four to create the current system:

Current tax brackets:

   Income (annual)  Irpef rate
First bracket Up to 15,000 euros 23 percent (aliquota)
Second bracket Between 15,000 and 28,000 euros 25 percent
Third bracket Between 28,000 and 50,000 euros 35 percent
Fourth bracket Over 50,000 euros 43 percent

The coming change will reduce the number of tax brackets down to three by merging the second and third tiers into a single one.

The reforms are expected to set the three bands at 23 percent, 33 percent and 43 percent initially, and government officials have said that a more costly option under consideration would lower the second band to 27 percent.

No further details were immediately given on Thursday, and the draft outline approved by Italy’s cabinet still needs the green light from parliament and then implementation by the finance ministry.

This change means people who are currently in the second bracket will see their Irpef payments increase by two or three percent, whereas those who are now in the third bracket will benefit from a seven- or eight-percent cut.

VAT cuts

The government has also said it is looking at cuts to VAT (known as IVA in Italian) on various products – and reports suggest it could scrap it altogether on at least some essential goods.

Italy applies a standard 22-percent VAT rate to most consumer goods, and lower rates to essential items (for instance, 4 percent on bread). This can be surprising to people from countries where VAT is usually zero-rated on basic foodstuffs.

With the new tax bill, the government plans to lower rates on all consumer goods which households purchase regularly: so-called shopping cart goods.

READ ALSO: Cost of living: What are Italy’s best price comparison websites?

The government is also reportedly considering scrapping VAT on at least some essential purchases, though this was not announced on Thursday and no further details have emerged yet.

Italian consumer group Codacons estimates that scrapping the tax on essential items would save the average household up to 300 euros a year.


Lower corporation tax

Meloni’s government said it plans to cut corporation tax from the current rate of 24 percent to 15 for companies that create jobs and make investments in “innovation” – a move that was initially welcomed by business groups, who said they’re waiting for more details to come.

Tax ‘bonus’ cuts

The changes have not been costed yet, but the plan to bring in a flat tax is expected to cost the treasury around 10 billion euros.

The government says plans to recoup this sum partly by curbing many of the financial incentives currently available to Italian taxpayers.

Italy has a mind-boggling array of tax rebates and other incentives in place – over 600 in total – which collectively cost the state 165 billion euros a year. 

The 2023 tax reform is expected to cut the amounts available through these incentives, and will also mean fewer people are eligible to claim.

The government has already begun to curb some of Italy’s most popular – and costly – tax rebate schemes as of the beginning of this year; namely the building bonuses providing generous state-funded discounts on renovation work. This includes the so-called superbonus 110, which was initially cut back in January before being made almost completely unavailable in February.

EXPLAINED: Are any of Italy’s building ‘bonuses’ still available?

Ministers have not yet released any details as to which other incentives may be affected by planned cuts.

Property taxes simplified

The taxes paid when buying property in Italy are notoriously hefty, with experts often advising buyers to budget around an additional ten percent of the purchase price in order to pay the various taxes and charges involved.

While there’s no sign that these costs will be lowered anytime soon, some of them are set to be streamlined: the upcoming bill will merge stamp duties (imposte di bollo) and cadastral taxes (imposte catastali) into a single fixed-rate fee which ministers hope will somewhat simplify the process of buying a home.

The Local will report further details of the upcoming tax changes once they become available.