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EDUCATION

Back to school in Italy: how much will it cost, and how can you save money?

With Italy’s schools reopening in September, parents are beginning the annual rush to stock up on essential supplies. New figures reveal families will have to shell out more this year.

Italian pupils in front of an elementary school.
As Italian pupils prepare to file back into the classroom, families are dealing with the purchase of school supplies and textbooks. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

As the last families return to their homes at the tail-end of the so-called grande rientro, Italian pupils are preparing to file back into the classroom for the start of the 2022/2023 school year. 

For those who aren’t too familiar with the Italian education system, all public schools are managed by regional authorities, meaning return dates generally vary by region.

READ ALSO: Explained: What are Italy’s Covid rules for schools in September?

For instance, this time around, back-to-school dates will range from September 5th to September 19th, with children from Trentino-Alto Adige being the first back in front of the blackboard. (See all the dates here).

Regardless of the dates pupils are expected back at their desks, the purchase of school supplies and textbooks is going to deal many Italian families a harder economic blow this year.

According to estimates from Italian consumer association Codacons, the prices of regular school supplies (backpacks, notebooks, pencil cases, stationery, etc.) have increased by as much as seven percent compared to last year. 

Prices, Codacons explains, have been mainly driven up by “greater energy costs for manufacturers” and “higher transportation fees” associated with the European fuel crisis. 

Students outside the Italo Calvino Institute in Turin, Italy.

Backpacks are the most expensive item in the back-to-school shopping list, with some branded articles going for as much as 200 euros. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

So how much should Italian families prepare to shell out?

According to Codacons, expenses for school supplies alone might add up to a whopping 588 euros per student

As usual, the most expensive item on the back-to-school list is the backpack, with some brand-name articles currently going for as much as 200 euros.

READ ALSO: Why Italians have a hard time learning English – and how things could improve

Significant expenses are also required for pencil cases or pouches (branded items may go for as much as 60 euros) and school diaries (around 30 euros for the most sought-after brands). 

On top of the above-mentioned school supplies (corredo scolastico in Italian), families will also have to pay for textbooks. 

While elementary school textbooks are supplied free of charge across the entire country, costs for middle school (scuola media) or high school (scuola superiore) textbooks generally fall between 300 and 600 euros, with prices largely varying according to the year and school children happen to be in. 

All in all then, Codacons estimates that the purchase of school supplies, textbooks and technical items (set triangles, compasses, goniometers, etc.) might set Italian families back as much as 1,300 euros per student this time around. 

However, as the prospect of this year’s back-to-school stangata (financial blow) gives rise to some much-justified concern among parents, Codacons and other consumer groups such as Altroconsumo and Tuttoscuola have already provided families with some useful advice on how to save up on both supplies and textbooks.

How to save money on school supplies

  • Avoid branded items. Children are easily influenced by TV and/or online ads and might push to get the most popular and fashionable articles on the market. However, off-brand items generally have the same features and durability as their more well-known counterparts and might go for 40 percent less.
  • Buy from a local supermarket rather than a stationery shop. At this time of the year, many supermarket chains offer very favourable deals on school kits, with prices being sometimes 30 percent lower than in specialist shops.
  • Don’t buy everything at once. Any item that is not immediately necessary can be bought at a later stage.
  • Wait for teachers’ guidelines, especially when it comes to buying material for art or geometry classes. Knowing exactly what items are required will save you from spending money on wrong or unnecessary articles.

A student completing a written test.

Italian consumer groups have advised families to avoid branded items when it comes to purchasing school supplies. Photo by Olivier CHASSIGNOLE / AFP

How to save money on textbooks

  • Buy second-hand textbooks. Purchasing libri usati might allow you to save up to 50 percent on school books. However, it’s usually best to check the state of the items – especially their exercise pages – prior to buying. Also, keep in mind that past editions might no longer be accepted.
  • Loan textbooks directly from the school. Not all institutes do this but some allow for various forms of comodato d’uso whereby families can loan textbooks for the entire length of the school year and then return them when classes end in June.
  • Look out for financial incentives. All schools set aside a budget to help low-income families with the purchase of textbooks. Incentives usually come in the forms of vouchers partly covering the price of the required items. Vouchers are allocated on the basis of a household’s economic situation, which in Italy is calculated as ISEE (Equivalent Financial Position Indicator or Indicatore della Situazione Economica Equivalente).
  • Shop online or in supermarkets. Some supermarkets and online marketplaces sell textbooks at favourable prices, with discounts usually ranging between 10 and 20 percent.
  • Buy digital textbooks. Again, not all schools allow this but in some institutes families have the option to buy the required set of textbooks in digital form. Students can then access the books via a pc, tablet or e-reader.

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POLITICS

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

Italy’s new government has unveiled the country’s draft budget for 2023. Here are the main measures and how they will affect residents.

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

After weeks of back-to-back consultations between ministers, Italy’s new cabinet finally unveiled its 2023 draft budget law on Tuesday.

The new budget bill includes measures amounting to a total of 35 billion euros, with more than 21 billion going towards supporting households and businesses in the face of soaring utility bills.

In a press conference on Tuesday morning, Italy’s new prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, praised the proposed 2023 budget law as “a bold move” focusing for the most part on low-income households and struggling businesses.

That said, a number of political commentators have already pointed out that the bill is actually pretty far removed from the promises made by Meloni herself in the lead up to the September elections.

“It’s a prudent and responsible budget,” which is largely “in continuity” with Mario Draghi’s former government, Giuliano Noci, a professor at Milan’s Politecnico school of management, told AFP.

Under Italy’s new budget law, as many as 21 billion euros will be used to mitigate the effects of the EU energy crisis on families and businesses. Photo by Ida Marie ODGAARD and Ritzau SCANPIX / AFP

The new cabinet has already had to raise Italy’s 2023 public deficit to 4.5 percent of the national gross domestic product (GDP), up by over a percentage point compared to forecasts made under Draghi’s tenure.

By Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti’s own admission, this has forced the new government to focus on “financially sustainable” policies right from the start.

The draft budget law is now set to head to parliament, where both chambers will have until December 31st to approve the bill’s text. 

Barring any major amendments in parliament, these will be the main measures introduced by the 2023 budget.

Tax cuts

The new budget law will cut the ‘tax wedge’ (cuneo fiscale), i.e. the difference between the amount workers are paid by their employer and the amount they effectively earn after taxes.

Tax reductions will be equal to two percentage points for employees with an annual income between 20,000 and 35,000 euros, whereas they’ll amount to three percentage points for people earning less than 20,000 euros per year.

In addition to the above measure, companies hiring women aged under 36 will benefit from tax exemptions. 

Energy aid measures

At the moment, Italian households with an ISEE (Equivalent Financial Position Indicator) of up to 12,000 euros can benefit from discounts on their gas and electricity bills as part of the ‘bonus gas e luce’.

The new budget will raise the ISEE threshold to 15,000 euros, with the bonus remaining available until the end of at least March 2023.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What’s an ISEE and when will you need one in Italy?

The bill is also set to raise the amount of tax credit (credito d’imposta) businesses can claim under the ‘bonus energetico’.

As of January 1st, owners of heavily energy-consuming businesses (imprese energivore) will be eligible to receive tax credit amounting to as much as 45 percent of their energy-related expenses. 

The claimable amount will be set at 35 percent for the other businesses.

Fuel discounts halved

Current discounts on fuel duties – 30.5 cents on every litre of petrol or diesel and around 10.4 cents for methane – will be halved starting from December 1st. 

The measure has already attracted significant criticism from consumer groups, with the president of Codacons, Carlo Rienzi, condemning it as an “absurd move” that will have “grave effects” on residents’ livelihood. 

Gas pumps

In a controversial move, the government will halve the current fuel discounts starting from December 1st. Photo by Valentine CHAPUIS / AFP

Stopgap pension system

The 2023 budget bill will also provide a temporary solution to the controversial Fornero Law by introducing the so-called ‘Quota 103’. 

Essentially, as of January 1st 2023 and until the end of the year, anyone with at least 41 years of service and aged 62 or more will be able to retire from work.

That said, the above measure will only postpone a wider reform of the Italian pension system to 2024.

Changes to unemployment benefits

As of January 1st 2023, able-bodied people of working age will only be able to claim Italy’s unemployment benefits scheme, the so-called Reddito di Cittadinanza, for a maximum of eight months. 

However, the scheme will remain available to disabled people for the whole of 2023. 

The Reddito di Cittadinanza is expected to be fully scrapped in 2024, but it isn’t yet clear what unemployment aid system the new government will replace it with.

Higher flat tax threshold 

Freelancers (or ‘partite IVA‘ in Italian) with an annual income of up to 65,000 euros currently benefit from a 15 percent flat tax rate

Though the cabinet’s original plans were to bring it up to 100,000 euros, the ceiling will only be raised to 85,000 euros at the start of next year. 

Fines for refused card payments suspended

Businesses across the country won’t be required to accept card payments for transactions below 30 euros until at least June 2023.

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

The government has chosen to suspend the current fines system to allow the newly created Ministry of Enterprises and Made in Italy to “establish new exemption criteria” and “guarantee the proportionality of the given penalties”. 

The move has already been billed as a “gift to tax dodgers”.

Harsher windfall tax

Italy’s windfall tax on energy companies’ excess profits is set to go from 25 percent to 35 percent.

READ ALSO: Italy’s energy giant reports huge profit as more price hikes expected

VAT capped for sanitary pads

VAT on all sanitary pads and diapers is set to be capped at five percent.

Tax amnesty 

Tax debts of under 1,000 euros dating back to 2014 or earlier will be written off in 2023.

Higher cash payment ceiling

The cash payment ceiling will be raised from 1000 euros to 5000 euros starting from January 1st 2023.

Opposition parties have long been critical of the above measure as they fear it might favour tax evasion.

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