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BUREAUCRACY

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

There are plenty of Italian acronyms new residents need to be familiar with, and this may be one of the most important. Here’s what it means and why you’ll need it.

Tax office in Italy
The ISEE is a parameter used by Italy’s government to assess the overall economic situation of a certain household. Photo by Andreas SOLARO

Long-term Italian residents might be already familiar with the ISEE, but to others it’s no more than a mysterious-sounding acronym seen in reports about Italy’s many government ‘bonuses’ and subsidies.

ISEE stands for ‘Indicatore della Situazione Economica Equivalente’, which roughly translates into English as Equivalent Financial Position Indicator.

In typically Italian fashion though, the full name is likely to leave you just as puzzled as the acronym.

Basically the ISEE is a parameter used by Italy’s government and public administration to gauge the overall economic situation of a household. 

It takes a variety of factors into account, though it is for the most part based on the ages, annual income, assets and any physical disabilities of the members of a household. 

You could think of the ISEE as a sort of ‘financial ID card’, which states your household’s level of wealth and financial security.  

READ ALSO: How foreign nationals can apply for an Italian ID card

Sooner or later, all Italian residents end up crossing paths with the ISEE, usually when accessing means-tested government financial subsidies.

For instance, recently-extended discounts on gas and electricity bills can only be claimed by households with an ISEE of up to 12,000 euros. 

ISEE thresholds are also set for Italy’s universal single allowance, nursery bonus and most exemptions in the public healthcare system.

However, a household’s ISEE status is not automatically calculated by the Italian public administration. So those looking to access a state subsidy must go about claiming their own ISEE certificate independently. 

How do get your ISEE certificate?

It may not come as a surprise to hear that getting an ISEE certificate isn’t nearly as straightforward as it should be.

For this reason, even Italian nationals tend to need the help of private professionals. 

Claiming the certificate revolves around completing the ‘Dichiarazione Unica Sostitutiva’ (Single replacement declaration, or DSU); a form asking claimants about their income, assets and size of their household.

Customer speaking with employee in a tax office in Italy

The ISEE system takes into account a variety of factors, including the age, annual income and assets of any given household member. Photo by Andreas SOLARO

You can complete this form yourself, or have your commercialista (accountant) or another professional do this for you.

INPS recently launched a new online service allowing residents can ask to receive a pre-filled DSU form – some questions are automatically answered based on records held by INPS and the Agenzia delle Entrate – and then proceed to complete the document by themselves. 

Once completed, the form must be submitted either to your local Centro di Assistenza Fiscale (Fiscal Support Centre, CAF) or via the National Social Insurance Agency’s (INPS) website.

A DSU form can be submitted either to your local Fiscal Support Centre (CAF) or via the National Social Insurance Agency’s (INPS) website.
 
More Italian bureaucracy:

It can be submitted at any time of year, with the resulting ISEE certificate valid until the end of that same year.

The ISEE certificate is usually available within 10 days of submitting the form, though there might be delays if the info given through the DSU doesn’t match the records kept by the Agenzia delle Entrate (Revenue Agency) and INPS. 

Once the certificate is ready, residents can choose to either have it delivered online in downloadable format or pick it up in person. 

The following INPS web page allows users to work out whether or not they might be eligible to claim certain state subsidies by ‘unofficially’ calculating their ISEE status.

Further info about how to get an ISEE certificate is available on the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Politics’ website (in Italian only).

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For members

DRIVING

Why is it taking so long to book a driving test in Italy?

People trying to sit their driving tests in many parts of Italy are reporting long delays when booking their theory or practical exam. The Local looks at why this is happening.

Why is it taking so long to book a driving test in Italy?

Getting an Italian driving licence (or patente di guida) isn’t exactly a piece of cake, especially for foreign residents, who, besides familiarising themselves with the national Highway Code, must also achieve a high level of Italian language proficiency before taking the test.

But the process has become more of a challenge over the past few months for candidates experiencing long waiting times – up to five months in some cases – when booking their theory or practical tests.

READ ALSO: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one?

As many local licensing offices (Uffici di Motorizzazione Civile, which are roughly equivalent to the UK’s DVLA or the US DMV) fail to explain these delays, candidates are left wondering what the problem is. 

The short answer is that Italy’s licensing department is facing critical understaffing problems, which, by the look of things, aren’t going away anytime soon. 

“The problem is national,” Emilio Patella, national secretary of Italy’s main driving schools’ union UNASCA, tells The Local.

“The size of the [licensing department’s] current workforce is half of what it was ten years ago, or half of what it should be on a regular basis.”

READ ALSO: Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

Cars line up to cross the Italian-Swiss border

People taking their practical driving tests in Como face a waiting time of 140 days on average. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

This means that, presently, there simply aren’t enough employees around to meet the market’s demand – a situation which is the result of “over 20 years where few to no hirings were made”, according to Patella.

Not all local offices are currently registering gigantic delays, with waiting times varying from area to area based on demand and the number of staff available.

Regions in the north-west and north-east of the country – especially Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna – are bearing the brunt of the national crisis.

Como has the worst-affected office in the country, Patella says, with the average waiting time for candidates looking to take their practical test standing at 140 days (or well north of four months).

Other cities experiencing long delays include Brescia, Bergamo, Milan, Turin, Vicenza, Verona, Piacenza, Parma, and Reggio Emilia.

Katherine Sahota, a British national living in Brescia, has been trying to book her theory test since September, but says there have been “little to no appointments available” in the area.

While being denied the opportunity to book a test is sufficiently frustrating in and of its own, the issue is particularly pressing for Britons in Italy at the moment.

READ ALSO: ‘So stressful’: How Italy-UK driving licence fiasco threatens couple’s Tuscan dream

The 12-month grace period allowing British nationals to drive across Italy on UK licences is due to expire on December 31st and, with negotiations over a reciprocal agreement between Italy and the UK showing no sign of progress, many British nationals have chosen to get an Italian driving licence. 

But the delays affecting many licensing offices across Italy are already undermining their efforts and mean it’s unlikely some residents will be able to get their licence before the deadline.

Sahota might just be one of them. 

“It is a helpless situation not being able to plan anything,” she tells The Local.

“I don’t think they understand how this affects the lives of people who need to drive for work, for families, for their own freedom of movement.”

Sahota’s situation, and that of many others across the country, isn’t being helped by the inherent nature of the Italian licensing system, which is built on a series of tight, consecutive deadlines. 

Red Vespa motorcycle and vintage Fiat

The Italian licensing system is based on a series of tight deadlines, which make candidates susceptible to even the shortest delays. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

After submitting a request to take the test, candidates have six months to pass the theory exam, within a maximum of only two attempts. They then have 12 months and a total of three attempts to pass the practical exam. 

Also, those who have to resit either exam can only do so at least a month after the failed attempt.

As a result of this, even a waiting time as ‘short’ as two months might keep a candidate from being able to retake an exam within the set timeframe. If this happens, the candidate has no choice but to re-enrol and pay all the enrolment fees again.

Several reports of residents not being able to retake an exam through no fault of their own have emerged over the past few weeks. 

Stefano Galletti, president of Bologna’s UNASCA office, said last week that candidates in the city “can barely take an exam” in the given time span, with longer-than-usual waiting times often keeping people from retaking in case of failure.

READ ALSO: Some of the best learner sites for taking your Italian driving test

While hiring more examiners looks like the solution to the problem, but increasing the Italian licensing department’s workforce might not be as straightforward as many would think. 

According to Patella, the Italian government will have to either implement a special hiring policy known as ‘piano straordinario’ – an option which, he says, hasn’t been considered so far – or delegate tasks to employees of other national agencies in order to fill the current gaps. 

But, even if one of the above measures were to be put into effect, Patella believes that “we would only manage to get back to a normal state of things in around three years” – that’s also because “being an examiner is not a very sought-after job and few people are still willing to do it”.

In the meantime, residents facing delays can get in touch with the Italian licensing department’s support centre to report their issue or ask for guidance. 

It’s also worth noting that residents are allowed to sit their driving tests in a province other than the one where they reside. 

However, if the province where they choose to take the test doesn’t border that in which they are resident, the licensing office can ask candidates to give a valid reason for the choice and to provide additional documentation.

For further information, contact your local licensing office (Uffici di Motorizzazione Civile). Find details of your nearest office here

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