Italy has the sad record of being the first country in Europe for tax evasion. Second “The Tax Research LLP” Italy’s submerged economy is worth about 191 billion euros. A considerable figure that hides a terrible statistic: more than 20% of the revenue due to the State is not paid. Of course, one often hears someone almost justify, even in the media, that with the tax burden that there is in Italy such a high level of evasion is normal. It is like saying that 1 Italian out of 5 does not pay taxes. So the other four pay them for him or her too. Normal a cabbage.
The two most evaded taxes are income tax, personal income tax, and VAT. Each of the two taxes is worth almost 40 billion euros in evasion and, in some ways, fighting the evasion of one, the VAT, also indirectly leads to combat the evasion of the other: by analyzing the sales and purchases made by a person can potentially reconstruct the income and therefore also the IRPEF due and perhaps not paid. Electronic invoicing alone, despite criticism and a thousand technological and bureaucratic constraints, seems to have produced an additional VAT revenue of 4 billion euros.
To overcome all this and restore social and fiscal equity to a country that has never fully understood it, three actions are necessary: increase the traceability of payments , increase resources for combating tax evasion and, last but not least, rethink the obstacles that the Privacy Act places on tax verification operations .
Increase the traceability of payments
Italy is one of the countries in Europe with more POS, those small devices that allow you to pay with ATMs, credit cards or new digital tools. Despite this, Italy is second to last in the use of payments with cards, second only to Germany. The problem, say the card detractors, is the commissions. Yet a study by Euromonitor in 2019 indicates that commissions in Italy are among the lowest in Europe, 1.1% against a European average of 1.2%. The fact that the cost of commissions is not an acceptable excuse against the spread of electronic payments is demonstrated by the fact that in all countries with high commissions, credit card payments are much more widespread than in Italy.
The first problem that hinders the spread of payments is legal: although there was an obligation for merchants to have a POS first, and even to accept electronic payments then (which were refused even having a POS, for example by imposing a spending limit greater than 5 or 10 euros) the penalties are not applied because they were considered unconstitutional. So there is the obligation to accept electronic payments but there is no sanction for those who do not do so. This must be resolved as soon as possible.
The second obstacle is consumers who do not always feel encouraged to use cards. ticket lottery that would have the objective of recognizing a reward to the lucky extract: too similar to gambling and in general is a too strong call to luck, rather than to a duty. Much better to eventually give a cashback to the consumer, at least on the product categories and the amounts at highest risk of evasion (including, among others, coffee at the bar). With such a low percentage of electronic payments, around 26%, it would probably be possible to finance the tax rebate. (cash back) with the emergence of the submerged also in the short term, as well as in the long. This cashback could be paid out in a pay slip once a year, to make it even more visible to the most sceptical consumers. And even Italians who do not have a credit card or a debit card could use a rechargeable card, obviously not anonymous.
The superbrain of the taxman
In the collective imagination there is a superbrain of the tax office, which correlates all taxpayer data and analyses all expenditure to determine inconsistencies. In fact, this is not the case because no tax office, less than the Italian one, has all the economic, human and technological resources to do all these checks. However, we must work in this direction: to build a single database that brings together the data of electronic invoicing, electronic receipts, taceable payments and current accounts: the machine learning and the reduction of computational costs will make this challenge today not only possible but necessary.
To pay everyone, maybe less.