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Italian Secrets For Hiding Receipts And Dodging The Taxman

With new no-nonsense Prime Minister Mario Monti committed to cracking down on tax evasion, La Stampa explores the time-honored (and cutting-edge) tricks that some Italian merchants use to duck requirements that all purchases are registered in official sal

An Italian receipt, called a
An Italian receipt, called a
Flavia Amabile

ROME – Even with winter sales on, January is generally not a good month for store merchants in the capital. There are fewer tourists, and locals have already done their spending on Christmas gifts. Still, a group of 20-something Spanish women walking through the scenic Campo de" Fiori on a recent afternoon decide to stop for an ice cream. We watch six of the women enter the gelateria in Via dei Baullari. Each one orders, pays for and is handed her own ice cream. And the receipts? Not a trace. "No they didn't give us any," the customers confirm.

In Italy, any purchase must be accompanied by a sales receipt (scontrino) handed directly to the customer, which is central to monitoring done by the nation's tax collectors and finance police. Authorities recently raided homes, stores and restaurants in the mountain resort town of Cortina, where allegations of widespread tax evasion also included charges that business owners tried to skirt the strict sales receipts requirements.

With Italy's new rigorous Prime Minister Mario Monti vowing to crack down on tax evaders, La Stampa has looked into both the oldest and newest tricks that Italian merchants play with the books…and cash register.

Piccolo compromise

There is a shared wink between customer and sales clerk, who can punch in a lower amount than the real selling price. This method is usually used with friends, and allows both parties to feel like they are "almost" doing the legal thing.

No, no, no, Yes, no, no…

One of the most common methods used by Italian merchants is to simply ring up one receipt out of every five or ten, usually reserving the proper behavior for new faces entering the store (strangers might be the tax authorities or others who could report you). To aid in the charade, clerks often punch in all the numbers on the cash register except the last ‘Sale" button that brings out the receipt.

Counterfeit slips

A more sophisticated method involves the production of a piece of paper that is virtually identical to an official receipt except that the Finance Ministry considers it just a piece of paper. You may be able to spot these fraudulent receipts by looking at the bottom, it should say "not valid for tax purposes."

Evading electronic controls

Have you ever wondered why some Italian stores and restaurants still don't let you pay with credit cards and ATM cards? They always say the reason is the fees that card companies charge. That's not it. The problem is that when you accept electronic money you can no longer hide anything (or almost anything…see below) from the Treasury.

And yet, there is always a way to stay one step ahead. For those intent on evasion, they can count on a ten-minute lag between the time of the electronic payment and the issuing of the receipt. During this gap, they can type one fewer zeros, and hope the finance inspectors don't check too carefully that the timetables of the receipts coincide with all the credit and debit card records.

Dasterdly digital innovation

Dodging taxes means staying up with technological advances. There are even programs that you can download for free from the Internet that produce fake receipts. The most widely used is "Custom receipt maker," perfect for those who carry out activities such as home deliveries or sell their products online. The product is such a success that there is now even an iPhone application: It's called "Magic Receipt."

The price of it all

To get an sense of ​​the scale of tax evasion in Italy, look at these numbers:

In 2010, Italians failed to declare nearly 50 billion euros of income tax, 46% more than in 2009. The illegal turnover in the field of tourism, where receipt fraud is highest, was 36 billion euros.

And yet in the final year of Silvio Berlusconi's rule, the Italian association for the equity of tax law says that inspections to verify the correct issuing of receipts fell seven-fold in 2010 compared to 2009 and twenty-fold compared to 2007, which was the year of greater effort in fiscal checking. That year the finance inspectors made 84,091 inspections. Since then it has started an inexorable decline, culminating with just 4,788 controls in 2010.

Nevertheless, when checks are made, one can see the results. Last October, for example, tax authorities began to patrol the streets of the northern city of Rovigo, and registered revenue of merchants shot up: one hairdresser recorded a gain of more than 6 times the average of the previous week. The same thing happened this summer in the region of Puglia, where one night club's take rose five-fold. In the northern region of Emilia Romagna, finance police focused on a seemingly idyllic sector: uncovering 56 florists actively hiding their earnings.

Read the original article in Italian.

Photo - Randy OHC

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The Problem With Always Blaming Climate Change For Natural Disasters

Climate change is real, but a closer look at the science shows there are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters. It is important to raise awareness about the long-term impact of global warming, but there's a risk in overstating its role in the latest floods or fires.

People on foot, on bikes, motorcycles, scooters and cars navigate through a flooded street during the day time.

Karachi - People wade through flood water after heavy rain in a southern Pakistani city

Xinhua / ZUMA
Axel Bojanowski


BERLIN — In September, thousands of people lost their lives when dams collapsed during flooding in Libya. Engineers had warned that the dams were structurally unsound.

Two years ago, dozens died in floods in western Germany, a region that had experienced a number of similar floods in earlier centuries, where thousands of houses had been built on the natural floodplain.

Last year saw more than 1,000 people lose their lives during monsoon floods in Pakistan. Studies showed that the impact of flooding in the region was exacerbated by the proximity of human settlements, the outdated river management system, high poverty rates and political instability in Pakistan.

There are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters, but one dominates the headlines: climate change. That is because of so-called attribution studies, which are published very quickly after these disasters to highlight how human-caused climate change contributes to extreme weather events. After the flooding in Libya, German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described climate change as a “serial offender," while the Tageszeitung wrote that “the climate crisis has exacerbated the extreme rainfall."

The World Weather Attribution initiative (WWA) has once again achieved its aim of using “real-time analysis” to draw attention to the issue: on its website, the institute says its goal is to “analyse and communicate the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events." Frederike Otto, who works on attribution studies for the WWA, says these reports help to underscore the urgent need for climate action. They transform climate change from an “abstract threat into a concrete one."

In the immediate aftermath of a weather-related disaster, teams of researchers rush to put together attribution studies – “so that they are ready within the same news cycle," as the New York Times reported. However, these attribution studies do not meet normal scientific standards, as they are published without going through the peer-review process that would be undertaken before publication in a specialist scientific journal. And that creates problems.

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