Economy

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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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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