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Berlusconi Shocks Italy, Mildly

Now, Silvio Berlusconi is quite well known for shocking Italy, and, it has to be said, the rest of the world too. Well, this time round you may be pleased to hear that the Berlusconi-induced shock is very mild and nothing new either.

After attempting to generate media interest by telling Italians he was about to shock the Boot, Berlusconi went ahead last Sunday and promised that if elected, if would not only eliminate a much hated property tax known as the IMU on the principle residences of Italians, but he would also pay back – in cash, if desired – and within a month – the amounts Italians were required to shell out after technocrat prime minister Mario Monti reintroduced the property tax.

It was Silvio Berlusconi who ended the IMU, or ICI as it was then known, on Italians main places of residence during his previous reign, and now, he wants to do the same once more. With Italy’s huge level of public debt, cutting this tax does not sound too clever. However, Berlusconi has come up with a couple of ways of funding his promises, or should that be gamble?

1. Gambling and Smoking Italy Out of Recession

Firstly, to end the first house IMU property tax, Berlusconi intends to increase taxes on smoking and gambling. One suspects Berlusconi, if elected, would then encourage Italians to, cough, cough, smoke and gamble Italy out of recession.

Ads on Italian television are certainly doing their best to convince Italians gambling, on and offline, is good for them.

A novel solution, if nothing else and it will certainly attract the mafia vote. The mafia loves gambling as it makes laundering ill gotten gains much easier. Well, it has always been suspected Berlusconi is mafia-friendly.

2. Tax Italians Swiss Bank Accounts

But how can Italy afford to pay back the huge sum of money they have handed over to settle their IMU tax dues? Easy! After removing the IMU, or at the same time, Berlusconi is going to slap a tax on the cash Italians hold in Swiss bank accounts. This will fund the refunds and, claims Berlusconi, will generate regular income too. What a bright idea, except it isn’t.

What will happen when over taxed Italians transfer their Swiss bank account cash to other offshore havens? The regular income Berlusconi claims will materialize will become no more than a trickle. One would also bet money on the fact that Berlusconi’s Swiss bank accounts have been closed and moved. It is also likely that Italians will have started moving their Swiss cash caches around five minutes after hearing Berlusconi’s shocking tax proposal.

No Wealth Tax, Sort Of

While shocking Italians on a sleepy Sunday, Berlusconi said he would not introduce a wealth tax, even if the proposal to tax Italians with Swiss bank accounts does smack of being a wealth tax anyway. What a crafty chap old Silvio is.

Bye, Bye Irap

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There was more to the shock too. Berlusconi says he’s going to stamp out a business tax – the Irap.

Are You Feeling Shocked?

I suspect you are now, as Italians were, feeling suitably shocked by Berlusconi’s promises which are more or less the same as the promises he has been making for years.

To be fair, Berlusconi did come good on his promise to remove the IMU, or as it was called in those days, the ICI property tax, only Monti decided it had to be reinstated because Italy’s wobbly public finances simply could not afford it.

For as long as Berlusconi has been around – 20 years – he’s been promising to cut Italy’s horrendously high taxes, all that has happened though, is that taxes on Italy have continued to go up. Berlusconi made no mention of stamping out tax evasion which is something which could help reduce taxes in Italy. Cracking down on corruption may also help keep public money from being appropriated. No mention of that from Berlusconi. This was no shock.

Berlusconi’s so-called shocks attracted much derision and sarcasm from Italy’s twitter population who noted that Berlusconi was merely repeating past promises.

The shocks also ended up on news headlines all over Italy. That Italy’s media still bothers listening to Berlusconi is rather shocking in its own right.

Mario Monti accused Berlusconi of attempting to buy votes.

The Next Shock

While presenting his shocking proposals, Berlusconi claimed his PdL party would win the general elections which are due to be held in Italy later this month.

Well, if Italians fall for Berlusconi’s promises once again, that really will be a shock. Italy got nowhere under Berlusconi – let’s hope Italians realize this.


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