"Che giornata lunga e schifosa..." Welcome to another motivational self-help issue of "Only In Italy!"
I love this newsletter and it never fails to make me laugh. I am Italian/American and know some Italian. However, some of the Italian words/slang that you use, I can't translate. Would it be possible to have a list of the words that you use in each newsletter and the translation? For instance, I think I remember from my childhood what "vaffanculo" means (blush, blush:-)) but it would help if I could really know what the words mean...and then use them correctly!
Mille grazie for the fabulous writing that you do. It really makes my day. Vickie
Thanks for the letter, Vickie! We're happy it makes your day. It's our so-called company mission.
We'll think about your request for a translation of the curse words/slang used in the newsletter just as soon as our news staff can come to an agreement on whether we want to grow in the direction of a respectable Italian news column...or the 3rd grade.
Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!
Rome - October 28, 2008 - The figure for 2007 was a record. Inspectors recovered a total of 6.3 billion euros in a single year from tax evaders, up 50% on 2006. There was another record in the first four months of 2008 as the tax agency clawed back 800 million euros, an increase of 24% over the previous year. It sounds like a lot but in fact it is very little, considering that according to official figures from the ministry of the economy, total annual tax evasion in Italy amounts to a staggering 100 billion euros.
Naturally, the figures underestimate the reality. According to the ISTAT statistics institute, the black economy accounts for at least 20% of the countryís gross domestic product, or 280 billion euros. Other sources put the figure even higher. Whatever the truth, tax evasion in Italy is three times the level of those countries in Europe that combat the informal economy most effectively, and twice the European average. If Italy managed to make everyone pay taxes, or even to collect only half of the 100 billion euros evaded, it would be a very different country.
For example, Italy could double the amount spent on research, which is lowest of all the industrialized countries, or increase every single pension by 45%. Sadly, it is likely that all this will remain a pipe dream. The scale of the phenomenon, and the incredible ingenuity expended by Italians on dodging the taxman, do not leave much room for hope. Cunning and chutzpah are the main weapons used in the battle with the taxman and over the years, Italians have applied their proverbial imagination to a range of scams, swindles and expedients that is unrivalled anywhere else.
What can you say about the free mattresses given away with a magazine at a cover price of 2,000 euros, to exploit the special tax regime enjoyed by publishing and pay VAT at 4% instead of 20%? Or the social clubs that leverage their privileged tax status to act as fronts for business enterprises with an annual turnover of 800,000 euros, like the Oristano customs police social club? Italian creativity knows no bounds. When a business needs customers, it simply makes them up. At Giulianova, a mobile phone company managed to evade 26 million euros thanks to false invoices. And to look credible in the taxmanís eyes the business claimed a tax rebate for a cool five million euros. This sort of brass-necked cheek is far from unusual. It goes on even in the best families.
A couple in San Donŗ di Piave faked a gift to their daughter of two plots of land. The value was the same as the taxable capital gain, 250,000 euros. It was a shame that only a few days later, the astute young woman sold the land on for the same amount without generating any capital gain or tax liability. The homemade scam was uncovered, but only because the trio deposited the checks from the final purchasers straight into mom and dad's bank account.
In Italy, itís not hard to find casual workers who drive Porsches, or a 75-year-old pensioner with a declared income of 1,000 euros a month who has just ordered a 30,000-euro swimming pool, or a plumber declaring 3,000 euros a year who turns out to be pocketing 350,000. Perhaps these are isolated cases. Nevertheless, the sector studies used to make the self-employed pay taxes on the basis of presumed income tell a different story.
They report, for example, 100,000 taxpayers who claim for the purchase of capital goods but apparently do not own them. Among them are 3,329 restaurants with no kitchen or tables, 480 pharmacies without shelves, 555 laundries with no washing machines, more than 5,000 installation engineers with no pliers or screwdrivers and 360 analysis laboratories with no equipment. There are even 137 taxi drivers with no taxi. Tax inspectors are also honing their wits to staunch Italyís hemorrhaging tax revenue. In Liguria, almost 10,000 taxpayers ended up in the cross-hairs of the tax authorities, which are completing checks at the moment. How were the "suspects" identified? Income tax returns were cross-checked against customer databases gleaned from 33 travel agencies and the regionís auction houses, flying clubs and beauty centers.
The not-so-indigent poor can be unmasked by blanket checks, like the one carried out by the Liguria tax agency, but targeted investigations offer another option. A check of 250 doctors in Sicily revealed that 100 were guilty of tax irregularities. The customs police also regularly makes similar checks on receipts issued by shops but there was little to be done in the case of the Sardinian pastry shop owner who always gave his customers a receipt. He couldn't be faulted except for one tiny detail: he had omitted to present a tax return for fully seven years, evading half a million euros in the process. It has to be said that the likelihood of a visit from the taxman is small. Some studies say that tax evaders run a serious risk of inspection once every sixteen years. Nor is there any social stigma attached to tax evasion. This was shown again last spring, when the authorities published details of every Italianís tax returns on the web. The information was immediately blacked out to protect confidentiality.
In other words, there is no civic conscience to aid the taxman. The inspection machinery is making enormous progress but it still can't keep up with evasion. We only have to look at the legal backlog. Even when the taxman wins in court, it takes an inordinate amount of time to get the money. A final verdict in tax-related cases emerges after an average of four years and when the figures are totted up, they are pitiful. Out of 44 billion euros of evaded taxes, the authorities actually managed to recover only 7.3%. Or to put it another way, 92.7% of evaders who are caught still get away with it.
Politicians: "Cazzo, Italians evade 46% of income tax!"
Italy's Stupendous Tax-Evading Facts:
The Italian government, politicians, and even the Church are advocating that Italians meet their civil responsibilities by paying their taxes. Isn't it sweet and warm how they worry about the Italian people and how they should conduct themselves? It brings a tear to the eye. And most of them have the nerve to denounce this with a straight face in public while keeping still and not picking fleas off themselves.
Italians are vigorously more cynical and skeptical about politician's motives than Americans and fellow Europeans are. Our rat-bastard conniving politicians tend to act with a air of authority even though they have no clue whether or not it is the case.
You see, they're like the lines in a parking lot. They're constantly there but they don't affect how one parks a car. They have some kind of function but nobody knows what it is nor do we care.
But when they do begin to affect your parking (ex. a global financial crisis that brings a call for needed cash for government spending), then life has changed. You either park out in the street or leave the car in the garage and take out the 'Vespa'!
Rome - October 31, 2008 - Five fines totaling 1.16 million Euros have been imposed by the antitrust authority on Telecom, Vodafone, Wind, H3g and Neomobile for unethical commercial practices over weekly subscriptions for multimedia services, including ringtones for mobile phones.
According to the antitrust authority, there was a lack of clarity over costs and conditions of use, including unsubscribing. Specifically, emphasis was placed on the cost-free nature of text messages and the option to receive a free ringtone, without mentioning that it was a subscription to receive multimedia content, which was relegated to a note in disproportionately small characters and graphics with respect to the advertising message.
Complaints had arrived from various consumer associations, which objected that the advertising on the web site was difficult to read. In effect, the conditions and costs of the service, roughly four or five euros a week, were written in much smaller letters and hidden in the link. In other words, they were not immediately apparent to the user. There were also reports of difficulties in unsubscribing from the service because of the procedure employed and the need to text a complicated phrase specific to each service provider. The advertisement also appeared in magazines, in particular in one publication aimed at young people.
"In Italy, ringtones generate turnover of about 800 million euros", explains Carlo Rienzi, president of the CODACONS consumer association.
"But there are too many scams and unethical practices in this sector. Eight out of ten web sites specializing in the sale of ringtones and the like do not comply with European regulations".
"Cacchio", you can never have enough ringing in your head.
Most people like you and I are too stupid to understand the incredible social importance of ringtones. One does not buy a ringtone to enjoy Christina Aguilera. One buys it to tell everyone else who you are.
"In Italy, ringtones generate turnover of about 800 million euros." Sta' pippa, they deserved to get fleeced! Whatever happened to a simple beep-beep, a gentle chime, or rolling a barrel ring down a hill with a stick when you were a child?
FACT: A survey of Italian children aged between 9 and 10 found a staggering 56% owned mobile phones. Of the snot-nosed children interviewed 68% never switched the phones off, 80% kept them on in church and even 86% kept them on during school lessons. What could possibly be so urgent during Sunday Mass or a school lesson that the little jackass needs to take a call?
In four out of every 10 cases, the mobile phone had been given to the Italian child by his or her parents. When you read such a statistic you begin to ask yourself, what are the other six 9-10 year-olds doing to get the cash for 100-250 Euro mobile phones...plus ringtones!
Rome - October 30, 2008 - Italy warned Libya about the United States' plan to bomb Tripoli a day before the attack in 1986, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel-Rahman Shalgam said at a Rome press conference Thursday.
The warning by then Italian premier Bettino Craxi may have helped save the life of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and most of his family, whose house in Tripoli was hit during the bombings, Shalgam added.
"Premier Craxi sent an Italian friend we had in common to tell me, watch out, on April 14 or 15 there will be an American raid against Libya," said the minister, who at the time was the Libyan ambassador in Rome. The then Italian foreign minister, Giulio Andreotti, confirmed Shalgam's story, adding that the U.S. bombing of Tripoli and Bengasi on April 14 had been "a totally improper initiative, an international error".
U.S. president Ronald Reagan ordered the bombing in retaliation for a terrorist attack attributed to Libyan agents on a Berlin disco, La Belle, which was full of U.S. soldiers. Three people died and over 200 were injured when a bomb hidden under a table exploded on April 5.
British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was the only European premier who gave permission for U.S. forces to use airbases for the retaliatory attack, which lasted 12 minutes and hit military bases and barracks in the two cities as well as Gaddafi's residence and some civilian buildings.
Over 20 people were killed in the bombings, including Gaddafi's 15-month-old adopted daughter, although the rest of the Libyan leader's family was able to flee moments before.
"It was difficult to know the exact time and place of the attack," Shalgam explained.
The Maltese press has claimed in the past that then premier Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici called to warn Gaddafi when U.S. planes were spotted in Maltese airspace. Libya reacted to the bombings by launching missiles against U.S. coastguard stations on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa "and certainly not against Italy", Shalgam said.
The U.S. bombing was one of a series of events that led up to the 1988 hijacking and bombing of a Pan Am passenger plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 270 people died. Libya assumed responsibility for the Lockerbie incident in 2003.
Shalgam was in Rome for a press conference on a friendship and cooperation accord which aims to resolve issues related to Italy's colonial occupation of Libya. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini repeated an invitation for Gaddafi to visit Italy, where he said he would be welcomed "as a friend".
History 101 alla Italiana:
- U.S. plans to retaliate and asks for help from a NATO ally. ("Huh? Che cosa? Si si, okay.")
- NATO ally spies on the U.S. and informs Libya to save its dictator's skin. ("Pronto, Gaddafi? Buon Giorno! How are you? Listen carefully...")
- U.S. launches the aerial bombing attack the same, but the dictator survives. ("Oh, porca miseria! Just missed.")
- Libya thanks the two-faced NATO ally by firing a couple of missiles at the Italian island of Lampedusa. ("Ahh! Che minchia fate?!")
- Double-dealing NATO ally gets upset for having been stabbed in the back by dictator whose record is not exactly the most reliable. ("Tu grandissimo figlio di una mignotta!")
- Double-crossing NATO ally Prime minister has a wild fantasy of landing on the shores of Benghazi, Libya. ("Vaffanculo! I'll show you!")
- President convinces greasy Prime minister to be consistent with the previous cowardly decision and do nothing. ("Ma, che cazzo vuoi fare? Shut-up and stay still, cornuto!")
- Libyans' act of aggression is sold to historians as a thank you note and a sign that all is well in bilateral relations. ("Huh? Che cazzate! Si si, you're welcome!")
Ex Prime minister dies in 2000, at the age of 65, from complications of diabetes. ("Ciao!")