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Italy’s buyout bonanza

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It appears that Italy is for sale.

It appears that Italy is for sale. As property investors flee Britain, and cities like Frankfurt, Dublin and Paris seek to lure Europe's dealmakers, Italy has slashed its corporate tax rate to 15%, while offering tax concessions for everything from inbound property investments to R&D.

Part of recently elected far-right Prime Minister Matteo Salvini's attempts to re-energise one of Europe's hottest M&A markets, it's not hard to see why, when the lethargic economy has seen GDP growth virtually flat line in recent years – a trend, however, that is not un-common among the G8.

Deal value year-on-year may have dropped from €38.2 billion ($4.3 billion) to €32.2 billion in a year, but Italy still remains one of the most desirable inbound investment markets.

A market dripping in luxury products, it is not hard to see why, with Versace's sale to American-held Michael Kors for €2 billion, and the €24 billion tie-up of eye-maker behemoths Essilor-Luxottica in 2018 all featuring at the top of the EU league tables.

South of city centres, property tax breaks are luring wealthy investors away from traditional Spanish and Portuguese summer getaways to glamourous villas along the Amalfi Coast, with Florence seeing a near 30% spike in foreign property purchases.

However, with one of Europe's largest public deficits, Italy's desire to attract investment has not been met with a blind-eye to tax evasion, with the G8 economy racing well ahead of the OECD's effort to implement a unified digital tax.

While some commentators fear it will lead to double taxation, proponents of the digital services tax (DST) – which was passed in December 2018 as part of the 2019 Budget Law – believe it can bring in as much as €600 million a year for Italy.

It's a sum that seems marginal when viewed alongside the €19.2 billion recovered in 2018, according to Italy's tax authority.

Amazon, Facebook and other US technology giants will bear the grunt, because only companies generating global revenues of €750 million or more will be subject to the 3% tax.

Amid all the domestic and international changes, International Tax Review has partnered with some of Italy's leading tax advisors to highlight the key digital and regulatory changes to impact investors in 2019 as part of our inaugural Italy guide.

Dan Barabas

Commercial editor

International Tax Review

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