Legal Advice for Buying Italian Property
Once you have found the property you like, the buying proposal, a document prepared in Italian and English, will take it off the market for two to four weeks. You normally pay a five per cent deposit at this time, preferably into an escrow account, while a few checks are made on the property. At this stage you can normally withdraw without losing your deposit if there are any legal issuess.
Next, you move on to the preliminary contract. Note that since 2014, antimoney laundering measures mean that buyers will be asked to produce certain information to prove you are not involved with this: ask your lawyer about this.
This is a legally binding contract prepared in both Italian and English, which includes a description of the property and sets out conditions such as rights of way, payments and timing of the buying process. On signing it, the buyer pays a further deposit of 20 per cent, either to the vendor or an Escrow account, as well as the agency fees. The preliminary contract virtually guarantees the purchase will proceed, as the buyer will lose their deposit if they pull out but the seller will have to pay double the deposit if they pull out.
When a rural property is sold, however, neighbouring farmers have the right of first refusal. Under such circumstances it is necessary to notify the preliminary contract to neighbouring farmers who have one month to exercise their right. From preliminary to final contracts takes one and three months, during which time a Notary is appointed. Notaries are members of an independent legal body who work for both the buyer and seller, conducting searches and preparing deeds.
The Final Contract (Atto or Rogito)
This is signed at the Notary’s office, either in person or by giving someone power of attorney on your behalf. The contract will be read out, so non-Italian speakers will need a qualified translator. Purchase taxes and the notary fee are to be paid at this time, by the buyer, along with the balance of the purchase price. You will then be given the keys to your Italian property. The Notary will send the purchase deed to the land registry and the buyer receives it approximately two months later.
Home Ownership in Italy
This is an important decision that you can make. Getting this right can save you thousands in costs and taxes. Getting it wrong can be an expensive mistake.
The way that you would buy a property in your home country is not necessarily the best way to buy in Italy so don’t assume that you can adopt what you have done here to your purchase in Italy.
There are many options – ranging from personal ownership to company ownership but there is no “one size fits all” solution that works for everybody.
Your circumstances and priorities are different from the next person. We are able to look at your circumstances and your priorities and advise you who should own the property based on that information. The solution may not necessarily be immediately obvious.
When deciding on the best form of ownership we would need to take into consideration both Italian and UK tax and also a range of other circumstances such as your plans for the property in the future.
Fractional Ownership is not a new concept and has been around for many years – although back then wecalled it Co-ownership.
Put simply, Fractional Ownership is where several people buy a property together. This can be members of a family, friends, work colleagues or even complete strangers. You buy a share in the property and also share the running costs.
The best Fractional Ownership schemes are those where the cost of buying is closest to the value of the actual share in the property – i.e. the ones where there are not huge margins built into the sale. Timeshare is a type of Fractional Ownership but Fractional Ownership is not necessarily Timeshare as there are strict definitions as to what Timeshare is.
Taxes and Fees
The Italian Tax Code (in Italian, codice fiscale) is your Tax Identity Number in Italy. There are several times when you are likely to be required to produce your Italian Tax Code:
- When you buy a property
- Opening a bank account
- Dealing with the utility companies
- Taking out insurance
- Dealing with the tax authorities
- Buying or selling shares, bonds and stocks
- Buying a car
The calculation of Taxes in Italy is quite complicated and we do not have the space here to provide a detailed explanation.
However, in general, the transfer taxes when you buy a residential property are as follows, calculated on the cadastral value of the property which is, in general, much lower than the transfer price:
- When you buy from a developer you must pay 10% VAT (22% if the property is registered as luxury). If you take up residency within 18 months from the purchase and it is your “first home” (prima casa) in Italy, VAT is 4% and a fixed rate of euro 504 for the other taxes
- When you buy from private or a company not considered developer, you must pay 10% transfer taxes (7% imposta di registro, 3% imposta ipotecaria, 1% imposta catastale). If you buy a “first home” you have to pay 3% imposta registro and a fixed rate of euro 336 for the ipotecaria and catastale taxes Transfer taxes are normally paid to the Notary who calculates the amount and transfers the payment to the Tax Office.
Capital gains (Plusvalenza), a tax based on the increase in the value of the property since the last transfer, is applicable only if the property is re-transferred within 5 years from its purchase. The rate is 20% on the capital gain to be calculated by the Notary and checked by your lawyer.
If you are non-resident you must declare any income you have earned in Italy.
This applies even if you receive this income by renting out to people from your home country and the money never touches Italy.
If you do not receive any rent from the property you do not have to pay any income tax. However, it may be necessary to submit the relevant Tax Declaration.
You will also normally have to declare any income in the country where you are tax resident but can normally offset the tax paid in Italy through Double Taxation Treaties.
Tax Residency Status in Italy
The taxes that you pay when you buy a property in Italy will normally depend on whether you are resident there or not.
Tax residence is a determined by a number of factors:
- How long you spend in that country? Is it 183 days or more a year (not necessarily continuously). If so you are likely to be tax resident there.
- Is your main home there? If it is then you are likely to be tax resident there.
- Is your main economic interest there? If so you are likely to be tax resident there.
- If you do become tax resident in a country then you will normally stop paying taxes in your home country and start to pay taxes in the new country.
- Do not be tempted to have selective amnesia when it comes to declaring taxes. The authorities in both Italy and the UK are clamping down on people who do not do things properly.
- Sometimes you should declare something for tax purposes in one country and also in another. Italy and the UK have a Double Taxation Treaty which means that you don’t normally pay tax twice and can offset the tax paid in the other country against the tax that you would otherwise pay in your home country.