Modern banking traces its origins to the Renaissance in Italy. In fact, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the third largest bank in Italy, is the oldest surviving bank in the world and has been open since 1472.
The Italian banking sector is modern and efficient. With a bit of research, patience and perhaps translation, expats should have no problem navigating the systems of banking and taxation in Italy.
Money in Italy
The official currency of Italy is the Euro (EUR) as in other member states of the European Union. One euro is divided into 100 cents, which are also known as centesimi.
• Notes: EUR 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500
• Coins: EUR 1 and EUR 2. 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents
In Italy, large figures are separated into thousands with a full stop rather than a comma.
Banking in Italy
The major banks are in and around big cities, with local branches dispersed throughout the country. The better-known banks in Italy are the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, Intesa Sanpaolo, Unicredit and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena. International banks such as Deutsche Bank and Citibank also operate in the country.
Banking hours are generally between 8am and 1.30pm from Monday to Friday, depending on the bank. Some banks are open for another hour in the afternoon. When possible, expats are advised to do banking business on weekday mornings.
Italian banks are notorious for having high interest-rate charges, so expats are advised to shop around before signing any contracts or taking out any loans.
Opening a bank account
Expats can open a bank account in Italy regardless of their citizenship or residence status. Non-resident accounts (conto corrente non residenti) are popular with expats since they usually pay interest and are not subject to local interest taxes. Often, this type of account allows for use in both Euros and foreign currency.
If expats plan to live in Italy for a long period, they may prefer to use a resident account. There are several types of resident bank accounts, including current, joint, savings and deposit accounts.
Choosing which bank can depend on its usability, if it provides services in one’s home language and its fees.
The best way for expats to open a bank account is to go to a bank in person, although the non-resident account may be done by mail. It is not often that banks allow individuals to open accounts online. Rather, they must physically go to the branch with their passport and codice fiscale (tax code). Proof of an Italian address may also be required. Applicants will have to provide personal information and fill out application forms. These are normally in Italian, so it may be a good idea to bring a fluent friend along.
Different banks will have different procedures, and some will be more familiar with working with foreign clientele than others. As a result, expats are advised to compare the packages and requirements on offer at different banks.
ATMs and credit cards
ATMs in Italy are known to locals as bancomat. They are widely available in cities and towns. They are user-friendly as expats will be able to choose their preferred language at the beginning of the transaction. ATMs often have a daily withdrawal limit and expats can check this with their bank.
As is the case in many other countries, larger stores usually accept debit and credit cards in Italy. This can often be confirmed by credit card logos displayed on windows and at till points. The most common card companies in Italy are CartaSi, Visa and MasterCard. Diners Club and American Express are also available in certain areas.
Expats should be aware that international accounts often have hefty transaction fees, especially when it comes to drawing money from a credit card. They can check these international charges with their bank before leaving.
Card cloning does occasionally occur in Italy, so expats should be vigilant when paying with credit cards or drawing money from an ATM.
Taxes in Italy
Taxes in Italy are collected by the Italian Agency of Revenue (Agenzia delle Entrate) which has offices at national, regional and provincial levels.
Expats working in Italy will require a tax number. This is needed for most paperwork, such as opening a bank account, signing official contracts and starting a new job. To get one, an expat would need to take their passport or ID document to a provincial tax office (ufficio imposte) and fill out an official form to apply for one.
It is possible to apply for the tax number in one’s country of origin through the Italian embassy.
Income tax in Italy is progressive, which means that the more an expat earns, the more tax they may be subject to. Expats who are subject to taxation in Italy will have to pay direct tax to the central agency of revenue as well as regional and local taxes.
Foreign residents who live in Italy for more than 183 days a year are only required to pay tax on income they earn in the country. Permanent residents are expected to pay tax on income derived locally as well as internationally. Italy has, however, entered into double-taxation avoidance agreements with several countries to ensure that foreign citizens are not taxed on their income twice.
Given the complexity of dealing with tax, especially in a different language, expats should consider seeking professional advice to navigate the system of taxation in Italy.