Tax fears in Italy make a Fiat better than a Ferrari
Out with the Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Maseratis! Italy's crackdown on tax cheats has many well-heeled drivers spurning their hot wheels for more prosaic cars to avoid unwelcome attention.
"Since December about 30 people have come to return their cars as they fear intense tax raids," a luxury car dealer said in Milan.
Domenico Minervini from the financial police in the central Emilia-Romagna region, added: "The tax office has begun to spread fear.
"Many citizens are bringing back their prestigious motors evoking the financial crisis but in reality they are scared and want to hone down their taxpayer profile as their declared revenues have been very low until now."
Heavily-indebted Italy uncovered more than 50 billion euros ($65 billion) in undeclared revenues last year after cracking down on tax cheats, police said late last month.
A rich driver told the Corriere della Sera newspaper: "This week I was arrested twice by the police. However I drive with my tax returns and this way I could prove that I can allow myself a Lamborghini."
Milan's mayor Giuliano Pisapia recently said city officials had finally come up with an antidote to a lingering problem of luxury cars parked on tracks reserved for cyclists.
"We threatened to hand over their numberplate details to the tax office for 'verification'", he said.
There were 110,855 luxury cars registered in Italy last year. After 2,806 tax checks in which the owners' tax declarations were verified, the fiscal authorities were able to recover more than 68 million euros ($90 million), the Panorama weekly said.
The checks have intensified in places like the tony ski resort of Cortina where the owners of nearly 250 luxury cars were visited by tax officials in January.
Prime Minister Mario Monti came to power in November calling for a radical change to defend "honest taxpayers".
"It's unacceptable that workers have to make sacrifices while a major chunk of wealth is not taxed," Monti has said.
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