December 18, 2014 | Rome, Italy | Partly Cloudy 7°C


What are Italian property taxes like?


Q.

What are property taxes like for Italian homeowners?


A.

For decades, Italy's first home property taxes were well below the European norm and laughably low compared to rates in big American cities. Under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, first home property taxes were briefly abolished. That changed dramatically with the 2008 financial crisis. Both state and local taxes soared.

Now, annual first home taxes in cities such as Rome and Milan varies between 0.4 and 0.7 percent of the assessed value, depending on size, location, age, and type (apartment, villa, historic venue, etc.) and socio-economic bracket (working class and "refined" are among the categories). Local service fees (including garbage collection) are factored in.

What that means in practice is that a family of four in a 150 square meter owned apartment located in a non-prized area of Rome will usually pay between €200 and €600 annually (there's June and December installment). Upscale first homes can bump up against the €800-1,000 mark. Rental prices will reflect these costs.

Woe to those who own several urban properties, however. That's where real estate taxes can bite hard. The owner of prized second home in Rome's or Milan's city center may pay as much as €5,000 a year. Though these costs still fall far short of rates in cities such as Paris, New York or London, they're in constant flux, meaning that all potential buyers need to check with accountants regarding their ongoing tax bills.


Can I ignore the bus warnings and get away with it?


Q.

Can you help me with the warnings on Italian buses about tickets and fines.


A.

First, some advice. See the Atac website (click on the British flag). It has some useful — albeit creatively phrased — explanations. As for the warnings, it’s pretty simple. Once upon a time (until around 1980), urban buses and trams had ticket-sellers on board. When that ended, the country went to system of pre-purchasing. You buy, put it through he machine on the bus, and show it to an inspector if he/she boards (which is more frequent these days). The problem is where to get the tickets. The answer: Local tobacco shops (big “T”) and some, not all, newspaper kiosks. If you’re staying in a city for a week, best to buy 20 or fork out the money for a monthly pass (tessera). If the machine doesn’t work, Ok. Don’t fret. Hold the ticket and show the inspector. They know the drill with malfunctioning machines. They also know you can’t stamp the ticket if the bus is packed. Obviously, if someone wants to hassle you, they will, but that’s a personal choice and not a reflection of some big bad system. Again, bottom line, buy a bunch of tickets (usually at €1 each) the first chance you get, so you dodge the issue. Fines run between €100 and €500.


How much should I tip at restaurants?


Q.

How much should I tip at restaurants?


A.

People will tell you (accurately) that most Italian restaurants include a service charge (15 percent) and a coperte (or place-setting) charge, usually €2-€4. That said, the service charge is often never seen by the waiter. Good owners divvy up the spoils, frugal ones don’t. That’s why you can’t add your tip to a credit card bill — no one knows where those funds really ends up.

Since there’s so much going on between the lines it’s a good idea to look at it in North American terms, which is to say 15 to 20 percent on top of the bill. Italians will think you’re crazy, but generally they’re cheap (some leave one percent or less, or nothing). If you’ve been treated well, give back.

No one’s going to grouse at you if you don’t — not to your face, at least — and if you’re on a tight budget you can choose to leave little. But do leave something. And don’t sit around with pen and calculator trying to figure it out. Not kosher.

Please send your questions to maginfo@theamericanmag.com.

How much should I pay my private tour guide?


Can I refill my meds in Rome?


What does mannaggia mean?


I've heard nightmare stories about buying gas. Are they true?


3K, 4.5K or 6KW of electrical power in my apartment?


Do I need an International Drivers License?


Should we “not drink the water”?


Child-friendly places in Rome? Ideas?


Is it worth it to work in Italy illegally?


Can I get hair-care appliances to work in Italy?


More Tourist Q&A

Everything you need to know about visiting or moving to Tuscany, Italy.