- An ongoing fiscal crackdown is prompting Italians to shy away from buying sporty and luxury cars for fear of attracting too much attention and being investigated by the taxman.
- Ferrari, Maserati and Porsche sales have stalled in Italy as buyers fear being stopped by the police and questioned over their tax status.
- In what sounds a sinister move, authorities in Italy can now check your spending pattern and compare it with what you say you earn and your tax filing.
ROME — Call it a far cry from La Dolce Vita. An ongoing fiscal crackdown is prompting Italians to shy away from buying sporty and luxury cars for fear of attracting too much attention and being investigated by the taxman.
In Italy, celebrated home of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati, luxury car sales are in a tailspin as rich Italians shy away from being seen out in fast, flashy cars.
With Italy's economy under pressure and unemployment rising, on one level, it's maybe understandable why some exotic car drivers might not want to have too high a profile in these tough times.
But there's more to it than that. To try to get its finances back on track, Italy has introduced a batch of new taxes that have hit the supercar market hard.
One such is a supplementary tax for any cars over 250 horsepower that has crashed both the new and secondhand market.
Ferrari sales here, for instance, were down 57 percent in 2012. Maserati slumped 72 percent, while Lamborghini was also down 17 percent. Porsche was down 22 percent.
Tax evasion has long been seen as a national pastime in Italy but now the authorities are coming down hard on affluent Italians, mounting raids in high-fashion resorts like Cortina. There have been numerous reports of drivers of Ferraris and other supercars being stopped by the police to verify they have paid enough tax.
Not that being stopped in an expensive car in Italy is anything particularly new. But increasingly now, the worry is that others might think of you as an "evasore" (tax dodger).
With the system now in Italy, a customs/revenue officer can send a report to the tax office even if you are not the car's owner under what's termed the "availability of luxury goods."
Perhaps even more worrying, the authorities have instituted a procedure in which it's possible to investigate a family's spending pattern and compare it with its declared income.
A source, however, says it's not necessarily as specific as that. The spending pattern isn't checked or calculated, as such, but just statistically supposed and the burden of proof is your own problem.
Under this new get-tough regime, some luxury/sports car owners in Italy have given up and sold their cars, while others "sell" the cars to their friends and let them take the financial and day-to-day hit. The more affected cars, one observer told Edmunds, are the Porsche Carrera and Cayenne.
Last but not least, Italy isn't the only country that's targeted the well off. In South Korea, for years it was said the quickest way to get a tax audit was to buy a foreign car.
Edmunds says: America may now be the best place to drive your Ferrari 458 Italia or Maserati Quattroporte, not La Bella Italia.