Ferrari sales drop [in Italy] as coppers track tax evaders


Italy in the winter of tracking tax evaders

Police fanned out across Milan in late January halting more than 350 vehicles, mostly luxury SUVs and Porsches.

At checkpoints, including one adjacent to the fashionable Corso Como, the police got the driver’s license and registration, which they passed on to the national tax agency. The tax authorities will use the data to check if the cars’ owners had declared enough income — and of course paid the right amount of income taxes — to justify their lifestyles.

It was at least the fifth raid targeting wealthy Italians since a Dec. 30 sweep at the posh Cortina d’Ampezzo ski resort, where 251 high-end cars were stopped, including Ferrari and Lamborghini supercars… Rome, Portofino on the Italian Riviera and Florence have also been targeted…

Italian authorities are applying to luxury-car owners the same logic they displayed more than a year ago, when tax agents started tracking down the owners of yachts berthed in Italy’s harbors to see if they were current on their tax payments.

In the raid in Cortina D’Ampezzo, tax agents found that 42 luxury car owners had declared income of less than 30,000 euros for 2010 and 2009. Another 19 luxury cars were owned by businesses which posted a loss in the previous year. The sweep in Florence discovered a builder with no tax record who was driving a Mercedes with his wife who was receiving social assistance. Tax officials also found a German owner of a BMW X5 SUV with no declared income, according to the website of the tax agency’s Florence office.

This is serious stuff for the government, which estimates that tax evasion costs the country about 120 billion euros a year in lost revenue…

The collection effort is part of Prime Minister Mario Monti’s plan to curb record borrowing costs on Italy’s 1.9 trillion-euro debt and avoid following Greece, Portugal and Ireland which all had to seek bailouts.

Demand for vehicles from the likes of Ferrari and Maserati brands and Lamborghini slumped 53 percent in January, with just 66 supercars sold, according to Anfia, the association of Italian carmakers. The new taxes and high-profile dragnets have also sent exotic-car prices down 20 percent, according to dealer association Federauto…

Still, for Ferrari, which earns higher profit margins than any other Fiat unit, it’s not the end of the world. There’s plenty of demand outside Italy for the company’s sports cars.

“Italy isn’t a concern for Ferrari as it sells its cars abroad,” Marchionne said last month in Detroit.

I wonder what people like John Boehner and Harry Reid intend to drive when they retire from Congress – and they no longer have to lie quite as much as they do now about what they really care about.

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