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Thursday, December 21, 2006

People around the world is used to think that we Italians have a funny way to relate with laws, institutions and life in general. We're often seen as a kind of cheerful and nice brigands, making our way in life through "creative" solutions (and "creative" here is not always thought as having a positive meaning).

I suppose this is utterly true. I think also that I recently discovered the reason why: evolution, adaption and survival. A simple thing like a moving could result in a several thousand dollars worth lawsuit, if you don't outsmart several institutions, all of them trying to outsmart you.

Long story short: I was living in 1998 in Milan metropolitan area; I moved then to another province up to 2004, when I moved back in Milan, but outside the metropolitan area. Having my body in range, Milan's city council threw at me a nice injunction in which I am asked to pay about 2000$ for unpaid urban garbage disposal tax in the years 1998-2001. Notice that the day I moved away from Milan, my location records where properly changed on both sides of the move.

Thinking at a simple mistake in the administrative procedure, I studied the topic by bringing my body (now a mobile target) in at the administrative bureau taking care of urban garbage disposal taxes. After 1 hour wait, I've been told I was clear and there were no record about me; that notification must have been an error, and I was free to go.

Weren't I an Italian, accustomed to distrust public administration ways, I would have gone work on the spot. That would have had dramatic consequences.

Asking around in the other offices, I found out that the terms used by the clerk saying I was clear were a "bit out of protocol", at least. After loading my mind with a set of specific terms, I waited on another queue again (this time, the wait was 3 hours worth), and I reformulated the same question, providing the same documentation, but using more technical bureaucratic language, to another clerk.

The solution soon come out: uniquely in the whole Italian peninsula (at the moment, but you can bet someone will take the example), Milan city taxes administration bureau requires people moving away to separately declare that they moved. The "simple" official changes in the anagraphic records are not enough (actually, they are communicated to the office but deliberately ignored) and taxes office presumes you are still in the town, and still producing garbage, until you bring your physical body in that office signing a module that states you don't live in Milan anymore.

Of course, this is not stated everywhere (i.e. in the taxation modules, or something else you are at least supposed to read). You have to discover it by yourself.

Since this is barely legal (actually, it violates many principles of Italian and European laws, as well as a couple of constitutional articles and several ministerial regulamentations), even a late communication, as i.e. now, will void any claim on the tax administration side. But if I had believed the first clarification ("sorry, just our error, go home"), I would have received soon the visit of a tax officer with the power to take goods from my house; at that point, it would be a bit late to try to produce some proof that I wasn't physically living in Milan in those years. They would have taken the money and there would have been nothing to do about it.

This is the kind of living that makes Italians to be known as "nice criminals" around the world. We're well instructed to be like that since the day we see the light.

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