International Tax Disclosure and Compliance

Italian international tax law rules provide that Italian tax residents with foreign financial accounts capable of generating foreign source income taxable in Italy, are under the obligation to disclose the information relating to those accounts to the Italian tax authorities. Disclosure is accomplished by filling out a proper section of the Italian personal income tax return, usually referred to as Section RW (“RW”). Form RW is the Italian equivalent of U.S. forms 8938 and FIN Cen 114, which are filed by U.S. citizens and resident taxpayers to report their foreign financial accounts to the U.S. tax administration (except that, generally, the scope of Italian reporting is more extensive and detailed than the reporting required in the United States).

Compliance with Italian international tax reporting rules is backed up by automatic exchange of financial and tax information between Italy and the United States which have entered into a bilateral agreement pursuant to FATCA, currently fully enforceable and running at full speed.

Nowadays, automatic exchange of information between Italian and U.S. fiscal authorities is a reality and its practical consequences cannot be overstated. In this setting, it does not go unnoticed that the more the time goes by, the more the RW reporting becomes a sensitive topic. It is for this reason that individual taxpayers who are resident in Italy, according to Italian internal law, and own or control foreign financial assets capable of generating taxable income in Italy, represent the category of taxable persons that should be extremely cautious in this regard to prevent undesirable consequences.

Failure to comply with RW reporting may lead to heavy penalties. Previous posts illustrate in more detail the scope, requirements and penalties for non-compliance. A confirmation of the current tax climate regarding RW reporting is the Italian Revenue Agency’s order n. 299737-2017, by which the Italian tax administration, relying on information available through the automatic exchange system, has sent several thousands of notices to taxpayers who appear to possess foreign financial accounts that may not have been properly reflected on their last filed Italian income tax return (relating to tax year 2016).

The notices alert taxpayers about potential issues concerning their tax compliance and ask for information before a potential audit of their personal income tax returns. Thus, in light of an increase of monitoring activities in relation to the automatic exchange of information, natural persons with foreign financial assets capable of generating taxable income, should make sure that they file an accurate and complete RW form within the prescribed deadline.

Following receipt of the notices, taxpayers who have reason to believe they may have failed to properly report their foreign financial accounts, should be aware of the opportunity to remedy potential issues, by filing an amended return within the extended deadline of one year following the deadline for the filing of the original return.

Voluntary compliance by amended return filing can help fix possible issues with reduced penalties, avoiding higher penalties potentially applicable in case of a full audit.

Taxpayers who have received such a notice should consider carefully the kind of initial response they want to send, and plan in advance any further steps to take, in order to properly handle their situation and prevent or better manage a possible deeper investigation of their tax position.