WSJ: 40enni italiani spremuti dal fisco – Corriere.it del 25/02/2013
Il quotidiano dedica l’apertura alla «generazione perduta»: pagheranno il 50% in più di tasse rispetto ai nati nel 1950.
Un’intera generazione «spremuta» dal fisco, che rischia di dover fronteggiare l’austerità per il resto della propria vita professionale. È quella dei 40enni italiani, secondo il Wall Street Journal, che all’argomento dedica oggi l’apertura del quotidiano. «Noi siamo la generazione perduta» […]
ROME—Forty-something Italians are facing austerity for the rest of their working lives—just as they have since becoming adults.
“We are the lost generation,” says Andrea Bolla, the 46-year-old chief executive of energy provider Vivigas and the Valdo Prosecco winery near the northern city of Verona. He says he pays more taxes and receives fewer services while navigating more red tape than his father did while running the family businesses.
“He always felt difficulties could be overcome,” says Mr. Bolla, who has three daughters. “Now we’re often just in a survivalist mentality.”
Two days of voting in Italy’s national elections come to a close Monday, paving the way for a likely coalition government that will have to take on the country’s most urgent economic problems. What won’t be high on the agenda is whether to lighten the heavy tax burden that a swath of the Italian population has borne for the past two decades: Enforcing austerity will be the main task of whatever government emerges from the vote.
Since 1992, when Mr. Bolla and his cohort began working, public debt has climbed to 127% of gross domestic product in 2012 from 102% in 1992, despite two decades of tight budgets that crimped investment and led to lower wages and salaries.
Italians born in 1970, who are about 43 now, will pay 50% more in taxes as a percentage of their lifetime income than those born in 1952, according to research from the Bank of Italy and the University of Verona. The research also found they will receive half the pension benefits that Italy’s 60-somethings are getting or are poised to get.
Sandwiched between two critical moments in Italian history, 40-somethings are eating the crusts. Over the past year, Europe’s sovereign-debt storm has forced Rome to introduce emergency measures including an unpopular new property tax, a public-sector wage freeze and raising the retirement age to 68 from 65.
In 1992, when today’s 40-somethings were entering the workforce, a budget and currency crisis, coupled with corruption trials that decimated the postwar political establishment, forced Italy to adopt draconian budget cuts—the bulk to funding for education and infrastructure, and a pension overhaul that shifted the bulk of cuts to those who will retire around 2030.
Today, the marginal income-tax rate on a typical €30,000 ($40,000) annual salary is 38%, up from 25% two decades ago. Retirement checks for those under 50, however, will be based on total contributions to the system, rather than workers’ final salaries.
One result is that Italy’s 40-year-olds have seen a bigger drop in their relative wealth since 1987 than any other group, while those over 50 have seen significant gains, according to the Bank of Italy. Incomes have followed the same trend.
“People in my generation who are living on their own salaries don’t have such a great standard of living,” says Federica Magro, a 44-year-old publisher in Milan.
Italy’s 40-somethings are the main force behind rebel candidate Beppe Grillo, who accuses professional politicians of having failed at their jobs. Polls earlier this month showed 26% of that generation supported the comedian’s Five-Star Movement.
Mainstream parties—responding to more vocal constituencies including young people and retirees—are promising to tackle youth unemployment and soften the impact of the new pension rules.
“The people who should be complaining are not and those who are should not be,” says Emanuele Di Bartolo, a lawyer in the southern town of Crotone. Newly loosened rules on the price of legal advice have hurt his office’s revenue, triggering layoffs, but details on how public spending will be cut remain elusive, he says.
Italy is expected to run a primary budget surplus—meaning the state will take in more in taxes than it gives back as goods and services to residents—of 5% of GDP this year, the European Commission said on Friday, and should keep it at around that level to comply with the euro-zone’s new fiscal compact.
Over the past two decades Italy has run €1.3 trillion in such surpluses, averaging 4% of GDP a year, says Giuseppe Alvaro, an economist in Rome and an expert on Italy’s national accounts. Public debt has nonetheless risen—it is now €2 trillion—and the austerity must continue. Because much of today’s working population has never benefited from excess public spending, “they may feel rather reluctant to give back what they never received,” Mr. Alvaro says.
To be sure, today’s elderly are helping their own younger kin, often with substantial gifts of real estate. That is why, though Italians are only half as likely as Northern Europeans to start families before the age of 35, those that do are four times as likely to own their own home, according to a study by Bocconi University’s Carlo F. Dondena center.
Such parental help inflates the living standards of some, says Ms. Magro, the Milan publisher, who hasn’t received any such gifts. She and her husband both grew up comfortably in single-income households run by people with modest scholarly achievements, she says, but today they both work and have a 30-year mortgage—a rarity a country where six out of seven homes are owned outright. Having moved far from their hometowns near the border with Slovenia to pursue advanced studies and jobs, they do without their parents’ help in caring for their two young daughters.
“It’s actually inevitable that a generation that earned so much doing so little helps the younger people in their family,” Ms. Magro says. “But I don’t see why it’s inevitable that a state should fail to do the same, and more equitably.”
“It’s as if we are running in a hamster wheel,” says Mr. Di Bartolo, who has a 3-year-old daughter. His generation must now save more for their own future. While Italy’s pension system is deemed highly sustainable over the long term, that is because it has pushed benefit cuts forward to those who will retire around 2030.
Per l’IMU qualche artificio contabile è possibile, ma nessuno può restituirci il futuro.