Italy's ‘Ristori’ decrees: measures to help those in difficulty
In order to curb the increase in infections caused by the second wave of Covid-19 that is affecting the whole of Europe, the Italian government has implemented new health containment measures. At the same time, action has been taken to ensure that timely financial support reaches the sectors worst hit by the most recent restrictions, adopting a wide range of measures amounting to over € 18 billion; this package of measures is designed to be easy to use, involving simple, immediate and, to the extent possible, automatic payments. The main measures implemented by the Italian government through its ‘Ristori’ decrees include non-refundable grants, suspension of tax payments and social security contributions, new weeks of the ‘cassa integrazione’ wage supplement scheme and a two-month extension for ‘Emergency Income’ support.
Please find below the main measures implemented.
A total of more than euro 5.5 billion has been set aside to provide non-refundable grants to the self-employed (who had their own VAT number as at 25 October 2020), in order to support businesses that have been affected by the new restrictive measures introduced to contain the spread of the virus; the foundations have also been laid for further automatic support measures in the future.
The new grants will be issued to companies that have had to close or limit their business, following the same procedure already used by the Italian Revenue Agency for the non-refundable grants provided under the ‘Relaunch Decree’ (which involved payment directly into the bank or post office current account of companies that had suffered at least a 33% drop in turnover as at April 2020 compared with April 2019).
Anyone who has opened a VAT number since 1 January 2019 shall be eligible for the new grant, also without meeting requirements in terms of turnover. In this case, the grant amount is calculated by applying the percentages already indicated, with a minimum amount of € 1,000 for natural persons and € 2,000 for non-natural persons.
Following the Italian Prime Ministerial Decree of 24 October 2020, Italian Decree Law no. 137 of 2020 identified the first group of recipients, including companies with a turnover of over € 5 million (with support equal to 10% of the drop in turnover); well over 300,000 businesses will receive the grant, each receiving between 100% and 400% of the non-refundable grant already received, depending on their sector of activity and, in any case, for a maximum amount of € 150,000.
Following the Italian Prime Ministerial Decree of 3 November 2020, Italian Decree Law no. 149 then expanded the number of recipients, adding 75,000 more businesses, including tourist bus operators, photojournalists, museums, libraries and archives. The ‘Ristori Ter’ Decree also included shoe retailers among those eligible for the grant, while the ‘Ristori Quater’ Decree added 33 ATECO codes (used to classify economic activities) to the list of recipients, relating to sales agents and representatives.
Alongside these measures, a new tranche of non-refundable grants has been paid, guaranteeing 200% of the grant amount already received under the 'Relaunch Decree’ to all commercial establishments and businesses forced to close in Italy's red and orange zones. For other categories of businesses operating in these areas (bars, pastry shops, ice-cream parlours, hotels), the grant provided for by the first ‘Ristori’ Decree has been increased by a further 50%.
- Support for businesses based in shopping centres
€ 280 million will be set aside in 2021, offering a non-refundable grant to help cover the losses incurred by businesses based in shopping centres and to support industrial manufacturers of food and drink products, which have been affected by the restrictive measures.
- Automatic funding for the worst-hit regions and a higher number of eligible businesses
The ‘Ristori Bis’ Decree has set aside € 340 million for 2020 and € 70 million for 2021 in order to extend support measures for businesses that could once again find themselves in red or orange zones following new decrees. At the same time, € 50 million has been set aside to identify any other businesses that are eligible for the support measures. The ‘Ristori Ter’ Decree added € 1.45 billion to this fund.
The ‘CIG’ standard wage supplement scheme, wage subsidy allowance and exceptional wage supplement scheme
Over € 2 billion has been set aside in order to extend the ‘cassa integrazione ordinaria’ (standard fund to supplement earnings), the ‘assegno ordinario’ (wage subsidy allowance) and the ‘cassa integrazione in deroga’ (exceptional fund to supplement earnings) schemes, for up to six more weeks; these schemes were introduced by the ‘Cure Italy’ decree. The extension will run from 16 November to 31 January 2021, for employers that benefited from these schemes for the full nine weeks under the ‘August Decree’, after the authorised period has elapsed.
Wage supplement periods previously requested and authorised under the August Decree, and even only partially attributed to periods after 15 November 2020, shall be calculated, where authorised, under the six weeks provided for by this Decree.
With regard to these extra wage supplements, an additional contribution must be paid, calculated based on the overall remuneration that each worker would have received for the hours that have not been worked during the suspension or reduction of his/her employment. The additional contribution rate differs depending on each company’s reduction in turnover in the first half of 2020 compared with the corresponding period in 2019: 18% for employers who have not recorded any reduction in turnover, 9% for a drop in turnover of less than 20%.
Employers that have recorded at least a 20% drop in turnover do not have to pay this additional contribution, and nor do employers that started their business after 1 January 2019 or employers in industries where measures have forced them to close or limit their activities.
Employers that have not fully benefited from the special funds to supplement earnings relating to the Covid-19 emergency, or from the social security contribution exemption, are precluded from starting individual dismissal procedures and those initiated after 23 February 2020 will remain suspended. Collective dismissal procedures shall nonetheless remain suspended. These suspensions do not apply in the event of dismissals caused by companies definitively ceasing to operate.
Two new tranches of Emergency Income, starting from € 400, will be paid in November and December, dedicated to those who were already eligible for this support and for those whose household income in September was less than the amount of the benefit itself.
Smart working and special parental leave
The Ristori Decree has set aside € 45.5 million in order to extend the ways working parents with an employment contract can access smart working or special parental leave (receiving 50% of their normal pay). This possibility was previously only available for parents of children living in the same household who were forced to self-isolate, whereas now parents can also benefit if schools have to close and move lessons online and for children aged under 16 (rather than the under-14 rule that applied before). If smart working is not an option, parents of children aged between 14 and 16 have the right to abstain from work with no pay or indemnity and no social security contributions; in these cases, they cannot be fired and they have the right to keep their job. The ‘Ristori Bis’ Decree extended the right to special parental leave to all working parents with an employment contract living in Italy's red zones, in places where lower-level secondary schools are forced to close, setting aside an additional € 54.5 million for this purpose.
"Babysitter bonus” (childcare vouchers)
In Italy's red zones, vouchers worth € 1,000 are available to purchase babysitting services while teaching in schools is suspended.
Indemnity for seasonal workers in the tourism, spa and entertainment industries and sales representatives
The first ‘Ristori’ Decree set aside approximately € 550 million to pay a new, one-off € 1,000 indemnity to the categories of workers that received the same indemnity under the August Decree, including seasonal workers in the tourism, spa and entertainment industries who have suffered as a result of the COVID-19 epidemiological emergency, and other categories of workers, such as those enrolled with pension funds for entertainment workers who meet certain requirements, seasonal workers belonging to sectors other than the tourism and spa industries who have been forced to stop working, intermittent workers and door-to-door sales people. A similar indemnity for the same amount will also be paid under the ‘Ristori Quater’ Decree.
For the months of November and December 2020, Sport e Salute S.p.a. shall pay an € 800 indemnity for sports workers who benefited from the € 600 indemnity under the ‘Cure Italy Decree’ and 'Relaunch Decree’. The recipients are workers in the world of sport who have collaboration agreements with the CONI (Italian National Olympic Committee), the Italian Paralympic Committee, Italian sports federations, sports associations, sports promotion bodies and amateur sports clubs and associations, recognised by the CONI and the Italian Paralympic Committee. The spending limit of € 124 million for 2020 has also been increased, with the possibility to apply for advance payments for expenses, as available in the Sport e Salute Spa budget.
The ‘Ristori Bis’ Decree also extended the € 800 indemnity to all sports workers whose collaboration agreements had expired as at 31 October 2020 and have not been renewed. The procedure to make payments from the ‘Single Fund to support associations and amateur sports clubs’ has also been sped up; the first ‘Ristori’ Decree set up this fund with a total of € 50 million, which the ‘Ristori Quater’ Decree then increased by € 92 million.
SUPPORT FOR BUSINESSES
Postponement of the second advance payment due for ‘IRPEF’ (personal income tax), IRES (corporate income tax) and IRAP (regional income tax)
All companies that recorded a turnover of no more than € 50 million in 2019 and recorded at least a 33% drop in revenues in the first half of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019 can benefit from the postponement of this payment, up until 30 April 2021.
This postponement shall also apply (without the requirements in terms of revenues or income and the reduction in turnover or fees) to those subject to ‘ISA’ requirements, and to those running a business or carrying out artistic or professional activities in the economic sectors listed in Annex 1 and Annex 2 of Italian Decree Law no. 149 of 9 November 2020, whose residence for tax purposes or operational headquarters is in one of Italy's red zones, or catering service providers in one of Italy's orange zones, classed as such as at 26 November 2020.
Lastly, the ‘Ristori Quater’ Decree also postponed the deadline for the second or single advance payment for income tax and IRAP, from 30 November 2020 to 10 December 2020, for those running a business or carrying out artistic activities or a profession who did not qualify for the aforementioned postponements.
The deadline for filing income tax and IRAP declarations online has also been postponed from 30 November 2020 to 10 December 2020.
Suspension of social security contributions, withholding tax and VAT
All companies that recorded a turnover of no more than € 50 million in 2019 and that recorded at least a 33% drop in revenues in November 2020 compared with the same month in 2019, shall be entitled to suspend their social security contributions, payments of withholding tax and VAT payments due in December. At the same time, payments shall also be suspended for anyone who started their business after 30 November 2019.
Regardless of their turnover and performance, the suspension of VAT and withholding tax shall also apply, for the months of November and December, to all economic activities that have been forced to close following the Italian Prime Ministerial Decree passed on 3 November, to companies subject to restrictive measures based in Italy's red zones, to restaurants in red and orange zones, and to tour operators, travel agencies and hotels in red zones.
Social security contributions for November shall be suspended for the economic activities referred to by the Italian Prime Ministerial Decree passed on 25 October. Following the Italian Prime Ministerial Decree passed on 3 November 2020, social security contributions shall also be suspended for new businesses eligible for grants and for employers working in Italy’s red zones, whose activities have been limited or suspended due to the restrictive measures. Payments shall be suspended until 16 March 2021, and may then be paid as a lump sum or in four instalments.
Support for agriculture
€ 100 million has been set aside to support agricultural, fishing and aquaculture enterprises that have been affected by the restrictive measures introduced to deal with the epidemic. This support is being provided through non-refundable grants issued by the Italian Revenue Agency, in accordance with the procedures laid down by the relative decree passed by the Italian Minister for Agriculture and Forestry.
These enterprises, together with wine and beer producers, can benefit from a special exemption from paying their pension and social security contributions (regarding the share payable by employers) for the months of November and December 2020, with the exclusion of INAIL (Italian National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work) premiums and contributions.
Support is also being provided to tackle the difficulties being faced by the market for ready-to-eat fruit and vegetables.
Local public transport fund increased
The local public transport fund has been increased by € 300 million for 2021, € 100 million of which can also be used for additional services, including those dedicated to students. Support for the drop in tariff revenues relating to passenger transport will also be extended until 31 January 2021.
Support for the voluntary sector
€ 100 million has been set aside to help those in the voluntary sector who do not qualify for a non-refundable grant.
Tax credit for commercial rent
The tax credit for rent, already introduced by the ‘Relaunch Decree’, shall be extended to cover also those businesses affected by the restrictions imposed by the Italian Prime Ministerial Decree of 25 October, relating to the months of October, November and December; companies with revenues of over € 5 million may also now benefit. The ‘Ristori Bis’ Decree extended this tax credit to companies eligible for the new non-refundable grants, including travel agencies and tour operators based in Italy's red zones. This tax credit, equal to up to 60% of rent due on non-residential properties, is available for companies that recorded at least a 50% drop in turnover during the months in question compared with the same months in 2019, and may be transferred to the owner of the rented property.
Cancellation of the second IMU property tax instalment
Businesses affected by the restrictions introduced by the Italian Prime Ministerial Decree of 25 October to combat the Covid emergency and those eligible for the new non-refundable grants shall be exempt from paying the second IMU property tax instalment on the properties and premises where they carry out their work, provided that the owner is also the one that runs the business activities carried out in the properties in question.
Exhibitions and conferences, entertainment and culture
€ 350 million has been set aside for 2020 to provide support for the losses incurred by the exhibition and conference industry, increasing the fund set up by the ‘Relaunch Decree’ within the budget for the Italian Ministry for cultural heritage and activities. The emergency fund for the entertainment, cinema and audio-visual industry will be increased by another € 90 million, and an additional € 10 million will go towards the fund set up for travel agencies and tour operators, as well as tourist guides.
2 million rapid antigen tests will be carried out in November and December 2020, for a total of € 30 million, financed by Italy’s National Health Fund.
Health surveillance and contact tracing
Creation of a national contact centre for health surveillance and contact tracing within the Italian Ministry of Health. This telephone and online support service is for people who have tested positive for the SARS-Cov-2 virus, who have had close or occasional contact with people who have tested positive or who have received an alert from the “Immuni” app, whose data are made accessible to load up a key code in the presence of a positive case. Data relating to diagnosed positive cases are made available to this national service, also through Italy’s Health Card System and interoperability systems. € 4 million has been set aside for the 2020-21 two-year period, using the resources allocated to the special Commissioner in charge of containing and combating the COVID-19 epidemiological emergency.
Publication of monitoring results regarding epidemiological data
Disclosure and transparency requirements have been strengthened in relation to the monitoring and processing of epidemiological data, necessary to classify the areas of the country subject to the various containment measures, as already identified by the Italian Prime Ministerial Decree passed on 3 November 2020, from those provided for by primary legislation.
Boosting human resources in the health system
100 military doctors and nurses will be temporarily recruited and 300 doctors and nurses have also been confirmed, up until 31 December, to strengthen the INAIL (Italian National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work).
Funds to purchase and distribute medicine
Italy's response to the epidemiological emergency is being further strengthened, with € 100 million being set aside for the purchase and distribution of medicine to treat patients diagnosed with Covid-19.
Contributions to regional authorities to reduce their level of debt
For 2020, ordinary-statute regions will receive € 250 million towards repaying the principal of their financial debts maturing during the year.
In order to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the most vulnerable groups, € 400 million will also be paid to Italian municipalities, allowing them to tackle the food emergency by distributing shopping vouchers.
Creation of a balancing fund
A fund is being created, to be financed with part of the higher amount of tax revenues and social security contributions expected for 2021 following the postponement of the relative payments; this fund will be used to balance the tax and support measures granted through the various decree laws passed in Italy during 2020, to the benefit of those eligible for the suspension of tax payments and social security contributions after recording a significant drop in turnover. These companies may be able to benefit from a total or partial exemption from having to make their tax payments and social security contributions for 2021, based on the criteria defined in the dedicated Prime Ministerial Decree.
Support for the internationalisation of companies
The fund dedicated to providing subsidised financing to exporters will be increased by € 500 million for 2020; the aim is to encourage the internationalisation of businesses.
Writing off debts with the Italian Revenue Agency without paying sanctions and interest on arrears (‘rottamazione-ter’), and full settlement arrangements (‘saldo e stralcio’)
‘Rottamazione-ter’ payments (the writing-off of debts with the Italian Revenue Agency without paying sanctions and interest on arrears) and payments for full settlement arrangements (‘saldo e stralcio’), relating to instalments due in 2020 and necessary in order to keep the benefits of these preferential terms, will be postponed until 1 March 2021. The ‘Cure Italy’ decree had set the deadline for 10 December; this is now being carried over until next year, offering a further three-month extension. This new deadline is in line with the due date for payment of the first of these instalments due for 2021.
Streamlining of rules regarding rescheduling plans
The rules governing the rescheduling plans granted by the collection agent will be streamlined, making them more consistent and functional. In particular, once a request for a debt rescheduling plan has been submitted, the relative limitation and prescription periods shall be suspended and it will no longer be possible to register new administrative suspensions or liens or to begin new enforcement proceedings. For rescheduling plans requested by the end of 2021, the need to demonstrate “economic difficulty” in order to access said plans will be increased to € 100,000 and the number of instalments that must be missed in order for the rescheduling plan to be forfeited goes from 5 to 10. Furthermore, taxpayers who have lost their right to debt rescheduling or to previous ‘rottamazione-ter’ payment demands may submit a new debt rescheduling request by the end of 2021.