Italian House Chief Urges Tough Tax Rules for Cyber Multinationals

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By Eric J. Lyman

U.S.-based digital multinationals are back in the spotlight in Italy after the House speaker urged “clearer and stronger regulations” for the way those companies are taxed in Italy.

In remarks to parliament June 6, Laura Boldrini called out Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Google, and Facebook Inc. by name. Of the four, only Facebook has escaped investigation by Italian tax officials, although Boldrini in February vocally criticized Facebook for not doing more to limit hate speech.

In late 2015, Apple settled a tax probe in Italy for 318 million euros ($356 million), and Google agreed to terms with Italian tax officials last month for 306 million euros ($343 million). Those cases remain the two largest single tax settlements on record in Italy.

Just days before the Google settlement in May, tax officials opened an investigation into the tax liabilities of Amazon.com, alleging the company owed as much as 130 million euros ($146 million) in unpaid taxes.

The issue of how to tax revenue and profits for multinational digital firms that do so much cross-border business is one of the major challenges facing national tax authorities in Europe, according to analysts.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella was among those on hand for Boldrini’s remarks, although he didn’t comment on the speaker’s statements after the event.

Italy will have a “web tax” measure included in its 2018 budget after the government of Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni won a risky confidence vote to have it included. But the details of the measure haven’t been finalized, pending debate in the same parliamentary body Boldrini helps oversee.

Spokesmen for Google and Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric J. Lyman in Rome at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Penny Sukhraj at psukhraj@bna.com

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