The European Commission decided on January 24 to refer Italy to the Court of Justice of the EU for its failure to amend its legislation that provides a reduced tax rate for Italians living abroad buying their first housing on Italian soil.

Such Italian emigrants are entitled to a preferential rate of registration tax without having to fulfil the residence requirement. Nationals of other Member States are not entitled to any such preferential treatment if they do not effectively reside or take up residence within 18 months in the municipality in which the property is located. Such discriminatory treatment, directly based on the ground of nationality, is not allowed under the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU).

With today’s decision, the European Commission is taking on its role of Guardian of the Treaties by enforcing EU rules. The decision to refer the matter to the Court follows Italy’s failure to bring its legislation into line with EU law following the Commission’s reasoned opinion sent to the Italian authorities in January 2018.

Similarly, under certain conditions, Italian pensioners living abroad are exempt from a municipal property tax known as “IMU” or can benefit from rebates for local services taxes on their immovable property in Italy. The Commission has therefore also decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Italy for maintaining more favourable conditions for certain municipal taxes on the first house in Italy of Italian pensioners living in the EU or in EEA countries.