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  4. Banks may strengthen capital rather than pay tax

Banks may strengthen capital rather than pay tax

Measure contained in draft government amendment

(ANSA) - ROME, SEP 23 - Instead of paying a tax on surplus profits banks will be have the option of "allocating an amount equal to two and a half times the tax to a non-distributable reserve", according to a draft government amendment to its controversial "assets" decree currently before the Senate, sources said on Saturday.
    This reserve is to be considered "among the elements of primary tier 1 capital", the draft continues.
    The government has also reportedly changed the way the windfall tax will be calculated.
    According to the draft amendment that is to be deposited in the Senate in the coming days, the tax will be calculated "by applying a rate of 40% on the interest margin" in the 2023 financial year "that exceeds by at least 10% the same margin" in the 2021 financial year.
    In the original decree the tax was calculated on the basis of the 2022 and 2023 budgets and different rates applied.
    Lastly, the government has reportedly raised the cap on the windfall tax from 0.1% to 0.26% "of the total amount of individual risk exposure" rather than on total assets as in the original formulation, meaning that treasury bonds are excluded from the levy.
    On Wednesday Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said the government was working on a compromise on the windfall tax that it is imposing on surplus profits made this year by the country's lenders following the ECB's interest-rate hikes in response to criticism inside and outside the country.
    Premier Giorgia Meloni's fanfare announcement in early August of the new 40% windfall tax on banks' surplus profits caused immediate stock market turmoil.
    The losses were partially reversed after the government said the windfall tax would be capped at 0.1% of institutes' assets, but skepticism remained, with Moody's saying the measure is "credit negative" and the Financial Times describing the move as "disastrous" and the government's "biggest blunder so far".
    Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti was also reported to be dubious about the move, although he eventually emerged form initial silence on it to support the measure.
    Tajani, leader of late ex premier and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party, said that if the current text of the bill changes then FI will withdraw its amendments to the measure, softening its impact.
    "The text must be corrected so as not to penalise savers and small banks," he said.
    "We must give a signal to international markets." Tajani was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
    Photo: Deputy Premier and leader of centre-right Forza Italia Antonio Tajani, who has criticised the windfall tax on banks' surplus profits. (ANSA).


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