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Mr Ruffini is the new face of Italy’s tax revenue agency

by Valeria Uva

Italy’s Tax Revenue Agency will have a new director from tomorrow. Rossella Orlandi, the first woman to run the Agenzia delle Entrate, will leave the post after three years, at the end of her first mandate. Ernesto Maria Ruffini, previously the head of tax enforcement agency Equitalia, will take her place.

The handover arrives at a delicate moment for Equitalia: on July 1 the agency will be abolished and incorporated within the Agenzia delle Entrate. Ruffini will therefore be overseeing all Italian tax operations: from taxpayer services, to the checking of taxes owed and tax collection and recovery.

Born in Palermo (Sicily) in 1969, Ruffini is a tax lawyer with a digital mindset. Since he was nominated chief executive (and president and extraordinary commissioner) of Equitalia in 2015, the agency has focused a lot on strengthening its online and digital services. From July 2016, the new Equitalia portal has tripled accesses and digital services can count about 1.5 million accesses a month on average. In less than a year, the Equiclick app has been downloaded by 50,000 users. Not to mention the push toward the widespread use of certified emails (4 million between June and November 2016) instead of registered post.

Ruffini is also responsible for the invention of the pre-compiled tax declaration and electronic invoicing toward public bodies. These are two new developments that he himself announced in 2010 from the stage of Leopolda, the convention former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi set up in Florence, which launched the public administration careers of many of those faithful to the current secretary of the left-leaning Democratic Party (PD), including Ruffini.

In fact, the person who launched the experiment of a pre-compiled income declaration with the slogan “the friendly tax agency” was Rossella Orlandi. Today she is leaving the agency with a much more complete model of pre-compiled income declarations (800 million data entries), that is however used by only two million out of 30 million tax payers.

Orlandi’s term has ended with a record haul in the fight against evasion: €19 billion in 2016, more than 20% of which (€4.3 billion) has come from the first voluntary disclosure program, which involves the return of capital from abroad, without sanctions.

Orlandi, 61, is from Empoli (Florence). Tuscan like Renzi, who chose her from within the Agenzia delle Entrate, she also leaves the legacy of signing the first compliance agreements with the big internet players: to settle with Italian tax authorities, Google paid €306 million for disputes dating as far back as 2006. Also directed toward foreign companies is the consultation tool on new investments, or the tax agency’s responses to provide certainty on taxation of capital invested in Italy: up to now there have been 7 responses and as many companies who are bringing more than €5 billion in investments and 77,000 jobs.

Moments of tension between her and the government were not lacking. In any case, a role of deputy director is ready for Orlandi (at the Agenzia delle Entrate), with responsibility over the census of property, an issue that authorities have been trying to update for decades.

For the new body dealing with tax recovery and enforcement at the revenue agency, Ruffini will bring experience of the last major settlement in fiscal records: more than 800,000 tax payers agreed to the proposal to settle their old debts with the authority without sanctions and interest but in a short period of time. Ruffini also achieved significant tax recovery results: €17 billion recovered, up 17% compared to the two previous years.

Among the first tests will be the transitory web tax, confirmed by the summer budget plan: a reinforced path of collaboration between the fiscal authority and digital companies with revenues of over €1 billion who operate in Italy without stable collaboration.