Legislation to foster support for the cultural sector from private donorswas introduced in the 1980s, when Law 582/82 allowed the total deduction from taxable income of all donations and sponsorship given by individuals and corporations, as well as of expenditures for the restoration of privately owned built heritage: which led to a “boom” in capital investments in the restoration of palaces, castles, and historical gardens. The amount of such incentives was, however, progressively and significantly reduced by subsequent budget laws, in particular by the Budget Law for 1992, when the tax deductions (more favourable for citizens in the higher tax brackets) were transformed into tax credits, within the limit of 19% of the amount of the donation, equal for all citizens, non-profit organisations and companies.
After nearly twenty years, private donations, if earmarked to a list of cultural institutions drawn up by the Ministry of the Heritage, became again totally tax deductible – albeit only for companies – thanks to Law 342/2000: however, the law establishes a ceiling of 52 million EUR for the potential loss of revenue for the state, which cannot be exceeded. Bureaucratic strings, though, may have affected the law’s implementation, which yielded in 2001 much less than expected: only 16 million EUR. The amount of such donations increased in the following years, reaching a peak in 2008, and subsequently decreasing as a result of the economic crisis (see chapter 7.3). The cuts affecting donations by private individuals and non-profit organisations in the same years have been even more drastic.
A further, quite bipartisan step, envisaged by all the recent Ministers since the 2000s, has been aimed at increasing the amount of private contributions for culture by making tax incentives once again more appealing for individuals and non-profit organisations as well. In particular, it is estimated that – by following the US model, where around 75% of private donations are given by individuals – a higher tax relief could significantly increase the support of private individuals to the cultural field. However, an agreement between the Ministry of the Heritage and the Ministry for the Economy – historically opposing such measures – has been for decades out of reach for any kind of political majority.
In this respect, the turning point – strongly supported by Minister Franceschini – finally took place in June 2014, with the adoption of Law 112/2014, ART Bonus. The Decree (closely inspired by the French Loi Aillagon) provides for a tax deduction of as much as 65% for 2014 and 2015, and of 50% for 2016, for donations aimed at the safeguard and support of public monuments, archaeological sites, museums, archives, libraries, theatres and of the lyric foundations. Such a tax credit is available within a ceiling of 15% of the taxable revenue for private individuals and non-profit organisations, whereas, for corporations, the ceiling has been established at 5/000 of annual profits.
This temporary measure, quite successful and well received – so much so that 2 000 donors donated 65 million EUR in 2015 – has been subsequently transformed into a permanent measure by the Financial Stability Law 2016.
It should be added that substantial fiscal incentives – in the form of tax credits and tax shelters – have been in force since 2007 for investments in the cinema industry, and have been recently upgraded by Law 112/2014, and then again by the Financial Stability Law 2016 (see chapter 4.2.6).
Finally, as shown in Table 3, the VAT rate on cultural goods is generally lower than the usual rate, notably for books and newspapers at 4%. The reduced tax rate has been extended also to E-books by the Financial Stability Law for 2015 (Law 190/2014): such measures, though – as has already been the case for France and Luxemburg – are still controversial, as it has been challenged by the European Union, which opposes TVA tax relief for digital products.
Table 3: VAT rate of cultural goods and activities, 2010
|Cultural goods and activities||VAT|
|Museums and exhibitions||10%|
|Recorded music and audiovisual||21%|
Source: elaboration by Associazione per l’Economia della Cultura.