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Here is a brand new Italian word that has come into fashion in the last few months: l’accisa. I came across this word for the first time last November, just after the floods which brought so much damage to Liguria and Toscana, when the President of the Regione Toscana announced the introduction of un’accisa sulla benzina per pagare i danni creati dall’alluvione (an accisa on fuel to pay for the damage created by the floods). Then again just a few days ago the Government announced another accisa of two cents on fuel to help the population of Emilia Romagna which was hit by the earthquakes of 20th and the 29th of May. However, according to my Vocabolario della Lingua Italiana Treccani, accisa is actually an obsolete word.
So, what exactly is l’accisa? Well, it’s a type of tax, of course, but it differs from IVA (Imposta sul Valore Aggiunto = Value Added Tax) in that it is a fixed amount per quantity, e.g. two cents per litre. Apart from the petrol, it’s also applied to gas, electricity, alcohol, and tobacco. L’accisa is normally brought in as a temporary measure when there is an emergency, such as floods or earthquakes, in order to provide an immediate extra income for the government. But as is often the case here in Italy, there is nothing more permanent than that which is meant to be temporary! So it’s not surprising therefore, that these last two accise have joined a long list of pre-existing emergency taxes, some of which date back more than thirty years! Let’s have a look at what we are actually paying for when we buy fuel, starting from the most recent tax:
May 2012, Earthquake in Emilia, 2 cents
December 2011, Decreto Salva Italia (Decree to save the Italian economy), 8 cents
November 2011, Floods in Liguria and Tuscany, 0,89 cents
2011, Emergency immigrants from the civil war in Libya, 4 cents
2011, Financing Arts and Culture, 0,73 cents
2004, Renewal of contracts for the staff of Public Transport, 2 cents
1996, Peace Keeping Campaign in Bosnia, 22 Lire
1983, Peace Keeping Campaign in Lebanon, 205 Lire
1980, Earthquake in Irpinia, Campania, 75 Lire
1976, Earthquake in Friuli, 99 lire
1968, Earthquake in Belice, Sicily, 10 Lire
1966, Florence Flood, 10 Lire
1963, Vajont’s dam disaster, 10 Lire
1956, Suez canal crisis, 14 Lire
1935, War in Abyssinia, 1.9 Lire
Yes, the first accisa was introduced by Mussolini 77 years ago, and we are still paying for it! The cumulative cost of these accise is of 26 cents, and to add salt to the wound we even have to pay tax on the taxes because in fact all of these accise are then subject to IVA, which is presently 21 per cent!
Here in Italy we currently pay around 1 euro 80 cents for every litre of petrol … ma pensa un po’!