Yesterday the news broke that Tiziano’s appeal against his sentence for tax evasion was rejected and he will have to pay millions of euros. Naturally the Italian media and the people jumped all over it, cause if there’s one thing they despise it’s a tax evader. Unfortunately the articles are more slanderous than informative so it’s not easy to figure out what exactly he was accused of and whether he really did something wrong. I did some research and here’s what I found out.
First of all, I was curious about the notion that the UK is somehow a “tax haven” compared to Italy, as the UK is also known for having high taxes. Apparently the UK has a tax loophole for "residents who are not domiciled", also called non-doms. If you’re a tax resident of the UK, but you are not domiciled, meaning the UK is not your home country and you do not intend to stay there permanently, then you only have to pay taxes on the income generated within the UK and on income “brought into” the UK. So foreign income and assets that stay foreign are not taxed. This is all legal. But you do have to actually be in the UK for 183 days or more to be considered a tax resident. Tiziano was accused of not spending more than half of his time in the UK, because he was always touring and doing promo in Italy. He’s not been able to prove that he was in the UK long enough, which explains the sentence and the rejected appeal. (In cases like these you have to prove your innocence, rather than the state having to prove your guilt.)
As a fan this is a tough pill to swallow because there’s no way he moved to the UK intending to evade taxes, yet that’s the picture being painted right now. They’re actually saying his UK home was “fictitious” and that his move there had “clear evasive intent”. For those of us who are familiar with his life and his diaries, a calculated move like that is unimaginable. We know he is a simple guy who has never shown any kind of greed or desire to amass millions. He’s never done any commercial endorsements, never been “the face” of some kind of product. We know he left his beloved Italy (first to Mexico, then to the UK) because it was too difficult for him to be around family and friends, too difficult to always be recognized everywhere. We know he is a good person who would never willingly break any kind of law. But I kind of understand the other side as well. If you don’t know anything about him, or you just don’t like him, it’s easy to tear him down. And with the Italian economy being as bad as it is, everyone loves a scapegoat. This loophole is a pretty ridiculous one, and it doesn’t seem like one that you’d inadvertently jump into.
Unfortunately we only have bits and pieces of information, and I doubt we’ll ever know the full story. We don’t know if he even used this loophole. We don’t know what his financial situation is really like. And we shouldn’t, that’s his business. What we do know is that the more money you have, the more difficult it becomes to file your taxes properly. He might have trusted the wrong people, listened to incompetent tax consultants. In the end Tiziano himself is responsible for what happened, and all we can say is he should’ve been more careful. But there are many, many things he should’ve done differently during that dark period (2006-2009). We are lucky he even survived it.
He’s just one of many known tax evaders in Italy, and it’s never really killed anyone’s career, so hopefully he will rise above it and release music that’s amazing enough to make people forget. No release date has been confirmed, but I’d say spring is the perfect time.
Come back soon, Tiziano! We are with you, always.
ETA: I found some reports that there will be another appeal, so it seems the battle still isn’t over.