Are there opportunities for American investors in Italy?
Italy’s top three sectors for investment are real estate, tourism, and food which many other articles cover, but we’ll look at some of the other attractive markets that encourage foreign investors. There are plenty of investment opportunities for those able to take advantage of them. Whether you’re looking at starting a business, buying Italian companies or just looking to make an investment, Italy is the right place to do it.
Italy has a business registration website which is available in both Italian and English through the Italian Chamber of Commerce: http://www.registroimprese.it. This is an invaluable resource when looking at any business in Italy.
Which sectors are worth investing in?
The Italian government is very open to foreign direct investment with a strong preference for countries that it has had a long-term relationship with. The United States is one of them; and, this goes both ways: many Italians also invest in the US. Plenty of other foreign companies make direct investments, so expect some competition.
So, Italy distinguishes itself in many sectors, but really shines in the automobile sector where design, technology and skills are all top of the line. The automobile market is ever-expanding and remains attractive to foreign manufacturers. Here, the Italian market is linked with Germany (the strongest economy in the EU in terms of GDP and lack of debt) by way of steel production and is relatively stable in this sense.
The country's most dynamic sector is the chemical industry and it ranks third largest producer in Europe, not just within the EU. The volumes of production and consumption of agricultural and food products and beverages are the largest in Europe. Italy is characterised by a tradition of typical products, culinary dishes and world-renowned wines with very high standards of quality and safety.
There are many other opportunities when considering investment in Italy. Newer technologies in aerospace, nanotech, and biotechnologies are all fair game. Italy also welcomes any investment that wants to aid in the development of Life Science projects (for which there are competitive costs and simple standards).
Where should someone invest?
Location is always important when considering where to invest and the Italian government favors investment in certain regions. It is also good to keep in mind that Italy has the best transport and telecommunications infrastructures in the Mediterranean.
There are additional aids for the creation of companies in the regions that are considered less developed, so this has mostly to do with investing in the southern part of the country. By way of example, companies investing in Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Puglia, Molise, and Sicily can benefit from a tax credit of 25%, 35% or 45%. This percentage is largely dependent on the size of the company, not the region.
Italy also has two free trade zones: Venice and Trieste. Investing in one of the free trade zones can also confer some additional tax benefits.
What are the pros of investing in Italy?
As a European Union member state, Italy is bound by the Union’s laws and treaties. As such, according to the EU’s treaties with the United States, Italy is obliged to provide national treatment to U.S. investors who are established in Italy or any other EU Member State.
Industrial companies in Italy remain strong and they represent around 21% of Italy’s total GDP. Its small and medium-sized enterprises are very competitive with labor costs that are generally lower than those of the U.S. Italy has a very good infrastructure in the north, but this tends to deteriorate as you travel farther south, hence the increased benefits for investing in the southern regions.
The government also provides significant financial resources and deductions of up to 50% of the employees’ salaries. Other benefits include: purchase of equipment and intellectual property rights for investments in the R&D sector. Depending on the region, a company can receive up to 10 years of tax exemptions, beneficial for both the company and the unemployment rate.
What are the cons of investing in Italy?
The cons are generally bureaucratic. Dealing with Italian bureaucracy at any level can prove to be a nightmare for many people, citizens and foreigners alike. It is important to keep in mind that the banking system is relatively weak compared to other EU countries. A high level of unemployment (9.8% as of 2020) coupled with political instability can make for unfavorable conditions for the potential foreign investor.
Those looking to invest in defense, tobacco or energy networks will find that these sectors are rather monopolized and it will present an additional level of difficulty.
As a conclusion, “patience is a virtue” as the saying goes, and it’s one that can generate a large return on investment in Italy.
After moving back to Italy from the United States in 2013, I realized how much an accounting and tax firm was needed to help expats living in Italy to comply with the local tax regulations.