The mayor of a town in central Italy has come up with a range of new tactics to try and get residents to pay their taxes: including banning children from playgrounds and refusing them school dinners.
Michela Rosetta, the mayor of San Germano Vercellese, a small village of around 1,800 inhabitants, which has a tax deficit to the tune of €100,000, is of the opinion that children's complaints at being kicked off the swings will finally achieve what no amount of government crackdowns or letters have been able to – persuade the tax dodgers to pay up.
“Taxes are used to finance services, and those who don’t pay, don’t have the right to use them,” the mayor said.
Italy is determined to crack down on tax evasion, investigating big names such as top national footballers and McDonald’s.
But private individuals are much harder to target than large corporations, which could be why the mayor is tackling the challenge with more imaginative measures.
Other measures include no longer handing out free rubbish bags, stopping waste collections and refusing children school dinners unless their parents have paid.
The authorities are well aware of who has neglected to pay their taxes, compiling an "anti-dodgers" dossier containing 180 names.
Each has received a warning letter.
“We have mediated with many families in difficulty, deferring the payments,” Giorgio Carando, a city councillor said, adding that those who had not cooperated shouldn’t be able to benefit from services until they did so.
The mayor added: “We don’t want to impose bans, but we want to teach respect for public affairs.”
Tax evasion is a huge problem in Italy; a report released last year by the European Commission showed that Italy lost out on a third of its taxes through evasion in 2013, meaning a net loss of €47.5 billion.