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What is a Commercialista and Why Do I Need One as an Expat in Italy?

Even if you're super-DIY like I am, you're going to need help when you move to Italy. And one of the people you'll want to connect with is a commercialista.

What is a Commercialista?

In Italy, a commercialista is the equivalent of an accountant, tax advisor, and/or financial advisor in the United States. However, commercialistas have a broader scope of responsibilities, encompassing various aspects of taxation, accounting, and business consulting. They are highly trained professionals who provide specialized expertise in navigating Italy's complex regulatory and tax landscape.

Why Work with a Commercialista?

Like I said, even if you like doing things on your own, tackling finances and taxes in Italy is not for the uninitiated. Here's how a commercialista can help.

1. Tax Compliance

One of the primary reasons American expats need a commercialista is to ensure compliance with Italian tax laws. As a U.S. citizen living abroad, you are still required to fulfill your U.S. tax obligations, including reporting foreign income and assets. A commercialista can help you navigate the intricacies of dual taxation and ensure that you comply with both Italian and U.S. tax regulations. And, if like me, you move to the south where you get a huge reduction in the taxes you have to pay, the commercialista can help navigate this process.

For me as a freelance writer, it was important to find a commercialista who understood the intricacies of having American clients and getting paid in dollars. Let me just say that it took interviewing four different commercialistas before finding one (and I'm happy to refer you; just shoot me an email and I'll introduce you).

2. Business Setup and Compliance

If you're running a business in Italy or considering starting one, a commercialista can provide invaluable assistance in setting up your company and ensuring compliance with local regulations. From registering your business entity to managing payroll and tax filings, a commercialista can guide you through the process and help you avoid costly mistakes.

Early on, I had a commercialista set me up with a Partita IVA, which all self-employed people need in order to file taxes. The process was simple, and I think I paid about €200 for the service.

3. Financial Planning and Advisory

Whether you're an entrepreneur, freelancer, or employed by a multinational corporation, navigating the financial aspects of expat life can be challenging. A commercialista can offer personalized financial planning and advisory services tailored to your specific situation. They can help you optimize your tax strategy, manage your investments, and plan for retirement, ensuring that your financial affairs are in order.

4. Real Estate Transactions

Buying or selling property in Italy involves a complex legal and financial process. A commercialista can provide expert advice and assistance throughout the transaction, from conducting due diligence to negotiating terms and handling tax implications. Whether you're purchasing a vacation home or investing in rental property, a commercialista can help you make informed decisions and protect your interests.

I haven't bought property yet, but when I do, I'll talk to my commercialista to see what tax implications it has.

5. Estate Planning

Planning for the future is essential, especially when living abroad. A commercialista can assist you in drafting wills, establishing trusts, and navigating inheritance laws to ensure that your assets are protected and distributed according to your wishes. They can also advise you on tax-efficient strategies for transferring wealth to future generations.

My commercialista has been helpful in making sure I'm organized in my financial documents to make filing taxes easier (this will be the first year I'm doing so; I'll report back this summer). I'll pay €500 for tax filing, and that includes what seems to be unlimited emails with questions throughout the year.

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