Incentives on electronic payments
The fiscal decree linked to the 2020 budget law has provided for various incentives for non-cash means of payment: from next January, a lottery with prizes of up to one million for those who communicate their tax identification number when issuing a receipt, as well as abolition of certain deductions and deductions if the expense occurs cash; from July 2020, new sanctions (equal to 30 euros plus 4 percent of the expense) for merchants that do not allow payment through Pos terminals, but also a tax credit of 30 percent on commissions paid by merchants; from 2021, the return to taxpayers of 10 percent of "traceable" expenses incurred in sectors with high tax evasion; from 2022, finally, the reduction to one thousand euros of the limit on the use of cash.
Is there too much cash in Italy?
This is an admirable effort, even if not always effective (if a dishonest doctor asks for 100 euros in cash, he will hardly change his mind for fear of a prefectural sanction of 34). However, it raises two questions: in Italy is there really too much cash? Do the incentives for the POS hide a subsidy to the banks?
The answer to the first question is yes. According to a study published in 2017 by the European Central Bank, in our country 86 transactions out of 100 (68 per cent of the value) take place in cash, against an average of 79 (54 per cent of the value) in the euro area. Italy is aligned with Spain and does slightly better than Greece, but pales before the 68 transactions (28 percent of the value) of neighboring France. A greater use of electronic payments would not, however, entail particular problems of "financial exclusion", given that – as the Bank of Italy explains – only 1.6 per cent of those interviewed did not possess alternative instruments to banknotes.
A subsidy to banks?
The answer to the second question is more complex, because the commissions required from retailers who adopt a Pos do not shine by transparency. Even the statement of the "table" established by the Ministry of Economic Development with sector operators is not particularly eloquent, given that it speaks of annual commissions "on average around" 25-180 euros.
A glance at the conditions practiced by some credit institutions allows however to focus on three levels of costs: a one-time contribution for the installation of the terminal, a monthly fee and a deduction on transactions. If the installation costs around 100 euros (but can also be free), the fees are rather heterogeneous (generally between 12 and 40 euros) and the deduction on collection generally varies between 1 and 3 percent. Some banks specify that these are "maximum values that can be derogated", a practice that certainly does not help to compare the offers. There are also non-bank operators who sell, at low prices, particularly simple Pos terminals (small devices that “lean” on the shopkeeper's cell phone and send the receipt to the customer by e-mail), then collecting a commission of 1 2 percent on payments made.
To promote the adoption of the Pos with acceptable costs, therefore, the government should promote greater transparency, for example by subordinating the tax credit (extended to all operators and the cost of purchasing the terminals) to the adoption of a standardized tariff scheme, not modifiable and published on a comparative website.
Otherwise, there will remain the doubt that the great war on cash does not go beyond some border skirmishes. However, a legitimate doubt, given that the new measures – in a country besieged by tax evasion and organized crime – will come fully into force only in the next three years. Like that guy who called firefighters shouting "I have a house on fire, could you come next month?": Not really an example of credibility.