Italy ends tax benefit that draws top players like Lukaku to Serie A

The Italian government has decided to end its growth decree, a tax benefit that was intended to stop the brain drain and encourage high-worth Italians living abroad to return home. It was also used by Italian football clubs to attract top players, such as when AS Roma bought Belgian star striker Romelu Lukaku.

The tax benefit is attractive: those who are eligible only have to declare half their income. The other half is tax-free. Although the decree was intended for academics and top scientists, it was best known for its effect on Serie A, Italy’s top football competition. 61 per cent of players in the league are from outside Italy, representing 65.5 per cent of playing time.

The president of AS Roma, Dan Friedkin, recently defended the decree, saying it had been essential to the club securing the services of Lukaku and coach Jose Mourinho.

Nationalist deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini called the law immoral and against the interest of young Italian players. Federico Pastorello, Lukaku's agent, agrees. "There was a disparity of treatment that was too obvious, too big, so that the choice of players became an economic one rather than one based on skill," he said. He would prefer a more conditional tax advantage.

The new system will come into force next week.


Romelu Lukaku with coach Jose Mourinho © PHOTO AFP

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