Wednesday, February 13, 2008

MotoGP: Prodigal Son Returns To Italy

Time was when Italy was a romantic place that the rest of Europe looked to enviously. There was a change of government every 2 or 3 weeks, and the country's rich people thought that paying tax was strictly optional. Stunningly beautiful fast cars and motorcycles rolled off production lines, only to break down seconds later. Sports teams bent the rules to suit themselves. The mafia did whatever the hell they wanted. Those days have passed.

Italy still has the same beautiful countryside and architecture, but it has now joined countries such as Germany and the UK as a hard-nosed 21st century European nation. Governments last years, not months. The mafia has been hammered by the rule of law. Cheating soccer teams have been slammed with heavy punishments. Ferraris, Maseratis and Ducatis don't pour gallons of oil onto the floor of your garage overnight.

And you can't escape paying tax, as Valentino Rossi has discovered to his cost.

Rossi tried to play the system by living in London as a "non-dom" (non-domiciled foreign citizen, i.e. somebody who lives in the UK but is not legally domiciled here.) Under British tax law, a non-dom pays no tax on money earned in other countries. There is currently a huge national debate in the UK as to whether this should be abolished, but it's too late for Valentino anyway.

The trouble was that he claimed not to live in Italy, but he owned property and expensive cars in Italy, and spent a lot of time there. In other words, he bloody well did live in Italy, and he was fooling nobody. The Italian tax man clearly had legal proof of this, because Rossi has been forced to hand over tens of millions of Euros in back taxes. As part of the settlement, Rossi will "move back" to Italy. He may as well just admit that he basically lived there already, and his posh London flat was just a bolt-hole to escape the madness of celebrity once in a while.

Rossi must be seriously angry about this, having trusted his tax lawyers and accountants. But the matter is now over, and it was extremely wise of The Doctor to settle it before the MotoGP season starts. With his new Bridgestone tyres, and the pneumatic-valve Yamaha engine starting to sing, Valentino won't be at the same embarrassing disadvantage he was to Stoner this time last year. He is a wounded animal, and will be totally focussed on winning the title. I think he might just do it.


Nicebloke said...

So he lived in two places, claimed to live in neither and paid no-one any taxes? No wonder he always seems so 'appy...

Rob said...

"Non-dom": so if he'd been thrown in prison in the UK would he have become a con-dom?
(I can't claim this one - heard it on the radio).