Companies: Getting Started

The structures that exist when starting a business in Italy...

Companies cannot be purchased "off the shelf" in Italy and it usually takes a number of months to establish one. Incorporating a company in Italy takes longer and is more expensive and more complicated than in many other European countries. There are many kinds of business entities in Italy and choosing the right one is important.

The most common types of company in Italy are:

  • Società a Responsabilità Limitata (Srl), with minimum share capitalisation of around €10,000
  • Società Per Azioni (SpA), with a minimum share capitalisation of around €120,000

Always obtain professional legal advice regarding the advantages and disadvantages of different types of companies.

Legal advice

Before undertaking any business transactions in Italy, it’s important to obtain legal advice to ensure that all operations will be within the law. There are severe penalties for anyone who ignores the regulations and legal requirements. For example, non-EU nationals require a licence to start a business in Italy and no commitments should be made until permission has been granted. It’s also important to obtain legal advice before establishing a limited company. Among the best sources of help and information are local chambers of commerce and town halls (municipio).

Professional assistance

On account of the difficulties in complying with (or understanding) Italian laws and bureaucracy, there are agencies (colloquially called galoppini) that specialise in obtaining documents and making applications for individuals and businesses, listed in the Yellow Pages under Certificati, Agenzie.

These act as a go-between with officialdom, and will typically:

  • register a business with the tax registrar’s office (ufficio registro)
  • register with the registrar of enterprises (Registro delle imprese)
  • register with registrar of companies (ufficio delle ditte) at the local chamber of commerce and local tax office (intendenza di finanza)
  • obtain a value added tax (imposta sul valore aggiunto, IVA) number from the local VAT office (ufficio IVA)

A notary (notaio) can also do this but is more expensive. Do not to start a business until the infrastructure is established, including having an accountant, lawyer, and banking facilities.

There are various ways to set up a small business and it’s essential to obtain professional advice regarding the best method of establishing and registering a business in Italy, which can dramatically affect tax. It’s also important to employ an accountant to do the books. A professional may need to take a routine examination before they may be included on the professional register (albo professionale) with the chamber of commerce.

There are also business consultants and relocation agencies in many areas that provide invaluable local assistance. International accountants such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young have offices throughout Italy, and are an invaluable source of information (in English) on subjects such as forming a company, company law, taxation, and social security.

Many countries maintain chambers of commerce (Camere di commercio) in Italy, which are also a good source of information and assistance.

Extract from Living and Working in Italy (3rd Edition, 2007) edited by Graeme Chesters (Available as eBook or order from Amazon) Published by Survival Books Ltd Copyright © Survival Books Ltd All Rights Reserved