Berlusconi, PdL insist IMU property tax must go

Letta promises decision by end of August

Berlusconi, PdL insist IMU property tax must go

Rome, August 9 - A decision on the controversial IMU property tax will be made by the end of this month, Premier Enrico Letta pledged Friday as he tried to cool a renewed political firestorm over the topic. He spoke as ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and outraged members of his People of Freedom (PdL) party reacted with fury to comments made one day earlier by Italy's economy minister. Fabrizio Saccomanni said it would not be fair to eliminate the tax, adding that the country cannot afford to lose the billions in revenue it generates. That infuriated Berlusconi. "Italy should not be afraid of the future," said Berlusconi in a statement. "We will never fail in our IMU commitment (to eliminate the tax)," he added. In a rhetorical flourish, Berlusconi – whose conviction for tax fraud was upheld by Italy's highest appeals court last week - presented the IMU dispute as a "battle for freedom". Cutting the property tax will also provide economic stimulus by leaving money in the pockets of homeowners, he added. The PdL has insisted that if Letta and his center-left Democratic Party (PD) colleagues fail to yield on the tax elimination, Berlusconi's party will bring down the shaky coalition government. Letta urged political parties to cool the rhetoric and focus on the merits of the argument. "These are not simple issues to unravel, but we will discuss and decide," said Letta. The latest round in the long-running battle over the tax came Thursday, when Saccomanni said that abolishing the IMU property tax would cost the government 2.426 billion euros in revenue in 2013. In a list of nine hypothetical reforms to the tax, Saccomanni laid out the impact on revenue and the effects on taxpayers. "The proposed exemption of IMU for primary residences does not seem fully justified in terms of fairness and efficiency," said Saccomanni, a non-political former deputy governor of the Bank of Italy.

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