As Italy Cracks Down on Tax Cheats, the Wealthy Are Ditching Their Porsches

Time has just published my story on Italy’s fight against fast-driving tax evaders.

A fast car is supposed to be a means of escape. In Italy, it’s become one of the best ways to get caught. The land of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati is getting tough on tax evaders, and police have taken to stopping drivers of high-end SUVs and luxury cars and forwarding their information to the tax authorities to make sure the income they’ve declared (and paid taxes on) matches their expenditures. “It’s become invasive,” says Alessandro Zaffarani, a Rome resident. While driving his wife’s car — a BMW SUV — in December, he was pulled over twice in the course of half an hour. “They can stop you at any moment, not to ask you for the documents of the car, but for yours, as a person,” he says.

According to Zaffarani, who runs a Chevrolet dealership in Rome, the scrutiny has also cut into business. Faced with a new tax on cars with powerful engines, a still stumbling economy and some of the highest gas prices in the world, buyers were already more reluctant to enter the lot. Now tax evaders don’t want to risk getting caught either. And honest car buyers often don’t want the hassle of additional attention. “At this moment, the market is paralyzed,” says Zaffarani. In January, he suspended a promotion for the Chevy Camaro when demand dried up.

Read the rest.