There are a few things living in Italy has taught me. There’s nothing quite like a plate of fresh, handmade pasta. Italians are passionate about food, family and football, not necessarily in that order. And Italy is extremely bureaucratic. Or at least that’s what everyone keeps telling me but I’ve never tested it, until now.
Admittedly when my new landlady told me I’d need a codice fiscale, or tax code, to rent her apartment I was a little nervous, scared even. Could I navigate the infamously convoluted and complicated state bureaucracy? Would my Italian stand up to the test? Was I even entitled to a tax code? I set of to find out!
It turns out that a codice fiscale is a bit like a national insurance number in the UK or a social security number in the US. It is an alphanumeric code assigned to all Italians at birth. And anyone who comes to live and work in Italy will probably need one, whether they’re Italian or not, although it doesn’t necessarily mean you are subject to Italian taxes. Phew!
Kindly, my landlady gave me the one page form to fill in, plus instructions on how to complete it. (Details in the Useful Information section below.) So far, so good! Next, find the local tax office.
Venice addresses don’t tend to give a street name, just the building number and district. But its not as complicated as it sounds as to find your destination you just follow the numbers as they run on sequentially from house to house down the street (unlike in the UK where odd numbers are on one side and evens on the other).
It turns out that the Venice office is quite central and easy enough to find in Campo Sant’Angelo, or Sant Anzolo in Venetian, near the Sant’Angelo vaporetto stop in the San Marco district.
The first hiccup, however, was that it only opens in the mornings, except on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I’d arrived at 2pm on a Monday! Bugger!
So the next day I set out bright and early with my application form, a bottle of water for refreshment and a book to read if the wait got too long – I’d heard that Italian bureaucracy involved long waits on uncomfortable plastic chairs so wanted to be prepared!
The finance building is a rather impressive palazzo including colonnaded courtyards and huge stone wellheads.
But, sadly, the Agenzia delle Entrate or administration section inside is another story with 70’s throw-back polystyrene ceiling tiles and those dreaded bolted down plastic chairs. It did not bode well, but the chap on reception could not have been more helpful, even as he cheerfully told me that I needed a photocopy of my passport and to not return until I had one!
Luckily I knew of a shop that did photocopying just across the street so 10 minutes later was back at the tax office clutching my completed application form and my passport in triplicate (well you never know!!!) I wafted my papers at the helpful chap on Reception again and was waved through to the next stage of the challenge, the bit I was not looking forward to, the waiting room!
As I got my bearings I realised that there were only half a dozen people waiting. I must be in the wrong room! Where were all the queues of people? But everyone else had a ticket just like mine and was intently gazing at the screen willing it to call them forward to the next available counter so maybe this was the right place after all.
I sat down, took my coat off and settled in for the long haul. I’d brought a half-read book with me but it was very detailed so a slow read that should take me hours to get through. And if I finished it, I could always check my emails or Facebook. Time was going to fly!
Barely had I read a couple of fact-packed pages, however, before the queuing system announced the next ticket. But I thought I’d heard it wrong as the number called was only 7 in front of mine. How long could 7 applications possibly take to process I wondered optimistically? Another ticket flashed up, but it had skipped forward 3 places. I was only 4th in line now and had hardly read a thing.
And then, against all expectations, my number was called not 10 minutes after I’d sat down. I wasn’t ready! I swiftly gathered my things together, frantically stuffed them into my bag and looked around for sportello, or counter, 10. It was straight in front of me. Things were going way too smoothly but I wasn’t arguing!
I presented my ticket, application form and triplicate passport copies to the lovely lady at counter 10 and, in the best Italian I could muster, politely asked if I could apply for a codice fiscale please. “Certo,” certainly, she said and set about typing my details into her computer.
4 minutes of tapping, 10 seconds of printer wurring, 2 ink stamps and an illegible signature and I was quietly presented with my very own official codice fiscale!! “Is it as easy as that?” I asked in disbelief. “Sì”, she said, and smiled.
In total, the whole thing had taken me less than half an hour. I’ve waited longer than that in UK post offices just to post a parcel! So what happened to the interminable waiting? Had I just chosen the easiest part of Italian bureaucracy to navigate? Or happened upon a particularly quiet day in a particularly efficient office? Who knows! All I know it that I’d survived my first expedition into Italian bureaucracy unscathed and had a codice fiscale to boot! Success! Time for a plate of handmade pasta and a slice of almond cake to celebrate I think!!
If you’ve fought the Italian bureaucracy and won, make sure you leave me a comment and let me know how it went! If you are still tussling with the system, why not leave me a comment too so we can empathise and sympathise with you! Happy form filling!
Obtaining a codice fiscale is free and, in my experience at least, fairly easy. You will need one for a number of things including –
- signing a lease for a flat (if the lease is going to be registered)
- opening a bank or postal account
- buying concert tickets online
- buying a scooter or car
- taking up any employment whether just an internship or paid
- signing utilities contracts (electricity, gas, water, internet, phone or mobile phone etc)
- shopping online in Italy
To get a codice fiscale –
- Photocopy your passport or national identity card
- Go to the Agenzia Entrate website and download the application form ( or pop into your local office and pick up the form). There is also a helpful guide in English on how to fill in the form. Click here
- Take your completed form plus photocopy of your passport to your local tax office.
- When it comes to your turn they will key in your details and give you a piece of officially stamped paper with your codice fiscale number (the card will arrive later by mail). Simple as that!
Address for the Tax Office in Venice is 3538 Campo Sant’Angelo, San Marco
Telephone : 041/2718111
Fax : 041/2718293
Email : email@example.com
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:30 – 13:00; Tuesday and Thursday 14:30 – 16:30