Working in Italy for a Foreign Company

Working as an employee full time in Italy

If you are an employer outside Italy and thinking of hiring an employee in Italy, the legal, tax and social security ramifications can be complex.

Liability of the employer to Italian social security

If you’re resident in Italy and/or working for a substantial part of your time from Italian soil as an employee of a non Italian employer, then your employer will likely need to register as such  (via a social security representative) in order to pay the social security contributions. Under Italian law social security is due based on where the employment is carried out.  Exemption from the Italian charge for all or some of the contributions may be available  e.g.
However any exemption is conditional on your proving that you are paying contributions elsewhere, and, depending on the circumstances, reduced Italian social security contributions may in any event be due by your employer.

Apart from pension and healthcare contributions employers need to make payment of premiums for insurance covering accidents at work.


Application of Italian employment law

You will need to evaluate whether Italian employment law applies to the work you will be doing as an employee in Italy  – and especially whether TFR is due.   Even if you decide to apply non Italian law to the contract of employment you need to be aware that certain mandatory terms of Italian employment law may apply anyway to the contract by operation of law.  Examples of these terms are: the provisions governing minimum wage, minimum notice periods, maximum probation periods, maternity/paternity benefits,  remuneration for sickness, remote-working, data protection and worked holidays.

Liability to withhold tax at source

Under Italian law the income from employment carried out in Italy is liable to Italian tax. Where the remuneration is received from a non-Italian employer, Italy’s double tax treaties generally provide that the income is taxable only only in the country of residence of the employee, unless the work is carried out in the other country.   If the work is performed or partially performed in the other country, then it may also be taxable there (and if the employee is resident in Italy, they will be entitled to a tax credit for all or part of the non Italian tax).   The employee typically pays his or her Italian taxes, via a personal income tax return in Italy, as long as the Employer has no permanent establishment (PE, see below) in Italy.  However it is possible to arrange matters so that your employer withholds income tax at source via the payroll, even if they do not have a permanent establishment in Italy. 

The PE issue

However the hire is arranged, the foreign company needs to consider whether its activities in Italy create a corporate income tax liability on the profit attributable those activities. Foreign corporations with a “permanent establishment” or fixed base in Italy need to register for taxes. Determining whether a certain activity constitutes a permanent establishment is generally a question for a professional as it involves a technical examination of the domestic legislation and interaction with the relevant treaty for the avoidance of double taxation. 
If you would help from our experts on PE issues, please get in touch here.

Hiring through a staff agency or employer of record

Recent years have seen a growth in  businesses – both at international and local level – offering to hire an Italian employee, manage all of the payroll, tax and social security compliance, recharging the cost with a mark-up. These businesses can offer a cost effective and flexible alternative to hiring an employee directly.

If you are thinking of hiring an employee in Italy, or moving someone who already works for you to Italy and would like to speak to a specialist, please click here.

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