These are austere times in Europe, however, and driving a high-end car no longer goes unnoticed.
As Autoblog points out, citing a report from Bloomberg, Italy’s tax police, the Guardia di Finanza, recently logged the license plates of some 150 high-end cars at the posh Cortina d’Ampezzo ski resort.
Italy’s tax office then investigated the owners and found that nearly 60 had reported incomes below 40,000 euros ($52,864) per year. Given that a BMW M3 costs some 71,000 euros (nearly $94,000), it’s highly unlikely that someone making 40,000 euros per year could afford a Ferrari, let alone its care and feeding.
In one extreme example, the owner of a Mercedes-Benz had no tax records at all, and his wife was receiving public assistance.
Since the December 2011 sting operation, the Guardia di Finanza have targeted cars in Rome, Milan, Portofino and Florence, prompting nervous owners (likely guilty of tax evasion) to sell cars at massive discounts, often to cash-rich customers from Eastern Europe or South America.
Italy estimates that tax evasion costs the country some 120 billion euros ($159 billion) annually, so cracking down on offenders makes good financial sense. Stepped up enforcement and additional new taxes are expected to net Italy some 160 billion euros ($211 billion) in annual revenue.