If you're an EU national or a permanent resident with a certificato di residenza, you can work as self-employed (lavoro autonomo or lavora in proprio), freelance (lavoro indipendente or libero professionista) or as a sole trader(commerciante in proprio, imprenditore or ditta individuale) in Italy. If you wish to work as self-employed in a profession or start a freelance business in Italy, you must meet certain legal requirements and register with the appropriate organisations. For example, you must be included on the Register of Enterprises (Registro delle Imprese) maintained by the local chamber of commerce (Camera di Commercio) and obtain a certificate of registration (certificato di iscrizione). A permit to stay (see page 79) doesn't automatically allow you to work as self-employed and it needs to be changed to a permesso di soggiorno per lavoro autonomo/indipendente (how easy this will be depends on your nationality and status). Before starting work you must also register with the local tax office (intendenza di finanza) and be registered for VAT (imposta sul valore aggiunto/IVA).
Under Italian law, a self-employed person must have an official status and it's illegal to simply hang up a sign and start business. Members of some professions and trades must have certain qualifications and certificates recognised in Italy. You should never be tempted to start work before you're registered, for which there are stiff penalties, which may include a large fine, confiscation of machinery or tools, deportation and even a ban from entering Italy for a number of years.
If you're self-employed and operate as a sole trader, you must register with the local tax office and are taxed in the same way as any other individual. Note, however, that the liabilities of a sole trader aren't deemed to be separate from his personal debts and should you become insolvent you would be declared bankrupt. Therefore you may find it advantageous to operate as a limited company (see page 45), for example a societa' a responsibilita' limitata (Srl) or societa' per azioni (SpA). Always obtain professional advice before deciding whether to operate as a sole trader or form a company, as it has far-reaching social security, tax and other consequences.
Self-employed people may wish to join the Unione di Commercio, which provides a range of information and assistance for the self-employed and those running their own businesses, including supplementary health insurance, help in dealing with Italian bureaucracy, taxation and social security.
This excerpt has been republished with permission from Survival Books. Some of the information may apply to EU citizens only. If you would like to get the inside track on moving to Italy, pick up your copy of this great book by clicking here.