Self Employed Expat Italy

Setting Up a Business and Being Self-Employed in Italy

One of the things holding back some Britons from moving abroad to realise their dream of a new life in Italy, is the fact that it can be very hard for non-Italian speakers to find a job and earn an income.

Many people know that they will be able to improve their Italian once they are living in Italy, but wonder what they can do in the meantime to earn an income.  Well, the good news is that there are of course options.

So, if you dream of living in Italy and want to move sooner rather than later, here’s all you need to know about setting up a business and becoming self-employed in Italy.

Italy is possibly one of the best places in the world to be self-employed – simply because the vast majority of companies in the nation are SMEs – small to medium sized enterprises.  Family businesses are the norm in Italy – and when you think about the big name players that Italy is famous for, you again realise that they are companies started and still often run by families.  Think Pirelli, Benetton, Versace and Prada for example.

This fact should give you confidence that becoming self-employed and setting up your own business will neither be frowned upon nor unsupported.  The first thing you need to do is get the local court’s approval for your business type.  This is so that they can ensure there is not too much competition in one field in one small location for example.  Once you have this approval, you register the business with the Registro delle Impresse (Business Registrar), Registro delle Ditte (Copanies House), Registro delle Imposte (Tax Registrar) and the Uddicio Registri (the equivalent of HMRC.)

You then have to sort out your company registration.  Are you going to be a freelancer, a limited company or a joint stock company?  If you want to be a freelancer then this is the easiest way to go – once you have registered and have your tax ID and VAT ID etc., you can invoice clients with your partita IVA (VAT registration number) and they will withhold 20% tax from the invoice to pay to the government.

If you set up as any other type of trader or business, then taxes become more complicated!  Set up as an LLC and then you need at least 10,000 euro of working capital too, and if you set up as a joint stock company then you need at least 100,000 euro of working capital.  The registration and establishment process is complicated, there are no two ways about it!  As with all things in Italy there is more paperwork and red tape than you could possibly imagine – so, it is our recommendation that you get help!

You can find an accountant or solicitor to help you, and you will be best off registering your company with a notary’s assistance.  And talking of accountants, do not even attempt to file your own tax returns as the tax system in Italy is bizarrely complicated!  We would recommend you find a really good accountant to assist you from the outset – they can be worth their weight in gold!

In terms of the type of business to set up, naturally that will depend on your entrepreneurial bent!  But it will also depend on competition and demand for your business idea in your locale, and your ability to speak Italian.  If your Italian is poor, you should look to service the English speaking market maybe.  Perhaps yours could therefore be a tourism venture or an import export type business?  Or, if you do want to work directly with Italians, maybe you could establish a language school?

If your level of spoken Italian is good enough, maybe you want to appeal to the Italian market – and you could either bring something from home to Italy, or simply open a business that everyone needs but which does not yet exist in your location.  Wherever you’re living in Italy you’ll probably find Britons who have gone before you and become self-employed, so try and find good contacts through the local Chamber of Commerce and maybe even over the Internet, people from whom you can learn and benefit from their experience.

Remember that setting up a business anywhere in the world is a tough undertaking – initially the cons can seem to outweigh the pros, especially in a country like Italy where the red tape and restrictions make everything so hard!  But if you persevere, perhaps your company could be the next Alessi or Armani?