It is official: the state has ignored the numerous rulings of Civil Courts, Courts of Appeals, TARs, a pronouncement of the Council of State and a Constitutional Court ruling designed to prevent the Internal Revenue Service from making cash at the expense of 24 Italian marinas, including by demanding the payment of undue state surcharges.
Not only do sky-high tax bills continue to arrive at many of the marinas (sensational is the case of the Marina Blu in Rimini, which was handed a million-euro maxi-cart for the state’s retroactive increase in the state fee), which is followed by the freezing of their bank accounts.
Now the final crackdown: the first revocations of concessions from companies “guilty” only of resisting and winning appeals have arrived. The first to fall are Marina Piccola s.r.l. in Capri and Marina di Cattolica s.r.l., but running the same risk of collapse are the other 22 companies and their 2,225 employees.
The president of UCINA Confindustria nautica, Saverio Cecchi, uses very strong tones: “We have knocked on every door, all the offices of the ministries concerned have had this dossier on their tables, for years. I wrote to Minister Gualtieri as soon as he took office, but I have not yet received a response. According to the unanimous mandate of the governing bodies of Ucina Confindustria Nautica, we consider it our duty to oppose by all means in the face of a real “execution” by the administrative bodies of the state. If it will be necessary to take even striking actions to do so, we will not back down.” And he says he is ready, in case, to blockade the Port of Genoa.
STATE VS. PORTS, A 12-YEAR-OLD DISPUTE
Let’s run through the story again: 24 Italian marinas have been in litigation with the state since 2007 over the application from Art. 1, Paragraph 252, Law no. 296 of December 27, 2006 (2007 Finance Act), which amended, as of January 1, 2007, the annual fees for state-owned concessions of recreational boating facilities, with increases of up to five to eight times the fees set when the concession itself was signed, retroactively applying the calculation mechanism provided for beaches, although, in the latter case, provided for amounts and investments tens of times lower.
Already on December 2, 2008, the Central Control Section of the State Administrations of the Court of Auditors, in a reasoned opinion, had pointed out that the financial plan of the concessionaire who built the tourist accommodation facility is an essential element of the concession contract. Consequently, an indiscriminate increase in the original fee, represents a unilateral forcing and de facto modification of the contract to the detriment of the concessionaire’s rights. The Court of Auditors had also pointed out that the increase in fees was disproportionate to the hypothesized benefit to the treasury, both in terms of litigation and in terms of possible economic results.
Numerous pronouncements in favor of the ports by various TARs followed. The querelle thus reached the Constitutional Court, which, in ruling no. 29 of 10/27.1.2017, pointed out that the increase in fees is possible (and therefore absolutely legitimate), but “the applicability of the new criteria to concessions that have not yet expired and that provide for the construction of facilities and infrastructure by the concessionaire, including those issued before 2007, should be excluded” (paragraph 5.7). The Constitutional Court also clarified that the increases “result applicable only to those concessions that already belong to the state and already possess the quality of state property. In concessions of works to be carried out by the concessionaire, this can take place only at the end of the concession, and not already during the concession.”
Despite the fact that case law – numerous rulings including from the Civil Courts – is therefore all in favor of the concessionaires, the State Administration proceeds with the issuance of tax bills and the blocking of marinas’ current accounts, all of which have been rejected by the Civil Courts.
It is at this point that the state plays the retaliation card in the form of revoking concessions from companies guilty only of resisting and winning appeals. The first to fall are the Marina Piccola s.r.l. and the Marina di Cattolica s.r.l., but they run the same risk of collapse 22 companies and their 2,225 employees, including direct employees and those employed in the commercial activities of the facilities, with further dangerous impact on the induced activities and tourist accommodation of the areas affected by the measures that cannot be calculated.
The paradox of this situation is that the first to lose out is the Treasury, which will also lose ordinary fees and tax revenues-IRPEF AND IRPEG-generated by the Ports.