Italy’s ‘tourist tax’: What is it and who has to pay?

Ever turned up at an Italian hotel and been asked to pay a charge you never knew about? Those unexpected extra euros might just be Italy’s tourist tax.

Like a growing number of tourist destinations around the world, Italy asks those who want to visit its ancient heritage and unique landscapes to pay extra for the privilege.

Since 2011, all Italian municipalities are authorized to levy a tax on anyone staying overnight in tourist accommodation, to be paid directly by the visitor.

Here’s how Italy’s so-called tourist tax works.

Why does Italy tax tourists?

Italy has been taxing tourists since 1910, starting with a tax on beach resorts that was gradually extended to other holiday destinations. The levy was scrapped in 1989, only to be reintroduced in Rome and then all over Italy some 20 years later.

The idea is simple: visitors use facilities and services during their trip that are paid for by local residents’ taxes. The tassa di soggiorno, or ‘occupancy tax’, passes on some of that cost to tourists themselves.

The funds collected are earmarked for public services that benefit both tourists and locals, such as maintaining the city centre, running public transport, putting on cultural events or providing free wifi.

Who has to pay it?

Local councils have the right to decide whether to impose an occupancy tax. Many of Italy’s most popular destinations have done so, including Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples, Milan, Bologna, Turin, the Amalfi coast, the Cinque Terre, Como and others.

Anyone staying in tourist accommodation – hotels, B&Bs, Airbnbs, holiday homes, campsites, etc – in these areas has to pay the charge directly to their host.

The same rules apply to foreign nationals and Italian citizens. But in most cases, if you’re a resident of the town you’re staying in, you do not have to pay.

Children are also exempt from the occupancy tax, though the age limit varies between as high as 18 years old in Milan and Naples, 12 in Florence and Turin, 10 in Rome and Venice, and just 6 in Sorrento. Venice offers an additional 50 percent discount for 10-16 year olds.

There may be other exemptions for elderly guests, guests with disabilities and their companions, hospital patients and their carers, students, or guides leading tour groups.

How much is it? 

The occupancy tax is calculated per adult guest, per night.

The exact rate is at the discretion of the local council, which is why you’ll be charged different amounts in different parts of Italy. Councils usually charge a different rate for different types of accommodation, asking more from guests staying in luxury hotels.

Here’s what you’ll pay per guest per night in Rome, for instance:

  • One/Two-star hotels: €3
  • Three-star hotels: €4
  • Four-star hotels: €6
  • Five-star hotels: €7
  • B&Bs, holiday homes, Airbnbs: €3.50
  • Agriturismi: €4
  • Campsites: €2

So a couple staying seven nights in a three-star hotel should expect to add €56 – (€4 x 2) x 7 – to their bill.

And in Florence:

  • One-star hotels: €2
  • Two-star hotels: €3
  • Three-star hotels: €4
  • Four-star hotels: €4.80
  • Five-star hotels: €5
  • Residential hotels: €3-4.80, depending on luxury rating
  • B&Bs, Airbnbs, holiday homes: €3
  • Historic residences: €4.80
  • Agriturismi: €2-4, depending on luxury rating
  • Campsites, hostels: €2

Venice is a special case because it charges different rates depending on whether you’re staying in the historic centre (full price), on the Lido or other islands (20 percent less), or on the mainland (30 percent less). For the current rates, see here.

Many councils set a cap on how many nights are taxed: for example, the city of Florence will only tax the first seven nights of your stay, while in Rome the limit is ten nights for hotels, B&Bs and agriturismi, five nights for campsites.

WEEKEND WANDERLUST:

A growing number of Italian cities have a separate rate for Airbnbs. In Bologna, for instance, guests pay 6 percent of the listing price, or a maximum of €5, for up to five nights. For more details, see here.

Some towns lower their rates in the off season, or waive the tax altogether.

You should be able to find full details of what you can expect to pay on each local council’s website (search: “comune di [town] + imposta di soggiorno”).

NB: the occupancy tax is not subject to VAT, so there should be nothing added to the specified charge.

How do you pay the tourist tax?

While many visitors are surprised to find themselves asked for extra cash upon arrival when they think they’ve already paid for their room in full, that can be perfectly normal in Italy: guests pay the occupancy tax directly to their accommodation, which is responsible in turn for declaring and paying it to the local authorities.

If you’ve booked directly with your accommodation, they’ll probably just include it in your bill. The same goes for Airbnb, which now collects the tax on behalf of hosts and includes it what you pay when you reserve. But if you’ve booked via a tour operator or third-party booking site, you will have to pay the tax separately to your host before the end of your stay.

READ ALSO: 15 strange ways to get into trouble on holiday in Italy

However you’re charged, the tax should be transparent. It should be clearly marked on your bill or documented with a receipt upon request if you pay it separately.

And while we’ve heard of guests being told it’s cash only, you’re entitled to pay the tax in cash or by card (though minimum card payments may apply).

Are there any other extra fees for tourists in Italy?

Not exactly. Visitors may find themselves paying slightly more to enter museums and monuments than locals, but that’s just because many sites offer a discount for residents.

Italy’s most overrun city, Venice, has announced it will introduce a “landing fee” aimed at day-trippers who visit the city without staying overnight. Effectively an entry charge, it would range from €2.50-10 depending on the season and apply to all non-residents arriving in the historic centre – though not to visitors who’ve reserved accommodation, who will continue to pay the occupancy tax.

The fee is due to come into effect from January 2020, though many questions remain about how exactly it will be enforced.

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