Confcommercio, the Italian General Confederation of enterprises, professions and self-employment, recently issued a report dedicated to the Italian transport system. The report, dated October 2018, provides food for thought on the domestic transport and logistics system, also from a tax point of view. This system is characterised by a complex mix of transport methodologies, including road, rail, sea and air, which combine to create a system of intermodal transports.
The European policies on transports are based on the so-called polluter pays principle, i.e. on a modal rebalancing. This principle aims to reduce the negative impact of transports leading to high social costs, which require a public intervention. According to said polluter pay principle, a series of obligations and prohibitions are introduced, creating an environmental taxation system, in order to absorb the relevant social costs.
The commercial road haulage sector in Italy benefits from various incentives aimed at fostering its competitiveness and at supporting the polluter pay and modal rebalancing principles.
The nature and scope of these incentives need to be evaluated keeping in mind the major contribution provided by this industry in terms of indirect taxation: although making up approx. 1% of value added and of employment, it actually contributes to 6.2% of indirect tax. Therefore, the incentives cannot be considered a preferential treatment.
Incentives for the transport industry
The measures for the commercial road haulage sector introduced in the last few years are based on the EU principles above and, besides traditional incentives, new initiatives aimed at promoting the use of “cleaner”, less polluting vehicles have been implemented, i.e. incentives for those who substitute the vehicles in use with electric, natural gas or euro 6 vehicles, semi-trailers for intermodal transport and swap bodies. In addition, two measures to foster combined rail and sea transport have also been introduced, called “Ferrobonus” and “Marebonus”.
Both measures promoting road-rail and road-sea intermodality were introduced with the 2016 budget law (art. 1, para. 647, 648 and 649 of law n. 208 dated 21/12/2015).
The so-called “Ferrobonus” consists in a contribution (up to max 2.50 Euro/Km) for each train-kilometre of intermodal or transhipped transport carried out and is aimed at rail or road haulage companies, which commit themselves to maintain given volumes of traffic for the 2 years subsequent to the obtainment of the contribution.
The “Marebonus” (not combinable with other government incentives) instead, consists in a contribution for the introduction of new services on given maritime routes or the improvement of existing ones (i.e. reduction of the environmental impact, improvement of ground services, frequency of service, safety, ITS technology, etc.) and is compulsorily transferred by the benefitting companies to their business clients (70% to 80% and 100% for shipping companies operating under an agreement with Public Administrations).
In the light of the above, the Italian legislator needs to pay particular attention to these incentives, considering (i) the rapidly evolving dynamics of trading exchanges in terms of infrastructural needs, (ii) the clear preference for rail transport over road transport and (iii) the need to improve analysis and evaluation instruments used to monitor traffic and the effectiveness of planned interventions.