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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 November, 2004, 17:01 GMT
Italy 'text tax' sparks outrage
By David Willey
BBC News in Rome

A man speaks on his mobile phone
Italians own more mobile phones per head than any other country
Italians have reacted angrily to government proposals to bring in a tax on mobile phone text messages.

With 27 billion text messages sent by Italy's residents last year, even a small surtax could raise a fortune.

But Italians - who own more mobile phones and send more text messages per head of population than any other nation - are unlikely to support it.

The plan was put forward as a way to help Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi fulfil election promises to cut taxes.

Cold water

Even the government's communications minister, Maurizio Gasparri, poured cold water on the proposal.

"Better try to impose a two Euro cent tax on every word a politician speaks," he said. "Think how much that would bring in."

The plan was set out in parliament last week as part of the prime minister's attempt to cut taxes and slash government spending.

One of the partners in Mr Berlusconi's centre-right ruling coalition calculated that a tax of just over one American cent on every text message would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars.

Extra-marital activities

Texting has become the favourite method of communication for teenagers in Italy.

Students rejected the idea of a surtax as "ridiculous" and "absolutely stupid".

Overall, about 10,000 messages are sent from Italian mobile phones every second of every day.

Opponents of the proposed surtax argue it could be illegal in any case. Italians already pay VAT on each text they send, so adding a surtax on top of that may be against the law.

But there could be one advantage to Italians if the measure was passed and resulted in fewer texts being sent.

Italy's largest private investigation company said last year that in nearly 90% of cases, it is people's mobile phone which reveals or betrays extra-marital activities.




SEE ALSO:
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11 Jun 04 |  Europe
Papal message goes mobile
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