Page last updated at 14:44 GMT, Thursday, 1 May 2008 15:44 UK

Italy posts income details on web

Italians were curious to see how much their neighbours earned

There has been outrage in Italy after the outgoing government published every Italian's declared earnings and tax contributions on the internet.

The tax authority's website was inundated by people curious to know how much their neighbours, celebrities or sports stars were making.

The Italian treasury suspended the website after a formal complaint from the country's privacy watchdog.

The information was put on the site with no warning for nearly 24 hours.

Sour grapes?

The release of the information was one of the last acts of the outgoing centre-left government and has shocked many tax-shy Italians, says the BBC's Mark Duff in Milan.

But it was also hugely popular, and within hours the site was overwhelmed and impossible to access.

The finance ministry described the move as a bid to improve transparency.

Deputy Economic Minister Vincenzo Visco said he could not understand what all the fuss was about.

"I can't understand what the problem is," he is quoted as telling Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.

"This already exists all around the world, you just have to watch any American soap to see that. We had the system ready by January but we delayed publication to avoid arguments during the election campaign."

But critics condemned it as an outrageous breach of privacy.

I'd hate for my salary to be made public
Gary, UK

The timing of the move, just days before the current administration hands over to incoming Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, was intriguing too, says our correspondent.

The outgoing government came to power promising to tackle Italians' notoriously lax approach to paying tax.

According to an Italian government report from 2007, the amount of unpaid tax in the country is equivalent to 7% of gross domestic product.

Some sceptics have seen the move as just end of term sour grapes, our correspondent adds.

Country profile: Italy
15 Apr 08 |  Country profiles

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