In Italy people tend to take much greater responsibility for the little details in life than we do in the United States.
Take bills, for instance. Certainly we receive many, too many we often think! But actually, we receive too few in Italy. There are many obligations which we must remember we owe, track down the amount due, and then pay in a timely fashion. These include automotive taxes, health insurance (which we pay for because we are not citizens), automotive insurance, other taxes (income and property – of course! – though the property tax on primary residence has been repealed), and various inspections – motor vehicles, gas heater and so forth. Helpful reminders are not forthcoming, and penalties apply for late payment. We forgot to pay the car tax a couple of years ago and the penalty was substantial – about E 100 if memory serves. Auto registration and driving licenses are also on the list of things we must remember to renew without benefit of a reminder. The Captain has created a great month-by-month calendar on the computer so that we won’t forget what to pay when.
It’s not consistent, though. For example, we receive bills for the TV tax, the Road Access tax (don’t ask), and the Garbage tax, but not for the various taxes noted above. Who decides these things? How do they decide??
And even when help is available its isn’t always, well… helpful. When we bought our tumbling down house in the hills above Rapallo we were stunned to discover that property tax bills were not forthcoming. The Captain went right away to the appropriate office for help in figuring out what we should pay for the ICI (property tax, pronounced ‘eetchie’) each year. They were helpful, and we were thrilled because it was about € 35 a year – a real bargain! When the reconstruction of our house was finished our geometra registered the change of house category with the regional property office, which should, one would think, have triggered a change in taxes owed. (A geometra is a cross between an engineer and an architect, in our case the man who designed the reconstruction and oversaw its realization)
We have always asked a ‘commercialista’ (an accountant) to prepare our Italian taxes, and after a couple of years the man who does them was able to calculate our ICI due from information on record about our house, saving us our annual jaunt to the nice lady in the ICI office. Years passed. The ICI was repealed for primary residences. The very year the repeal went into effect we were summoned to the ICI office; we were in arrears. To make a terribly long story shorter, the ICI office had never updated the valuation of our house, in spite of the category change being registered, so we paid years of taxes on an uninhabited rustico instead of an occupied house. In addition, the house is in both our names (which are different). Each year when the Captain went to the office to ask what we owed and later, when the commercialista took over, the figuring was done on the Captain’s share of the tax. No one realized Farfalle owed tax too.
We were able to negotiate the dismissal of the huge penalties and interest on unpaid taxes since the proper forms had been filed after the work was done. But still, we owed some six years of taxes at a higher rate for the Captain, and all taxes for Farfalle – it was well over € 1,000, a truly horrid surprise.
Another responsibility people in Italy carry is keeping track of their own health records. Certainly doctors will have records but if, for instance, you get an X-ray, the film is given to you to carry home, not filed at the doctor’s office or in the hospital or lab where it was made (do they have copies I wonder? Surely they must). In fact, all lab results are given to the patient, not sent to the doctor. This is very convenient if you decide to visit another doctor for a second opinion. But it’s really inconvenient if you go to the doctor and forget to take your files with you!
Vets do the same thing. Each patient has a ‘libretto’ – a record book of visits, treatments, procedures. I recently disposed of the late Luciano‘s records (with a bit of a cry) which included some mysterious X-rays I couldn’t recognize. A paw, perhaps, or maybe a bit of tail. It was easy to keep track of his records – I simply left them all in his cat carrier. If only I could come up with such a reliable system to keep track of our own records!
We’re in the U.S. now. The Captain had some blood tests done over a week ago. They have not been forwarded to his doctor yet, and the lab absolutely refuses to release the results to him. They treat us like incompetents here. Inconsistent as things are in Italy, at least we are generally treated like adults. And while I may not have brought the results of the Captain’s previous blood tests over here with us, I know where I’ve filed them in Italy. Take that, LabCorp, who can’t manage to get them to an office in the same building within a week! Why not allow us just a little responsibility… but maybe not quite as much as in Italy?