Conversion into law of the ‘Employment Decree’ on social security and welfare

20 July 2023

The text converting Italian Decree-Law No 48/2023 into law, also known as the ‘Employment Decree’, was published in the Italian Official Gazette on 3 July 2023. We set out below our comments on some of the main changes in the social security and welfare sphere.

Measures relating to reliefs and reduction of employment costs in the ‘Employment Decree’ 

As known, Italian Decree-Law No 48/2023, also known as the ‘Employment Decree’, in force since 5 May 2023, had introduced, among other things, measures aimed at reducing the tax wedge, combating poverty and social exclusion and promoting active employment policies, introducing certain incentives for employers who hire particular categories of workers, i.e. Inclusion Allowance recipients, so-called ‘NEETs’ and the disabled, and providing for an increase in the partial exemption on the old-age/survivor’s pension (indennità vecchiaia e superstiti, ‘IVS’) contribution paid by employees and the tax and social security exemption threshold of fringe benefits.

With the publication of Law No 85/2023 in the Italian Official Gazette of 3 July 2023, converting the ‘Employment Decree’, the legislator has not changed the initial structure of the Decree-law in question, fully confirming the measures indicated above, and has also introduced some significant initiatives regarding the reduction of employment costs for employers operating in the tourism/hotel sector.

Relief for recruitment of inclusion allowance recipients

The Inclusion Allowance (which comes into effect from 1 January 2024) is a financial support measure granted to households meeting specific income requirements and where at least one of the members of the household is, alternatively:

  • a disabled person;
  • a minor;
  • a person over sixty years of age or
  • a person in receipt of invalidity benefit.  

The Law converting the ‘Employment Decree’, confirmed the provisions of Article 10 of the Decree which introduce, from 1 January 2024, a contribution exemption which may be used up to a maximum of 12 months. This can be extended to 24 months if a fixed term contract is converted into a full-time contract, in the case of recruitment by an employer of future beneficiaries of the Inclusion Allowance.

The contribution relief is a 100% exemption from the social security contributions payable by the employer, with the exclusion of premiums and contributions due to National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work (Istituto Nazionale Assicurazione contro gli Infortuni sul Lavoro, ‘INAIL’), up to a maximum limit of EUR 8,000 per year for 12 months.  The exemption applies to permanent employment contracts, whether full-time or part-time, and apprenticeship contracts. 

The relief is also granted to private employers who recruit Inclusion Allowance recipients under a fixed-term or seasonal employment contract, for a maximum period of 12 months – unless a shorter contract is envisaged. In this case, the exemption is 50% of the total social security contributions payable by an employer, up to a maximum limit of EUR 4,000, excluding INAIL premiums. The provision is also confirmed whereby, in the event that a temporary employee is taken on full-time, the relief in question may be applied for a total of 24 months of which the first 12 refer to the fixed term contract (maximum EUR 4,000.00 per year) and, if the contract is converted to a full-time contract, for a further 12 months (maximum EUR 8,000.00 per year). 

Relief for the recruitment of young ‘NEETs’ 

The ‘Employment Decree’ has introduced further relief for private companies who recruit ‘NEETs’ (persons ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’) from 1 June 2023 to 31 December 2023, i.e. young people under 30 who are not engaged in instruction, work or training courses, subject to the obligation to register in the ‘Youth employment initiative’ national operational program. 

The ‘Employment Decree’ conversion Law also confirms the provisions which grant the incentive to private employers, subject to an online application to be submitted to the Italian National Social Security Entity (Istituto nazionale della previdenza sociale, ‘INPS’), who recruit NEETs under permanent contracts – including under agency supply contracts – or under vocational or trade apprenticeship contracts. The duration of the incentive is 12 months, during which the employer is paid a contribution of 60% of the gross monthly salary taxable for social security purposes, for new recruitment of young people: 

  • under 30 on the date of recruitment;
  • who qualify as ‘NEET,’ i.e., not working and not in education or training at the time of recruitment;
  • that are registered with the ‘Youth Employment Initiative’ national operational program which is the so-called European ‘Youth Guarantee’ to combat youth unemployment. 

From an analysis of the text of the Law converting the ‘Employment Decree’, it is believed that the ‘NEET’ relief may be used with the other incentives and tax exemptions provided for by current legislation, in particular with the ‘Under 36’ incentive due to the ‘common’ scope of application. In the event of accumulation of several incentives, the ‘NEET’ incentive will be reduced from 60% to 20% of the gross monthly taxable salary for social security purposes for each ‘NEET’ employee recruited. 

Incentives for the employment of people with disabilities  

With the aim of boosting the professional skills and labour market inclusion of young people under 35 with disabilities, the provisions of Article 28 of the Employment Decree are confirmed by the Law converting said decree. These provisions established a fund for third-sector entities, voluntary associations, and non-profit organisations that are willing to enter into permanent employment contracts between 1 August 2022 and 31 December 2023 with persons with disabilities.

Reduction of the ‘tax wedge’ 

With a view to increasing employees’ net pay due to the cut in the social security contribution or ‘tax wedge’ (cuneo fiscale) the provisions of Article 39 of the Employment Decree are confirmed by its conversion Law. These provisions raised by 4% the partial exemption on the portion of social security contributions for IVS borne by employees for pay periods from 1 July 2023 to 31 December 2023, excluding the 13th month’s pay. In the light of this provision, the already provided exemption is then increased to 7% if the taxable salary does not exceed EUR 1,923.00 per month and to 6% up to EUR 2,692.00 a month.

Tax reduction for night work and overtime for the tourism/hotel sector

With the aim of ensuring permanent employment and to make up for the exceptional lack of job offers in the tourism, accommodation and spa sector, the ‘Employment Decree’ conversion law introduced a new Article 39 bis. This article provides that, for the period from 1 June 2023 to 21 September 2023, private sector employees in the tourism sector, including spas, who earned employment income of less than EUR 40,000.00 in the 2022 tax period, will be paid a special supplement, which does not contribute to the calculation of income, of 15% of gross wages paid in relation to night work and overtime work, under Italian Legislative Decree No 66/2003, carried out on public holidays. The substitute tax regime must be requested in writing by the employee, with a declaration of the amount of the employee income earned in 2022, while the withholding agent offsets the credit accrued under the special supplement by offsetting through the F24 form.

Fringe benefits  

With the Law converting the ‘Employment Decree’, for 2023 only and derogating from the provisions of Article 51, paragraph 3, of the Italian Income Tax Consolidation Act (Italian Presidential Decree No 917/1986, Testo unico delle imposte sui redditi, ‘TUIR’), the provisions of Article 40 of the Decree are confirmed. Under this provision, for a single employee with dependent children for tax purposes under Article 23 of TUIR – including if recognised (riconosciuti) or adopted children – or whose income does not exceed the threshold for being considered tax dependent, equal to EUR 2,840.51 or EUR 4,000.00 if they are under 24 years old, the tax exemption limit for fringe benefits is to be raised from EUR 258.23 to EUR 3,000.00 per year per individual employee. The benefits can also be paid ad personam and can include sums reimbursed or paid by the employer for the payment of domestic utilities for the integrated water service, electricity and natural gas.

Failure to pay social security withholding taxes

The decree provides for a reduction of administrative sanctions in the event of non-payment of social security withholding taxes. In the event of failure to pay social security withholding taxes of less than EUR 10,000.00, the new fine is set at one and a half times to four times the amount not paid (previously, the fine was EUR 10,000.00 to EUR 50,000.00).

Furthermore, for breaches arising from failure to pay from 1 January 2023, notice of details of the breach must be given by 31 December of the second year following that of the year of the breach.

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