Untruthful tax return: criminal and tax penalties

The Supreme Criminal Court with the decision n. 4439/2021 ruled that in the case of an untruthful tax return and a similar tax crime, there is no “ne bis in idem”.

The case concerned criminal proceedings for the breach of untruthful tax returns. The taxpayer had complied with the tax assessment and paid the tax, penalties and interest. In the criminal proceedings, for which he had been sanctioned with a four-month imprisonment penalty, he claimed ne bis in idem, since he had already paid the tax penalty.

The Court of the second instance rejected the appeal and the taxpayer appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court rejected the appeal and ruled that both penalties were applied in line with Italian and international law. The provision of the Italian penalty system about the untruthful declaration, which provides for the application of both criminal and tax penalties, would not be in breach of the ne bis in idem provision as also stated by the Constitutional Court in decisions no. 222/2019 and 43/2018.

The Supreme Court pointed out that the penalty imposed was not considered to be too heavy.

The “double track” system is justified by the importance of national financial interests: the administrative procedure is aimed at recovering unpaid taxes, the criminal procedure is aimed at preventing and prosecuting tax offences.

Cecilia Breviglieri