Italy's rich get richer despite crisis: study

Tue Mar 9, 2010 12:38pm EST
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By Lisa Jucca

MILAN (Reuters) - Wealthy Italians have grown richer during the economic crisis thanks to money shipped home under a generous tax amnesty, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study.

The combined wealth of Italy's richest 640,000 families was up 19 percent at a record 882 billion euros ($1.2 trillion) at the end of 2009, according to the survey, carried out with the University of Parma.

The richest families were defined as those holding at least 500,000 euros in financial assets.

The bulk of the increase was 85 billion euros repatriated at the end of 2009 under an Italian tax amnesty on assets held in secret accounts in Switzerland and other countries.

While the rich were increasing their wealth in 2009, Italy's economy contracted by 5 percent, the largest drop in post-war history.

Wealthy Italian families are again expected to increase their fortunes in 2010, this time with an overall rise of 5.3 percent, according to the report.

The Italian government began a tax amnesty September, waiving penalties on hidden assets with the payment of a upfront fee of 5 percent on the amounts declared. The amnesty was to have ended in December but has been extended until April, with the fee now 7 percent.

The government has said 95 billion euros held illegally overseas was declared between September and December under the program.   Continued...

<p>Italian shoppers stroll along Condotti street during the Christmas season in downtown Rome December 21, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico</p>