Italy, like much of western Europe, considers television a “public good” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_good ) and to pay for it, taxes every household with a television to the tune of 100 Euro a year.
No, you don’t get ad-free television. And yes, you get plenty of all-singing, all-dancing, celebrity special guest spectaculars, with scantily-clad showgirls and crooners whose heyday was during the Carter administration. Suffice it to say, I’m not a fan. I could probably easily give up the TV were it not for bike racing, which I will admit RAI does a good job of covering. I’ve often considered officially giving up the television, which apparently involves a fairly entertaining procedure: since they can’t actually come and take it away from you, the official procedure is that they show up at your home and put the television in a sack and place an official seal on it. I think it might be worth giving up the TV just to see if they actually turn up and carry out the TV bagging.
Anyway, normally the TV tax is just one more annoyance, but not that big a deal, so you pay it and forget about it.
However, it appears that RAI’s computers got it in their heads that we lived in Italy during 2007 and 2008, when we were actually in Austria the entire time, and have now sent our “bill” to a collection agency.
I have slowly been working my way backwards through the various agencies and phone numbers to try and explain that we were not in Italy and thus are not going to pay taxes. The woman I talked to today explained that we should have been the ones to communicate to RAI that we were no longer living in Italy and so we were still responsible for the taxes, unless we can send them a backdated notice explaining that we were indeed living elsewhere, with documents proving said residence abroad. Sent, naturally, via a registered letter with notice of reception. That may be enough to clear us of having to pay the “past due” taxes, which have now ballooned to 300 euro with fees, interest, etc… etc… Presumably, I will not be able to add fees and interest for my own time wasted trying to explain that we did not reside in the country those years.