No way. Bringing the threshold for cash expenses from the current € 3,000 to € 2,000 (as will happen from July 1st) will not bring out the shadow economy. At most, it will only be able to enrich banks which, on the commissions applied to digital payments, are rebuilding their wealth. Roofs and limitations cannot change the habits of Italians and above all they can only scratch the black circuits. They run on different channels than the legal ones.
To highlight that there is no direct correlation between the limitation of cash and the decrease in undeclared money is a report by the Fondazione Studi Consulenti del Lavoro entitled “The use of cash in Italy between needs and habits”. An analysis that dismantles the vulgar that the widespread use of cash is associated with the presence of high levels of hidden economy. According to this idea, in fact, black payments, sub-invoicing, irregular wages imply currency transactions carried out outside the traceable circuit of payments.
Yet, the report notes, looking at the periods affected by the restrictions on the use of cash, there are no particular variations. Indeed thresholds and stakes have never discouraged the smart ones who hide taxable. The absolute value of the irregular economy has, in fact, always grown, going from 202 billion euros in 2011 to 210 billion in 2017 (+ 3.9%). The assumption according to which the more cards are used and the more the State collects, is refuted by the fact that the increase in black was always recorded both during the periods in which the maximum limit of use of cash was 1,000 euros, and in subsequent years in which the threshold was raised to € 3,000. In short, the big tax brother would have his weapons popped up in front of the (negative obviously) Italian genius in hiding his earnings.
Labor consultants therefore report that tax evasion is not only defeated with the passage from cash to the so-called cashless world. The phenomenon of the underground economy originates in a plurality of factors. First of all economic, but also cultural (civic sense and respect for the rules), due to the complexity and clumsiness of the administrative and fiscal systems, effectiveness of controls, presence of crime. In this regard, even if the circulation of cash remains one of the methods chosen to carry out some criminal cases (corruption, extortion, money laundering), the offenders use advanced and sophisticated financial instruments not related to the use of banknotes.
The survey also highlights how the experience of other European countries does not seem to bring significant evidence on the effectiveness of the limitations on the use of cash for the purpose of containing the irregular economy. Moreover, as early as 2019, the European Central Bank drew the attention of the Government to a number of other aspects, including the value of inclusion in the economy that cash allows certain social groups, such as the elderly less accustomed to use of electronic money.
Furthermore, there is no doubt that the contraction in income, due to the downturn due to the pandemic crisis of these months, creates further difficulties in sustaining any costs deriving from transactions with electronic money. “The limit to the circulation of cash certainly helps to combat illegality, but the interventions that go in this direction, in order to be truly incisive, must be structural,” said Rosario De Luca, President of the Fondazione Studi Consulenti del Lavoro. «Think first of all of the technological infrastructure, the shortcomings of which, for example relating to the Internet, do not facilitate the use of credit cards. Then, not a secondary aspect is that of the costs for their use, which heavily affect payments. Also in this case the example is simple: if you use 100 euros in cash for a payment and that sum is placed on the market, after having made several passes between various consumers it returns to the first user with the same value. If the same operation is performed with electronic money, those 100 euros will be reduced by bank charges and will therefore lose their initial value. Finally, – added De Luca – it is necessary to harmonize the minimum limit in all the countries of the Union in order to avoid differences that create distortions in the internal markets “.