January 11, 2008

Bollo time

I paid the car "bollo" or tax today. At least that was the plan. Turns out that someone else had already paid it yesterday -- obviously a mistake. "So, what do I do?" I asked the woman behind the ACI desk. She didn't seem to know. We all assume that the person who inadvertently paid my car tax instead of his, will notice, eventually, maybe. Unless he happens to look at the receipt before filing it away at home, most likely this moment of awareness will come same time next year when he pays next year's tax, only to find this year's one unpaid and with a fine! Or he will receive a fine in the mail -- probably in five years time (says the woman at the bar to whom I told my story).

But what if he doesn't notice? What if it is a company car and in the midst of piles of accounts no one notices and just pays again.

My fellow cappuccino clients at the bar next door conferred and the general consensus was to wait and see....maybe I have won a kind of bureaucratic lottery -- "free car tax for one year, get your tickets here". No one said that I should do the right thing and pay so that my car would be covered twice over until the truth comes out. At worst, I will have to pay a modest fine for paying late.

Ah yes, the Italians do thrive in ambiguous situations, it gets their blood circulating, they come alive, full of ideas on how to beat the system. They loved the idea that I had done it, although by chance. I had made their day.

But it boils down to a question of "risk tolerance" and as I have seen on other occasions, I often fail this exam, pay up, park properly or whatever, just to reduce the anxiety of ambiguity.

a domani,


Enrico said...

Elizabeth, very thought-provoking, as usual. I'm not very good at dealing with ambiguity: if that had happened to me, I would have paid the bollo again, just in case!!
Perhaps I'm not Italian enough...:(

Buon anno a te!


Jadie said...

Oh, certainly I would not pay it! I'd be far more interested to see how this played out, and whatever fine I might eventually get would be worth the ride. Isn't it funny how these tendencies can be cross-cultural? I'm a San Franciscan, but always eager to take the opportunities to outwit the authorities!

Jennifer said...

I love the expression you used: Risk tolerance. Mine is close to zero and it drives my Italian tax consultant crazy. He is always laying out the risks of exploiting gray areas for me, reminding me that something is completely permissable, but I could potentially (but not likely) get stuck with a fine. And still I pay. As for the bollo, I'd probably lose far too much sleep over whether or not to pay it. And then just pay it in the end so I wouldn't have to worry.

My Italian husband on the other hand, I don't think he'd pay.

jennifer said...

Hi Elizabeth,
I came here via Italian Trivia, and find everything you write right on the money. My compliments.
Oh, the mysteries of living in Italy... I had become just Italian enough that I would have paid for everyone's cappucino to celebrate.

Tina C. said...

why didn't you pay his fine for him? quid pro quo.

Elizabeth Abbot said...

THis was fun! Hi Enrico--no, you are not Italian enough. Try again.
Jadie is instead!
Jennifer 1: I have a post back somewhere under "ambiguity" on an Italian lawyer "explaining" labor law risk tolerance to a novice American.
Jennifer 2: offering a round of cappucinos -- perfect!