Instead of struggling alone with incomprehensible tax forms, Italians will soon be filing their taxes with the help of ‘Betty,’ an online ‘human digital assistant’. This sophisticated software package, created to simplify and streamline the country’s complicated tax system, will become fully operative by autumn 2007.
This Mediterranean bombshell was created by the Finance Ministry to help self-employed Italians tackle their tax returns with ease online. Betty is a starry-eyed, young brunette with dark brown eyes, an olive complexion and an infinite supply of patience. She is a crucial part of the government’s plan to reduce the country’s tax evasion problem. Head of State Tax Authorities, Massimo Romano, states that ‘Thanks to this strategy, we plan to move away from a passive tax administration to form a more proactive one, which foresees simpler procedures for the tax-payer.’ Romano adds that authorities ‘are aiming at a more pleasant relationship between the two sides’.
Cool, calm and collected, Betty will have to deal with an estimated 90 million tax declarations a year. As an online guide, she is set to steer potential tax-payers through a series of personalized vocal instructions, warning users if they have forgotten important information or made a mistake with tax codes.
Designed to help those willing to file taxes, Betty should actually have an even heavier workload, since many citizens neglect to file. Tax fraud and evasion is a common problem in Italy. Recent reports indicate that Italy’s underground economy equals 30 percent of the national GDP and generates more than 132 billion euro a year.