Berlusconi Challenges Saccomanni Over Italian Residence Tax

Italian Finance Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni was challenged by Silvio Berlusconi, the government’s second-biggest backer in parliament, over the Treasury’s reluctance to abolish a tax on primary residences.

“We must not pay it any longer, from 2013 through all the years yet to come,” Berlusconi, a three-time former premier and now a senator, said today in an e-mailed statement. The disagreement over the tax “is a battle for liberty,” he said.

Berlusconi, 76, was responding to a document published by Saccomanni late yesterday presenting nine possible adjustments to the tax, known as IMU. Simply canceling IMU on primary residences “doesn’t seem fully justifiable” and might be unfair and inefficient, the finance ministry said.

Berlusconi and his allies are digging in over IMU as the rival forces in Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s coalition seek to appeal to voters. Turmoil stemming from Berlusconi’s criminal tax-fraud conviction, upheld on final appeal last week, is straining Letta’s three-month-old alliance and raising the possibility of snap elections.

“We won’t ever come up short on our commitment over IMU,” Berlusconi said. “It’s a commitment underlying the government agreement with Prime Minister Letta, but also and above all a fundamental stimulus to restart our economy.”

Berlusconi has denied wrongdoing in the tax-fraud case, tied to the purchase of film rights by his Mediaset SpA broadcaster.

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