Set up a business in Italy: the basics

| March 19, 2020

Cinque Terre

Thinking of moving to Italy and invest in a B&B or a wine producing farm for example?

It is a great idea as Italy – the 3rd-largest national economy in the eurozone and the 8th by nominal GDP in the world – can be defined as a relevant business destination.

And now it is the perfect time to prepare your strategy, write a strong business plan, evaluate pros and cons, so you will be ready when conditions will be favorable.

What is more, the Italian Government and EU authorities are aware of the importance that foreign investments represent for each country economy, so they usually provide numerous incentives to those who invest in Italy, especially in the tourism, agricultural, manufacturing and foodstuff sectors.

This article will give you all the necessary information about how to set up a business in Italy.

Who can start a business activity in Italy?

A non-Italian investor (companies or individuals) can open a company in Italy subject to the condition of reciprocity (i.e. when a similar right is granted to Italians in their country of origin). However a prospect investor does not face any problems in the following cases:

  • citizen of a Member State of the European Union;
  • citizen of one of the States of the European Economic Area (EEA) – including also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – or Switzerland;
  • citizen of a country that has an international agreement with Italy (e.g. agreement governing international investment, treaty of friendship and trade, or similar);
  • has a refugee or stateless person status.

It is also necessary to mention that overseas investors can easily become associated in a local business (as shareholders or directors), as there are no special requirements imposed in this sense.

Steps to take to set up your business

If you want to relocate to Italy for business purposes, you will need a residence permit and in order to obtain it, you must apply at the Italian Consulate in the country in which you are resident, prior to relocating to the bel paese. More info about residency in Italy? Click here.

In order to register a company in Italy, several steps must be taken and they generally refer to the registration with the local authorities, notarizing the company’s documents with a local public notary, as well as registering for taxation matters.

  1. draft your memorandum (Atto costitutivo) and articles of association (Statuto) and notarize them at a public notary in Italy;
  2. deposit all the required documents with the Register of Enterprises in Italy (Registro imprese) at the local Chamber of Commerce;
  3. buy corporate books and accounting books, as specified by the Article 2478 of the Italian Civil Code and, when hiring employees, it is necessary to register them with the Labor Office and to notify the institution each time when a new employee is hired (the notification has to be sent one day prior to starting the employment contract).

Together with the certificate of incorporation, the company will also receive a tax identification number and a VAT number (partita IVA), which is a number valid all around EU and in other Countries with specific international agreements with Italy and allows Italian companies to make business (sales, import, partnership etc.) with their counterparts all around the world.

In Italy, all companies performing commercial activities are required to register for taxation purposes. At the moment, the Italian authorities apply a corporate tax at the rate of 24%.

Once the company is registered, there are a few more steps to follow before starting any business operations on the local market, such as the registration with the Social Security Administration and the Accident Insurance Office (INPS and INAIL). Provided that the registered company is involved in trading activities, it must also register for an EORI number in Italy.

What if you are a freelance

Working from home or in a shared workspace and your business costs are minimal, you can work in Italy as a lavoratore autonomo or libero professionista. So also the taxation and other administrative costs will be lower. What you need to do is applying for a Partita Iva at the Agenzia delle Entrate (Revenue Office) and enroll for social security administration at INPS under the Gestione Separata category.


Andrea Parisi is the principal of the “Andrea Parisi Law” firm. Qualified in Italy as an Avvocato in 2002, he specializes in commercial litigation and Private International Law, providing legal representation before Italian Courts in complex and high-value cross-border disputes and can offer consulting services both in Italian and English. See other author’s posts

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