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Outrage over Berlusconi tax letter

SICILY – Silvio Berlusconi is trying to buy votes in Italy’s election on Sunday by sending out letters promising a tax rebate, his rivals have alleged.

Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani labelled it a “scam”, while the leader of a smaller party accused Berlusconi of committing a crime.

The letter was sent to voters in swing regions. It vows to scrap the property tax brought in under ex-Prime Minister Mario Monti and pay voters back.

Berlusconi had already made the pledge on the campaign trail, but putting it in a letter outraged his opponents.

“If I’d crossed paths with Berlusconi after the letter was sent, I’d have told him he’s a cheat,” said Bersani, whose lead in the polls has been gradually cut back by Berlusconi.

The letter came in an official-looking envelope, headed: “Important notice: reimbursement of IMU 2012.”

Proposed refund

“The refund will be available either through a transfer into your bank account, or to you personally at the counter of the post office,” the letter said, according to Reuters.

It was sent to millions of households in Sicily, Veneto, Campania and Lombardy – key regions which could decide the result of the election, which is held on Sunday and Monday.

The IMU tax amounts to 0.4 per cent of the value of a property owner’s primary residence, and is comparable to similar taxes levied elsewhere in Europe.

Polls have shown it is the most unpopular of the budget measures brought in by the Monti government to try to restore confidence in Italy’s finances.

Berlusconi has declared: “The house is sacred. It should not be taxed.”

But Monti retorted: “When I said that Berlusconi would try to buy the votes of the Italian people with the money of the state, I didn’t think he would [do it] to the letter.” (BBC)

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