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Sardinia scraps luxury taxes

If you’re planning on visiting or perhaps investing in property in Sardinia, the good news is that it’s going to be cheaper to do so, thanks to plans unveiled by new governor Ugo Cappellacci.

The small print, however, is that his plans will benefit you primarily if you’re already among the ranks of the super-rich.

Mr Cappellacci has scrapped the luxury taxes introduced by predecessor Renato Soru in 2006. That tax regime saw owners of yachts between 14 metres and 16 metres long having to fork out €1,000 to moor at any of Sardinia’s ports, the levy rising to €15,000on vessels larger than 60 metres. There was also a surcharge for private planes to use Sardinia’s airports.

Mr Cappellacci, who took office in February, outlined his new plans as he presented a draft budget to local trade union chiefs this week.

He also intends to relax the strict planning laws on building near the coast, introduced for environmental protection in the 1960s as the Aga Khan revamped the Costa Smeralda in Sardinia’s north-east corner.

The new governor insisted his less-strict policy framework will contain guarantees to safeguard the environment. But he also took a swipe at some members of the green lobby, comparing them to religious fanatics as he stormed: “It’s time to put an end to this cliché about some people wanting to cement over the coast while others want to safeguard natural beauty. It’s a Taliban vision of environmental policy.”

The proposed law change will cheer the multi-millionaire and billionaire elite who own homes in Sardinia and pack the resorts of the Costa Smeralda, such as flamboyant Formula One owner Flavio Briatore, who runs a nightclub, aptly called Billionaire, on the island, and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, said to own seven villas. By the by, Mr Cappellacci’s father Guiseppe just happens to be the Italian leader’s tax adviser.

Former Sardinia supremo Mr Soru, a centre-left governor and also a billionaire, introduced the taxes on the super-rich three years ago.

He argued the move would reduce private plane and yacht journeys – perhaps somewhat debatable given the wealth of the individuals he was targeting – and generate resources for the island’s economy.

He was backed by American real estate tycoon Tom Barrack, who owns large swathes of real estate along the Costa Smeralda and who agreed the wealthy should “pay a small price to help preserve this island's unique beauty”.

But their vision suffered their first major blow in February 2008, when the Constitutional Court scrapped another levy the governor had imposed on holiday homes built within 3km of the coastline.

That blow became a death knell with last month’s election victory by Mr Cappellacci, almost a political nobody until Mr Berlusconi handpicked him to run against the incumbent Mr Soru. His triumph saw Italian opposition leader Walter Veltroni quit his post.

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