The ‘Law of the return of brains to Italy’, opportunities and difficulties

As Kilpatrick has international hubs in various parts of the world, for years our clients have been asking our consultants to go ‘hunting’ abroad and bring the brains that have been leaving back to our country.  Unfortunately, in most cases, they declined our requests. In fact, Italy was unattractive to minds in search of innovation, multiculturalism, autonomy and faster growth and, as a rule, Italians preferred to continue their professional careers abroad.

The trend in recent years, however, has clearly changed for Italians abroad, and not only do people listen to us and show more interest in our calls, but it is even the candidates themselves who contact us and show interest in returning to Italy alone or with their families.


Italy becomes more attractive to professionals

Those who return today do so not out of nostalgia, but because, for the first time in recent years, they see professional opportunities in line with their know-how.

Certainly the quality of life in Italy is better than in many other countries. Candidates consider the private as well as professional life aspects positively, but also relational aspects, the education system, health, culture and also the logistical aspect.

Furthermore, Covid has awakened the desire to be close to one’s loved ones. The scale of values has changed, and whereas before people returned only to improve their career, today they return for something else.

The Italian government’s response to defiscalise the packages of returnees is widely perceived as one of the best in Europe and is a great help in attracting or calling workers back to our country.


But what do our clients ask us to find abroad?

Professionals who have had the opportunity to measure themselves against companies that are more advanced in the digitisation process. In Italy, there are many companies in every sector that are going through driven Digital Transformation processes, but there are still too few skills and often too expensive. Clearly we are not just talking about technical skills but the appropriate mindset to guide the company and the teams through the change.


Italy is increasingly attractive to private equity funds, which see great potential in the country but need managers accustomed to international and multicultural environments to guide the acquired companies through the process of change. This is where the international pool becomes attractive for this type of reality.


Small and medium-sized companies also have a strong need to bring in methodology, new and international experience.  They need new brains that can internationalise and innovate to survive and to grow, and who they ask to evaluate people abroad.


It is important to point out that the law does not only apply to Italians, but also to foreign candidates who can benefit from the tax exemption to the same extent as our compatriots.


Made in Italy

Made in Italy has, fortunately, still its sex appeal. Italians are recognised for their creativity and our land is one of the most beautiful in which to live and raise children. Keep in mind that often the alternatives that foreign candidates have are not really Paris, Zurich or Barcelona but perhaps less emblazoned locations, more pleasant places where it is more difficult to raise a family. It is therefore clear that Italy becomes the most viable and pleasant choice for foreign candidates.


With foreigners, it is necessary to use levers of attraction pushed to better ‘sell’ the Italian product and bring managers to the negotiating table.  At Kilpatrick we use pushed marketing actions precisely to attract this type of candidate.


It is important to follow the process step by step, to reassure candidates and to convey professionalism, seriousness and competence right from the start. We recommend, in case one is not an expert, having the candidate and his or her family handled by a good professional who can answer all their technical questions. The cartridges to fire with foreigners are few and must be used well from the start.


Talent retention

Once we have been able to bring or bring back the worker to Italy, however, we must be able to retain him or her: it is not enough to work on actions that encourage return, but people want to be capitalised, valued, otherwise we risk losing them again. 

Especially if we are talking about foreign candidates, the risk of rejection is very high and we must be aware of the difficulties we are facing. It is better to desist rather than hire people who are perfect on paper but culturally clash with our reality. It would be destabilising for them, their family and our employees. If one chooses to go down this road, one must put in place actions aimed at integration and sharing, and the candidate must be taken in hand and followed step by step in his or her Italian adventure.


Tax benefits difficulties 

It should be noted that the path to bringing or bringing a candidate back to Italy from abroad is an obstacle course and, in some cases, there are many bureaucratic difficulties. In fact, remember that the tax benefit belongs to the individual and not to the company, and it is necessary for the individual to issue a self-declaration certifying that he or she meets the requirements to be able to obtain the tax relief. The company acts as a tax withholding agent but, as it does not know the personal situation of the applicant, it cannot take responsibility for deciding whether or not to apply the tax relief. 

And it is precisely this critical point that sends companies, candidates and us headhunters into difficulty, who are caught between two fires. We have to try to calm down and give answers that are not always clear and that are not the business of any of the three actors involved in the project. 


The advice therefore is, when deciding to take the path of attracting candidates from abroad who are entitled to apply the law of brain return, to identify professionals who are experts in the field to contact directly with the candidate in order to better manage this complex issue with so many nuances to be taken into account.


If Kilpatrick is looking for the right talent for you, our network can provide you with the right professional who can help you apply the tax reduction rule. Start looking abroad now and contact us here