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 Prepaid gas coupons, which have been used for many years, are on their way out in Italy.
Prepaid gas coupons, which have been used for many years, are on their way out in Italy. (Sandra Jontz/Stars and Stripes)

VICENZA, Italy — U.S. Navy and Italian officials are planning to replace prepaid coupons to buy tax-free gas with debit cards after a two-month pilot program ended last week.

“We do intend to transition because it allows for an increased level of oversight and monitoring that includes reduced risks for fraud, misuse and fuel overages through electronic monitoring,” said Navy Lt. Timothy Pietrack, a spokesman for the Navy’s Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia foreign tax relief office, which administers the program for the U.S. military in Italy.

When the change for people with vehicles registered through the Navy command will occur isn’t clear. Nor has it been determined which gas stations would contract to use the cards or whether households with more than one driver would receive more than one card.

“A lot of this is still in negotiation,” Pietrack said. “They’re working out the details and contracting processes. There’s a multitude of folks that are in this process.”

Monthly fuel allotments based on engine size won’t change, Pietrack said.

The cards have proved popular during the pilot program, Pietrack said, particularly because they allow people to refuel when Italian gas stations are closed on weekends, holidays and daily during the three-hour midday break, or “riproso.”

The move to replace the coupons comes more than a decade after a similar switch for U.S. forces in Germany. In 2006, the German Finance Ministry requested doing away with the paper coupons because they’d been counterfeited, sold, stolen and otherwise mishandled over the years, depriving Germany of tax revenue.

In 2007, an on-base shoppette burglary in Heidelberg netted about $325,000 in gas coupons.

In addition, Esso, which had contracted to accept the coupons, was threatening to stop after paying fines totaling some 800,000 euros to the German government for accepting coupons from unauthorized users.

montgomery.nancy@stripes.comTwitter: @montgomerynance

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