In an unexpected move, Italian customs agents have begun withholding packages and letters bound for U.S. troops stationed in the country unless the normally waived taxes and duties are paid on the incoming shipments.
Stars and Stripes reported that Italian officials are enforcing a new interpretation of a rule contained in the agreement between the two countries that allows the U.S. to station troops on foreign bases. Normally, mail meant for soldiers stationed at foreign bases is exempt from customs taxes and duties. The new interpretation applies to a host of odd items such as lottery tickets, roasted coffee, typewriter ribbons, nutmeg, hair products and playing cards.
Common items that fall under the heading of living necessities are taxed at a low rate, but for more obscure items, soldiers are now being forced to pay upwards of 22 euros – or about $30 – before the packages can be released from customs.
There are roughly 10,000 servicemembers stationed in Italy, according to CNN, though Italian customs have only held a dozen packages so far.
Representatives from the Navy and the American embassy in Rome continue to meet with Italian officials to resolve the issue.