Judicial sources say Silvio Berlusconi has asked to serve his one-year sentence for tax fraud helping disabled people.
A court in Milan has until next Tuesday to decide how the time should be spent following his conviction last year.
Prison is thought unlikely because of the former prime minister’s age – he is 77. House arrest or community service are far more probable.
Berlusconi’s lawyers suggested to the court that their client could “motivate” disabled people at a new home to be opened outside Milan.
Earlier, sources said a government agency had asked the court to order Berlusconi to work once a week in a care home for the elderly and disabled.
The ruling will be crucial in determining what role he can play in public life. Following the conviction he was banned from public office for two years.
Berlusconi has faced several court cases. He has also been found guilty of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his power.
The sentence for tax fraud was his first definitive conviction. The politician continues to protest his innocence in the case.
Since the verdict last year Berlusconi has seen several Forza Italia politicians split from the party he still leads, to back the coalition government.
His party may appeal to the European Court for Human Rights over the ban from public office. On Wednesday two MPs took the case to Strasbourg.