For most of my adult life, I was self-employed. I earned a modest income, gave receipts, paid my VAT and Bituach Leumi and sent in my annual tax report. My husband was employed by a company so he was taxed at source. My account was so simple that I didn’t even employ an accountant.
One day, many years ago, I received a phone call from the VAT office telling me that they were sending an inspector to check my records and that I must prepare all my documents from the past seven years. We climbed up to the top cupboard where I had fortunately kept all those documents in their original files, including the annual certifications that all my taxes were paid.
The inspector arrived early one morning and I seated him at my desk in my home office together with records going back seven years. He was pleasant enough and I asked him whether I should offer him a cup of coffee or would that be interpreted as a bribe. He laughed and accepted the coffee; I even gave him two digestive biscuits.
He finished later in the afternoon, apologizing and telling me that he had not found any discrepancies. I asked him whether he did not think that it was a waste of time to spend a whole day checking such a modest and straightforward account and he said: “They don't have time to chase the sharks so they focus only on the little fish.”
After the episode of my VAT inspection, I hired an accountant who processes my annual accounts and communicates with the tax offices so that I should not be hassled again.
Politicians and tax evasion
At the time the then-interior minister was on trial for embezzling from the very ministry where he worked. His trial lasted for many years and he was sentenced to prison. On release, he had to keep out of politics for seven years but at the first opportunity, he was back in the Knesset, in the same ministry from which he had stolen.
More recently he was found guilty of tax evasion and made a plea deal, paying a paltry fine totally disproportionate to the total involved, receiving a suspended prison sentence and a demand to leave politics. And now he, together with some other politicians who are either convicted criminals or on trial are trying to change the law so that they can get the plum jobs they demand in the party that has just won the election.
Is there no protest from hard-working middle-income citizens who keep meticulous records and finish the year having paid their arnona property tax, their Bituach Leumi, their VAT and their income taxes? How is it that those of the rich and influential who are dishonest have such complicated criminal files that it takes years to convict them by which time they change the laws and escape justice altogether?
The writer lives in Haifa.