Your taxes: Budget proposals target olim

Currently, olim are exempt from Israeli tax on overseas income and gains for 10 years.

Zeev Elkin welcomes olim on the 53rd Nefesh B'Nefesh flight as it lands in Israel (photo credit: STEVE LINDE)
Zeev Elkin welcomes olim on the 53rd Nefesh B'Nefesh flight as it lands in Israel
(photo credit: STEVE LINDE)
Now that the Israeli election is long forgotten, government officials have circulated their decisions on what state budget proposals should be presented to the cabinet for approval and submission to the Knesset for enactment. Some of these proposals take aim at olim in an unpleasant way.
According to the proposals, a survey of the Global Forum on transparency and exchange of information has rated Israel “partially compliant.” This is apparently considered a low rating.
Consequently, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Bank apparently have announced they will stop cooperating with Israel if these “defects” are not remedied by the end of October.
Israel apparently has notified the OECD it will act to amend the law to facilitate information exchange according to international standards.
What is proposed? First, it is proposed to enable the government to exchange tax information with other governments. Currently, Israel’s tax treaties allow this mainly to prevent double taxation regarding specific taxpayers, not as part of a general campaign (“no fishing expeditions”).
Now it seems fishing expeditions will be allowed. Also, Israel may now sign up to multilateral tax treaties, such as the upcoming OECD common reporting standard.
Second, it is proposed to allow the Israel Tax Authority (ITA) to obtain more information electronically from Israeli financial institutions about business and private clients’ accounts.
The information will be passed to a special ITA unit that will have 45 days to review it and either delete it or pass it on to investigative tax officials if income or payments appear to have been under-reported by NIS 500,000 for the purposes of income tax, VAT or land-appreciation tax.
Third, changes are proposed regarding new Israeli residents and so-called senior returning residents (who lived abroad 10 years) – collectively referred to as olim.
Currently, olim are exempt from Israeli tax on overseas income and gains for 10 years. They are also exempt from DISCLOSING overseas income and assets to the ITA for the same 10 years. Under the proposals, the tax exemption will stay, but the disclosure exemption will be curtailed for olim who arrive in Israel on or after January 1, 2016.
In the year of arrival and the following tax year, olim would only need to disclose of foreign income and assets if a foreign body demanded this from the ITA. Thereafter, olim would need to disclose their foreign income and assets each year anyway.
Comments Two years ago, similar disclosure proposals were included in the budget and caused a howl of protest until they were dropped. Now it seems they are back.
The new proposals may not increase the tax olim pay – just increase disclosure and bureaucracy. But many potential olim may rightly or wrongly assume a repeal of the tax exemption is around the corner.
Olim thinking of moving to Israel after January 1, 2016, might consider going through the aliya process before that date if they value their privacy.
It is hard to believe that olim are mainly responsible for Israel’s woes with the Global Forum, the OECD, the EBRD and the World Bank. Olim appear to be a scapegoat.
To sum up, the Israeli budget proposals are not boring, and they may be controversial. It remains to be see what will be legislated.
As always, consult experienced tax advisers in each country at an early stage in specific cases. Leon Harris is a certified public accountant and tax specialist at Harris Consulting & Tax Ltd.