'Revolutionary' tax breaks lure olim

"Until today, people who came were very scared by tax issues," tax expert says, "That's now history."

aliya 88 (photo credit: )
aliya 88
(photo credit: )
New immigrants and returning expatriates will enjoy "revolutionary" tax breaks and other financial benefits this year when reforms aimed at making Israel an economically attractive destination for immigration come into effect, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The most noticeable change will see olim and returning expatriates no longer having to report to the Tax Authority about their financial activities abroad for 10 years prior to their arrival in Israel, tax expert Udi Barzilay, who is involved in drawing up the reforms, told the Post Tuesday. "Until today, people who came were very scared by tax issues," he said. "They had to file reports on their earnings, properties and savings abroad, and this was a highly bureaucratic process. Olim once had to declare to the tax system what their activities were before they became Israelis. That's now history." "Under the new reforms, they don't have to speak to us at all about the past 10 years," Barzilay said. "They do not have to pay retroactive tax on their dealings abroad. Israel will become, from a tax perspective, more interesting than London." Britain had topped the destination table of lenient tax zones, he said. The legislation underwriting the changes should be completed within a month, Barzilay said, adding that he expected the reforms to become law this year. They are being jointly spearheaded by the Immigrant Absorption and Finance ministries, he said. "It took a while, but in 2008, these changes will come into effect," Barzilay said. Other transformations being planned, he said, included waiving the taxation of olim who leave the country within a year of their arrival, "giving them a year to come and make up their minds without commitments." Under the old arrangement, immigrants who left within 12 months of their arrival had to pay taxes for their stay. Now, during their first year, Barzilay said, "from the Tax Authority's point of view, it's as if olim don't exist. They can simply come and live here." A third proposal calls for offering more generous state benefit terms for returning expatriates, he said. According to the Jewish Agency, 1,417 new immigrants came to Israel in January, an increase of 3 percent compared to last year. In 2007, 18,129 olim moved here. Since Israel's founding, nearly 60 years ago, 3,029,052 new immigrants have arrived.