Tax Authority workers threaten to launch strike

The Tax Authority was dealt a big blow when police confirmed that six employees were arrested under suspicion of exchanging tax credit for bribes.

Employees at the troubled Israel Tax Authority are threatening to walk out on a strike action next week unless the Finance Ministry retreats from plans to consolidate the structure of the Tax Authority into one body and separate it back into two units. "The Israel Tax Authority is already in a state of complete crisis operating without leadership for months", Nachum Friedlov, head of the worker's committee of the income tax department told The Jerusalem Post. "We are calling upon Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On to reject recommendations to unite the two divisions of the Israel Tax Authority into one organization and instead divide it back into its two units." The Finance Ministry said in response that the no decision had been made on the structure of the Tax Authority. In mid-February, then Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson ordered Yarom Ariav, the Finance Ministry's director general, to establish a search committee, headed by the accountant Yitzhak Suari to recommend a new permanent Tax Authority director following the resignation of Jackie Matza, who had been arrested in connection with a tax corruption scandal in January. As part of the search, the Suari committee was assigned to recommend if the income tax department and the customs & VAT department should remain as one branch within the Tax Authority, or if they should be broken into separate units. In October, the Suari committee presented its findings to the Finance Ministry recommending that the two divisions should be merged into one body with the appointment of an income tax commissioner who would also serve as director of the Tax Authority. "We - the income tax and the customs & VAT worker's committees - have notified the Finance Ministry of our opposition to the recommendations and demand that the search committee terminates the search for a new director," said Friedlov. Since April Yehuda Nasradishi, head of professional administration at the Israel Tax Authority assumed command as interim director of the Tax Authority, taking over from Dr. Yossi Bachar, who served as interim director for a limited three-month term in place of Matza. "We have been without leadership and direction for many months, which is negatively affecting tax collection," said Friedlov. "Since the corruption scandal we have been suffering from a serious problem of confidence." This month, the Israel Tax Authority, still shaking from a massive corruption scandal that implicated much of the organization's leadership earlier this year, was dealt yet another blow when police confirmed that six employees were arrested under suspicion of exchanging tax credit for bribes.