Your Taxes: Online tax returns come with a surprise twist at the tax office

Your Taxes Online tax r

In English, they say you can't have your cake and eat it. In Hebrew, they say you can't dance at two the weddings at the same time. But the Israel Tax Authority wants to have it all ways. What are we referring to? The Israel Tax Authority has announced it is now implementing online tax reporting by individuals required to file annual tax returns. Most salary earners with no other sources of income, no assets abroad and no shareholdings of 10 percent or more are usually exempt from the need to file annual Israeli tax returns if their employer withholds the tax from their salary. But most other taxpayers must file Israeli tax returns according to detailed rules. (Check with an accountant if you are unsure.) Amendment 161 to the Income Tax Ordinance, enacted in December 2007, requires individuals to file online tax returns for the tax year 2008 onward if they are required to file an annual tax return and have income from a business, employment or agriculture. An online tax return is one that is filed in one of the following ways: (1) via an accountant or tax advisor on your behalf on the Tax Authority's secure computerized system known as "Shaam"; or (2) via the Internet, commencing October 20, 2009. Consequently, every individual required to file a tax return on or after October 20, 2009, must do so online. Until then, it is sufficient to file the old-fashioned way, manually. If you file the old-fashioned way, it is best to hand in your return and supporting documents (bank and broker annual statements, etc.) in person to your local tax office, together with a photocopy, which will be date-stamped "Received" and returned to you for your records. If you must file your return by ordinary mail, it is advisable to send it by registered mail at a post office and keep the receipt. The application to file online will soon be found on the Israel Tax Authority's Web site (, labeled "Transmission of Annual Income tax Return Data For An Individual" (Shidur Netunei Doch Shanati Lemas Hachnasa Leyahid). You will then be asked to fill out an online version of the tax return, known as Form 1301 Israeli and Foreign Tax Return for 2008. When you finish, you must print the return you filled out, sign it, attach all the supporting documents and file it at the tax office. Anyone who doesn't do so will be deemed NOT to have filed his/her tax return! That really is having it all ways: an online tax return must also be filed off-line, the old-fashioned way, at a tax office. As always, consult experienced tax advisers in each country at an early stage in specific cases. Leon Harris is an international tax specialist at Harris Consulting & Tax Ltd.