Gov’t to vote on returning Israelis' rights

Basket of benefits and tax breaks aimed at enticing expats to return home.

Sofa Landver (photo credit: (© Ariel Jerozolimski))
Sofa Landver
(photo credit: (© Ariel Jerozolimski))
The cabinet will vote Sunday on a new basket of benefits and generous tax breaks aimed at enticing expatriate Israelis across the globe to return home, Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver confirmed to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Under the program – which has already been touted by the media as a way to bring benefits for returning Israelis in line with those handed out to new immigrants – those coming back will now be eligible, similar to new olim, for income tax breaks for the first two-and-a-half years after their arrival, as well as VAT reductions on home goods and purchase of a new car.
In addition, the new program, which will likely cost the government upward of NIS 100 million, also proposes to cancel the hefty health tax imposed on returning Israelis, allowing them to start receiving health insurance immediately upon arrival. Until now, returning Israelis could only start receiving the mandatory health insurance six months after arriving, and were forced to pay a NIS 9,000 fine.
“This program is essential for bringing Israelis spread out across the world back to Israel,” Landver told the Post. “It is important for us to focus on getting these people back and assisting them in raising their children here in Israel.”
According to Landver, while this initiative is similar in nature to the “Returning Home on Israel’s 60th” program which was enacted two years ago for Israel’s 60th anniversary and expired last December, it goes beyond “giving us a better chance of bringing people back.” Landver discounted the claim that the ministry’s emphasis on this program had anything to do with falling aliya figures over the past decade.
“Of course compared to 10 years ago, we do not have the millions of new olim arriving here,” said Landver. “However, there has been a rise of roughly 20 percent in the level of immigration over the past year.” She added that currently, there were no plans to supply returning Israelis with the handsome immigration package received by new immigrants.
“People moving here for the first time get all the benefits they need to help them stay,” said Landver. “Returning Israelis don’t need all this – but they will benefit from the package that we have created for them.”
Over the past two years, the Jewish state has seen a huge influx of expats, most fleeing the world economic crisis and all enjoying the financial benefits that were made available for the “Returning Home on Israel’s 60th” program.
Between January 2008 and December 2009, some 20,200 people returnedto Israel, a 10-fold increase compared to the years before thefinancial downturn.
However, data released recently by theImmigrant Absorption Ministry show that the number of returningIsraelis has dwindled to less than 1,000 so far this year, with theoverall prediction for 2010 being just 3,000 returnees if noalternative benefits package is approved.
Last month, theministry brought these figures before Prime Minister BinyaminNetanyahu, who established a joint committee between the ministry andthe Prime Minister’s Office to develop a new program of benefits. It isthis program that will likely be approved on Sunday.