Small debt, big fuss

A Netanya couple who wanted to sell their apartment and were about to close the deal with a buyer were astounded to discover that the sale was being blocked because of a debt of just NIS 50 to the city, reports The couple, who had owned the apartment for five years and who had paid their municipal tax bills by automatic bank deductions, hurried to clarify the matter, and learned that in their first few months in the building they had not been charged property tax on a five-meter store-room. According to the report, the couple were never told about the debt, which was originally NIS 34 but accumulated interest over the years to become NIS 50. The couple said a municipal clerk told them that the city did not bother to inform debtors who owed sums of less than NIS 150. "Fifty shekels prevented the transfer process, and this was when we had a buyer interested in getting the keys… it's craziness for such a small sum," the couple said. The report said the couple's case was not unique, with dozens of Netanya residents complaining that they paid their taxes dutifully by automatic bank deduction but then discovered that they owed small extra sums for various reasons. A spokesman for the municipal tax collection department said the city sent out letters informing debtors of every debt, including very old ones. He said the extra sums were not added to the automatic bank deductions as people "do not like us touching their accounts and we are not interested in getting into unnecessary arguments." The spokesman said the couple with the NIS 50 debt did in fact pay their taxes regularly and there seemed to have been "a small mishap" in their case. He said he would be "happy" to return the NIS 16 interest to them.