Update: Totalitarian Television Tax
My friend used to edit an English newspaper in Israel for a small, non-profit organization. She didn’t get paid much, and some months she didn’t get paid at all. But the tax authority calculated a salary for a “senior editor,” and decided she must be getting paid under the table. One day some officials arrived at her apartment and began taking her possessions in lieu of the tax she presumably owed.
Things don’t seem to have changed much. Several years ago, our television broke. When we decided not to replace it, we wrote to the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) requesting an exemption from the annual broadcasting tax.
We had always paid the four annual payments for this archaic tax (NIS 244 in 2009) through a standing bank order. The IBA must have gotten our letter, because it stopped taking money from our account. Perhaps unwisely, we never canceled the bank order. But then we got a letter threatening us for non-payment. The letter warned that unless we paid they would come to the house and begin removing our property in lieu of payment. We should expect penalties and lawyers’ fees to be much higher than the original payment.
The IBA only accepts phone calls from 9 to 2 on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the line is always busy. Eventually we succeeded in reaching a representative who said he would take care of the problem, and the threatening letters stopped.
Last year we got more threatening letters. This time, we were told that there was a good reason—we had never scheduled a home inspection to determine that we really don’t have a TV. The representative put down our name for an appointment. We stopped getting letters, but the inspector never arrived.
So this year we are getting more letters, warning us that we will be subject to a 50% penalty for not paying in 2009. A second letter claims that our file will be transferred to a lawyer because a check of their system shows we still owe payments from 2003-2008. We sent a fax a few weeks ago, but I have no way of knowing if they got it. I presume their office was closed on Pesach and unless we want to go to their Tel Aviv branch on Friday between 8:30 and 11:00—an annoying option—we will have to wait until Monday to try to call them.
So if you don’t see me online I’m probably fine, and the IBA just confiscated my computer.