IBA Tax Authority Takes Totalitarian Approach

televisionMaya left the following comment on my post about the television tax:

My husband had a similar experience and ended up paying the huge tax. We couldn’t get around it.

He had a television for about a year and didn’t use it thereafter (either it broke or he moved and didn’t take it with him). Four years later, he receives a note from the Tax Authority that he owes thousands of NIS in back taxes, and moreover, a hefty fine almost equaling the tax itself for not having paid when he was never billed and didn’t know he had to.

What’s more, because everything is done so far after the fact, you never actually know if you’re in the clear. And worse, there’s no way to defend yourself against wrongful charges that drain your bank account.

Since moving to Israel, I have a much clearer understanding of how one goes from middle class to poor. It’s all too apparent.

Maya’s story inspired my husband to visit the authorities in Tel Aviv on Friday morning. He  waited only half an hour before seeing a clerk, who quizzed him about why we don’t have a TV. “Our old one broke and we decided not to get a new one.” She was interested in whether we had ideological reasons: “On principle? Because you’re religious? Maybe you recently became religious? (chazartem biteshuva)?” My husband asked why it mattered. “How do we know,” she responded, “that you won’t wake up tomorrow morning and decide to buy a new one?”

Finally she had my husband write and sign a document stating that we had notified them several years ago about our television-less state. She also asked whether we had a television card for our computer (we don’t) and informed him that we wouldn’t get any more notices.

When my husband asked whether they would be sending an inspector she told him,  “We have our ways of finding out [whether you have a TV].”

I think his visit was a waste of time, and we will get more letters in 2010.

But if a law is archaic (since the authority accepts paid “service announcements”), widely ignored, difficult to enforce, encourages people to lie, and requires spying on people and threatening repossession, maybe someone ought to rethink the whole thing.

Photo Credit: Brandon King

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Comments

  1. when we were first married and got a bill from them I sent a fax stating we dont have a tv. I never heard from the again. But I always wonder if one day I will get a bill demanding I pay thousands of shekels accrued over the years. They never sent me a confirmation letter or anything. Just stopped sending bills.

    • mominisrael says:

      Rafi: You can’t win, can you.
      Ben-Yehudah: I wish I had some advice for you. By the way, how did you get to that preschool post on the old blog?

  2. B”H

    Now, I too, am worried. Years ago, I had a 3 1/2 B and W which came in handy in Ofra where they had community satellite service, and an internal station which flashed instructions in the event of an emergency.

    For me it was a convenient way of getting the news, as I didn’t have Internet service.

    I made the mistake of mailing the contact card in. I thought it was a survey.

    I wonder if they blog posts and comments as one of their “ways of finding out.”

  3. I checked to see that I had the correct address for you on my blog, as this one looked different.

    I went to the old address, saw that you did indeed change your location, and while I was there, browsed “Recent Posts.”

  4. mominisrael says:

    Okay, thanks. I wanted to make sure there were no links over here.

  5. The Knesset has rethought the whole thing, and almost got rid of this cursed tax a few years back, but the IBA raised bloody murder and got it reinstated.

    After all, no MK wants to be on the receiving end of the IBA’s tough love.

  6. we went through the whole process of paying the back taxes, even though we havent had a tv for years (also got rid of it) since we had no way to prove anything and they told us no way to cancel given that had already gone ‘to their lawyers’ (we had ignored the notices since we didnt have a tv)
    they promised we wouldnt get any more notices.

    guess what we got in the mail a couple weeks ago? this year’s bill.

  7. So should I ignore it? Pay it? Will it prevent me from getting a mortgage?

  8. We’ve never had a TV. We used to mail our bill back with a big notice that we don’t have a TV. But still, every year we got a bill. One year when my daughter was little she answered the phone, said “no”, and quickly got off the phone. When I asked her what the call was, she said the other person asked her if we have a TV. When she said no, they got off the phone. We figured it was either the TV tax people or some survey company — but more likely the TV tax people. After all, survey companies are more likely to ask to speak to adults. The last few years we’ve been getting letters that say something like, “you’ve told us in the past that you don’t have a TV, but if you’ve gotten one since then, you had better pay up or you’ll be in big trouble.” I ignore it. So far, nothing has happened.

  9. Well, you’ve inspired me to pay all of my back taxes. I payed this year’s bill before pesach, and then promptly afte pesach I got a bill from 2003-2008!

    I paid that too and I hope i’m done now.

  10. mominisrael says:

    Well, those are all interesting experiences. No one actually had anything repossessed, but supposedly police stopped cars and confiscated them a few years ago.
    And if anyone thinks that my blog is not 100% pro-Israel, I’ll point them to Abbi’s post and how, thanks to this blog, the Israeli government is a few shekels richer.

  11. Not sure what you mean by being pro Israel. I am pro Am Israel, pro Eretz Yisrael.

    However, when it comes to the state, idiotic TV taxes or no idiotic TV taxes, I may be grateful for the many things I get from the State and try to give back. But when there is conflict between state laws and policies and halacha, there is no question which takes precedence. These conflicts exist, and will only increase I believe.

    Unfortunately, there are many religious Jews out there who do not want to acknowledge the existence of such conflicts.

    The Eruv Rav controlled gov’t is afraid of how things will change when religious Jews are the majority, and they are attempting to prevent the inevitable as we speak.

  12. MII — there definitely have been cases of things being reposessed. The TV tax people have the authority to break into our homes and confiscate our things. It has been done and challenged in court. It is really frightening.

    Today, the tax is about 30% cheaper than it was less than five years ago.

    The tax funds Channel 1 — even if you never watch Channel 1, you still have to pay.

    During Oslo, it killed us to pay for government propaganda that was slandering us on a daily basis.

    We didn’t pay for a while, but there is no way to fight and win. We have cable, so they know we have a TV. So, in the end we swallowed our principles and paid.

  13. Re their ways of finding out – basically – if you by a television, chances are you will be giving the store some form of ID, ( credit card bill, address for delivery, or fill out a warranty ) and then you get home, and you can’t just watch the TV because these days you need cable, or a sat dish, again – someone will be monitoring this – and passing it on to the wonderful television authority – my real question is – What are they really doing with that money? I know it gets used to pay for Channel 1’s broadcasters ( who live on a much higher level that the rest of us – had a friend that worked security for them) and then what?

  14. Marion Rosen says:

    I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to let you know: if you have a TV in your home just for watching DVDs, you can remove the tuner and be exempt from the tax. (That’s the law, as enforced by the IBA…) We’d been receiving notices since 3 days after our wedding (hadn’t even been to register yet), and we did NOT have a TV. They never came to inspect. We received a TV “receiver” (as the legislation from 1950-something calls it) sometime in 2009 as a gift, but never connected it to anything. We switched our internet from Bezeq to HOT in the summer of 2009. Some bright person at the IBA’s legal office figured if we had HOT we must have a TV. We received threatening notices…finally I had it and sent them a copy of the HOT bill showing internet services only…they finally sent an inspector who saw it’s not connected to anything, we should take out the tuner, pay the back bills (we worked out no interest, no fines, just the actual tax for 2009-2011), and as far as the authority is concerned we don’t have a TV. Fine with us…

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