A Tale of Israeli Television Bureaucracy

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.


  1. 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.

  2. mominisrael says

    I guess my husband will be in TA tomorrow.

  3. ah jeez so you mean i must take seriously those letters? we sent them a registered letter saying we didn;t have a tv – they still send letters demanding the tax. one more thing to sort out before we leave israel I guess!

  4. Yikes, I’ve also been ignoring those letters, as I was advised to do…

  5. Leah Peretz says

    We also always neglect those letters. We’ve been receiving those letters for the past decade or so on my father-in-law’s name and last year they decided that my husband must be owning a tv (we don’t).
    They have an email where you can send them a letter stating you don’t own a tv or send them a fax.
    The inspector almost NEVER comes to actually inspect. At least I have never heard of someone coming to inspect…
    IY”H nothing will actually happen!

  6. mominisrael says

    My husband went to TA. I plan to post about his bizarre experience.

  7. mominisrael says

    Maya, maybe the difference is that your husband never informed them? Did a lawyer ever contact you?

  8. If I understand/remember correctly, I don’t think he was getting billed, so he didn’t see a need to do anything. Then, when he was billed several years later, there was no way for us to prove that we hadn’t had a television. Such a balogan.

    You mean a lawyer from the Tax Authority? Nope. Just bills, telephone conversations, and perhaps some time in person.

  9. Klara Le Vine says

    We had a similar tax bureaucratic mess, tho not about tv. We had a business way back around 2000, which was losing money every month, especially as people were afraid at that time to come to the city center. Finally we closed the business. During the time we had the business we had employed what we thought was a good accountant, but apparently he didn’t send in whatever papers were needed to show we’d closed the business, and if any mail was delivered it never got forwarded to us.

    So years down the line the tax people come with an ekul (sp?, means we can’t sell our car I think) on our car and bills coming to thousands of shekels. We tried to get the accountant to clear it up, big mistake (at that time we didn’t realize it was his fault for not dealing with the papers in the first place). Finally my husband got involved and tho it took alot of work, time, energy and worries, we were so happy when the bill came down to “only” NIS 1,400 that we paid it rather than have more headaches in dealing with it.

  10. The more I hear about Israel, the less I want to ever move there. TV tax?! TV card tax?!

    Who needs a TV nowadays anyway, you can get any show you want, sense commercials, from torrents.

  11. Klara Le Vine says

    oh dear, to Moshe and all other Jews not yet here – my favorite poster when I made aliya was a picture of a cactus with the words, “we never promised you a rose garden.”

    Somewhere I heard we aren’t to speak lashon hara’ah even of Israel, as it’s repeating the same sin as the spies. Now I can totally understand. Moshe, we don’t live here in Israel because everything is so beautiful and runs so efficiently. We’re here because G-d commanded us to be here, this is the country He gave us. Hopefully we can make a contribution to make it an even better place to live in.

    I miss alot of things in the States – but the truth is, I couldn’t see myself living there. It’s home here.

  12. Never promised wall to wall cacti either.

    Working on Sunday, insane taxes, government does whatever it wants, stores open and close whenever they feel like it, housing’s not regulated, etc.

    Add to all of the internal fun the problem with Arabs and the great way Israeli government is handling that…
    Image of a bully comes to mind, the government screw the citizens left and right and makes concessions to the enemy.

    You want to make a contribution, coup d’etat comes to mind.

  13. Katherine says

    Moshe you are very very funny. Klara is right – you certainly don’t live here because it is so perfect, you live here because it is home to you. Which is why we are leaving – because it isn’t home to us unfortunately. The thing is, there is no perfect country – tell me when you find one. Each place has its own pros and cons.

    call me when you’re starting the coup, I will join in!