Is that Big Brother in your Pocket?

8 Mar

Your neighbor’s raking in millions and you’re struggling to come up with mortgage or rent money.  You drive to work in a beat-up Volkswagen and your boss pulls into his reserved parking space with a shiny BMW.bmw

I ask you: Is that fair?

The handyman who fixed your toilet last month just got back from a week’s vacation in Italy.  Sorry, you can’t step into the elevator with him because it’s taken up with his three Gucci suitcases.

You’re fuming.  You kick the elevator door.  You’re mad.  But then what?

If you’re in Israel, don’t get mad.  Get even.

How?

If you suspect the neighbor, the boss, the handyman is not paying his fair share of taxes — just snitch on him to the authorities and watch him boil in hot (olive) oil.

This is all thanks to Israel’s Tax Authority and its  latest initiative to raise 20 billion shekels (5 billion dollars) in uncollected taxes over the next four years.  Israel, a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean country, wants to model its moral code, according to its fiance minister, after the “honest” countries of Northern Europe (Sweden, Norway).

Good luck.

This tax-collection drive is the latest wrinkle in today’s “share the burden” phenomenon.  The scenario goes something like this:  The Middle Class is being wrongfully squeezed.  It shares the majority of the burden; it pays more in income tax, serves in the military while the well-connected, the Orthodox Jews, and the Arabs get a free ride.

It’s time to level the playing field.

"Justice Hotline"

“Justice Hotline”

The informants are encouraged to call the “Justice Hotline” anonymously and report the cheaters.  Since the “Justice Hotline” was first launched a few weeks ago, thousands of calls came pouring in.  The informants rat on plumbers, repairmen who give a small discount in exchange for getting cash.  No receipts, no invoices, thank-you-very-much.  They snitch on cab drivers who don’t care to turn on the meter.  They inform of dentists who drill a hole in your tooth and in your pocket, of piano teachers who sing all the way to the bank, of  landlords who act like lords, of math tutors who add their own numbers.

Cheaters unable to sleep at night are counting sheep.  And Shekels.

Big Brother is watching.

Greed and jealousy are what drives most calls.  It’s neighbor against neighbor.  Family members who have a score to settle.  On a recent news program the 5 staff members sitting at the Tax Authority switchboard were overwhelmed with calls.

Opponents are quick to criticize the campaign.  “It will collect pennies on the dollar,” they say, while the Fat Cats, Israel’s multi-national corporations (Teva, Osem, etc) use the loopholes to pay little or no taxes.  They say it’s all a smoke screen to divert attention from other pressing problems: housing, education, the political stalemate.

In a sense, the government has turned the average Yossi into its tax-collector.

How?

The original 1.0 Version has been upgraded.

Informants that come forward and identify themselves can share in the loot.  If the tax-evader is found guilty and is told to pay up, the snitcher collects 15% of the total.

Ka-Ching!  Ka-Ching!  Cash registers are ringing from Galilee to Tel-Aviv to Eilat.

It’s doubtful the taxman will be able to collect the monies they’re projecting.  If anything, it’s a powerful deterrent.  People might think twice before they settle for cash only.

Recently hundreds of private tutors received a text message on their cell-phones.  It warned them to report ALL transactions, or else.  It later turned out to be a clever hoax.

Or was it?

As for me, I plan to wire my few Shekels to Switzerland.  After all, it’s pretty close to Northern Europe.

Below is a campaign from the Tax Authority to all citizens to do their “civic duty” for the benefit of all.

Maurice Labi is an Israeli-American who lived in Los Angeles for many years. In 2011 He returned to Northern Israel (Galilee) with his wife and twin teen-age daughters. He is of two lands, of two cultures and he blogs about his experiences in Israel, particularly from Galilee where Jews and Arabs dwelled for centuries.

He has also written three novels: “Jupiter’s Stone,” “Into the Night,” and “American Moth” — available at Amazon.com or BN.com.

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3 Responses to “Is that Big Brother in your Pocket?”

  1. apothecarysgarden March 8, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    So true. So sad. More paranoia for each Israeli. Not like they don’t have enough already! I just got back to Canada from my latest visit with family. My brother is self employed. I think every profession has added an extra layer of complexity to their already complex work life just to stay safe from being fingered justly or not, to not look suspicious,and to avoid the tax “agents” that roam around looking for evaders.
    Hopefully the new approach will be short lived and flop. Maybe even backfire in some poetic way, bringing some real peace to the middle east!!

  2. Avi March 8, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    It is a very simple rule: The higher the taxes, the greater the incentive to evade taxes.

    Israeli government, as well as the current American administration do not understand this simple rule which was understood by President Kennedy. Snitching is their solution, but a positive result is doubtful.

  3. rachel bar March 14, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    OK. This time you made me depressed! The people of the country are encouraged to be rewarded for Yetzer Ha’ra?

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