Kabbalists and other ‘mystics’ will now have to pay taxes on the money they receive for doling out advice, amulet and other segulot, and blessings, a Knesset committee reportedly heard today. And so will private haredi kosher supervision companies that make millions of dollars while paying little or even no tax.
Tax Authority Tells Knesset Committee It Is Cracking Down On Rabbi-Kabbalists, Mystics And Private Haredi Kosher Supervision Companies’ Widespread Tax Evasion
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Kabbalists and other ‘mystics’ will now have to pay taxes on the money they receive for doling out advice, amulet and other segulot, and blessings, a Knesset committee reportedly heard today.
The committee also heard allegations of coercion by local state rabbinates which are affiliates, so to speak, of Israel’s official Chief Rabbinate, and heard about extremely profitable private kosher supervision companies, all haredi, which operate independently from the official rabbinate and pay no taxes, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Israel Tax Authority told the committee hearing that it would issue new regulations for the kabbalists and mystics, as well as new regulations well as new regulations the private kosher supervisions – including those that are currently registered as non-profit organizations and therefore have until now received tax breaks.
The State Comptroller recently issued a damning report that highlighted many of these tax evasion issues, and that report prompted today’s Knesset hearing.
Tzvi Vartikovsky of the State Comptroller’s Office told the committee today that some of these kabbalists and mystics have amassed of hundreds of millions of shekels in personal wealth from dispensing advice, amulets and other segulot, and blessings, but have not been taxed until now – not because they are truly tax exempt but because ambiguity in the existing regulations and a lack of determination on the part of the government to enforce them has allowed these rabbis to escape paying tax on what should be taxable income.
Similarly, under Israel’s Kosher law only the official government local rabbinates can issue a kosher seal of approval for a restaurant or food producer.
But many companies seek out and pay dearly for additional kosher supervision from private haredi kosher supervision companies, in part to attract haredi consumers but also to facilitate exports to countries where the food importers want the additional kosher seals to appeal to a wider range of consumers.
Among those private kosher supervisions is Badatz Yerushalayim, the kosher supervision arm of the vehemently anti-Zionist haredi umbrella organization Edah Haredit. Some of the millions of dollars Badatz Yerushalayim earns every year, much of it from putting its seal on popular export products like Osem’s Bamba and Bissli snacks, is used to pay for anti-Israel street violence and demonstrations like those that rocked Jerusalem during the starving mother case several years ago and last year during the hight of the haredi IDF draft law debate.
The director of the Tax Authority, Moshe Asher, told the committee all of these rabbinic-related tax issues would be clarified and simplified if a law saying that any gift received from anyone who is not a family member of the recipient is taxable income. He also reportedly said the Tax Authority had started forcing kabbalists and other purported mystics to pay tax on their earnings, and had identified at least 44 private kosher supervision companies, almost all haredi-run, that it says were obligated to pay taxes in 2014.
Roni Hamema, the owner of Hamema Snacks, told the Knesset committee there was a “direct connection” between some official local chief rabbis and private kosher supervision companies that results in a form of extortion of business owners like himself.
“Unless you acquire a [kosher approval] certificate of a certain Badatz [private haredi kosher supervision company], the rabbinate in that city will not give you [its] certificate,” Hamema said.
Many of these state-employed official local chief rabbis are either related to the heads of the particular private haredi kosher supervision company in question or have other close affiliations with them.
Hamema also told the committee many of his products carry several different haredi kosher seals because the rabbinic leadership of various hasidic sects and haredi groups insist their followers only consume products carrying their own or a related group’s kosher seals.
But Hamema noted that at one of his factories, there is only one kosher supervisor and he does the kosher supervision for all six of the private haredi kosher supervision companies whose seals appear on the products. Hamema said he is forced to pay each of those six private haredi kosher supervisions separately for what is essentially the work of the same man supervising the same products at the same time.