What’s in Your Bank Account? The Taxman Wants to Know

Illustration of a sign leading to the Tax Authority, Bank of Israel and Land Administration offices in Yerushalayim. (Flash90)

The Tax Authority wants to know what Israelis have in their bank accounts, and it intends to get the law changed in order to enable it to find out. The head of the Authority, Eran Yaakov, expressed support for the idea at a recent meeting of Authority officials in Eilat, saying that it was necessary “in order to deal with the challenges of the future and develop trust with the public. We will reach everyone who refuses to report their assets as the law requires,” Yaakov said.

The Authority has tried to get legislation that will require banks to supply it with information about customers’ assets in the past, but legislation has gotten bogged down in the Knesset Constitutional Committee, with MKs expressing trepidation at what they called the invasion of privacy that would result. Bank officials also oppose the idea, fearing that it will lead to the closure of accounts and the migration of money into cash or foreign bank accounts. Banks’ position is that they are prepared to reveal details of customers’ assets only if a court orders them to, but they oppose legislation that would require them to share data en masse.

Yaron Gindi, head of the Israel Tax Advisors’ Organization, backed the proposal, saying at the event that “the Authority cannot be expected to fight against unreported money with its eyes closed. Information must be supplied in order to enable it to fight the ‘black money’ that is plaguing Israel.”

Accountants, on the other hand, oppose the idea, with Attorney Jack Balange, who is running for the presidency of the Accountants’ Association, saying that requiring banks to indiscriminately share customer information “will harm the trust the public has in the Authority. The large majority of illicit money is not in the banks in personal accounts, and the Authority cannot get information from foreign banks about corporate accounts, where much of that money is.”