Business in Brief

The Israel Tax Authority (ITA) is planning to publish its decisions on fines set with tax violators in 2006. This is the first year it will be publicizing its data on such settlements. The decisions relate to various fines agreed to with suspected tax evaders; the ITS head has the authority to reach a compromise with suspects under which they pay a fine instead of facing criminal proceedings. The taxpayer must still pay off the entire debt, plus the fine, but by doing so he or she can avoid criminal prosecution. In 2006, there were 120 requests for such agreements, 107 relating to income taxes and the rest to VAT and customs duties. Thirty requests were rejected and will likely end in prosecution. Two cases resulted in only a warning, and 88 reached a deal over fines. On average, suspects were fined an additional 24.4 percent of their tax bills. A total of NIS 27 million in taxes was settled, which means NIS 6.6 million in fines were also paid. The largest fine levied was NIS 1 million. The ITA emphasized its decisions are based on a wide range of factors, including the seriousness of the crime, the suspect's level of involvement, previous violations, personal issues, public interest and much more. Due to privacy laws, the name of the taxpayers are not being announced. (Eti Aflalo)

The international agricultural exhibition Agro-Mashov is scheduled to open today at the Tel Aviv Convention Center. New fruits and vegetables designed for high quality, healthful eating will be revealed at the two-day fair. Some 130 companies will be exhibiting there. One of the new developments is a plum from Ben Dore Fruits containing a large amount of anti-oxidants, which are supposed to combat aging. These plums have four times the amount of anti-oxidants found in pomegranate seeds, the fruit known for having the highest level of anti-oxidants. Alongside the fair will be several professional conferences and symposia. Agro-Mashov 2007 is designed to maintain Israel's reputation as a quality producer of agricultural produce, wine grapes, fruits, flowers, fresh vegetables and organic produce. (Amiram Cohen)

The Transportation Ministry's decision to include the original ownership of vehicles on car licenses is expected to cost leasing companies quite a lot of money. Previously, without any note of original ownership by a leasing or rental company, unscrupulous used car dealers could pass off a second-hand car as being previously privately owned - which made them willing to pay the rental companies more. Also, the new information will include details about the company that leased the car, which could also affect the price when resold. Prices of leased cars are generally 4-15 percent lower than those privately owned, according to assessor Levi Yitzhak. He says that the new information will require further price decreases, as a car leased to the IDF or a high-tech company is worth less than one leased to a private individual. However, this will also allow the pricing of used cars to be more accurate and specific, said Yitzhak. (Lior Gutman)

Following TheMarker's coverage of cellular companies' policy of billing based on full-minute, rather than 12-second, increments, the Ministry of Communications has decided to summon the cell-phone firms for a hearing. After investigating the issue, the ministry concluded that consumers were unaware of the repercussions of the practice. Minister of Communications Ariel Atias said that cellular subscribers are paying tens of millions of shekels every year for air time not actually used. TheMarker investigated the billing plans 18 months ago and found that they could result in monthly bills up to 22 percent higher than necessary. (Nofar Sinai)