Tali Yaron-Eldar, who completes two years as income tax commissioner at the end of the month, has attacked both politicians and her replacement in an exclusive interview with Haaretz. She accuses her replacement Eitan Rub of lacking professionalism and suggests he will find it hard to withstand the pressures from the political establishment when he takes over. Yaron-Eldar also slams Justice Minister Yosef Lapid for caving in to pressure from the lawyers lobby.
Yaron-Eldar revealed she had been approached over the years by politicians to help out on matters of income tax. "There were MKs who wrote to me asking to help someone who needed some assistance. But there were other appeals of various sorts. I always passed these letters on to the relevant person dealing with such matters in the department, with the exception of those cases where I saw that there really was some sort of injustice."
Yaron-Eldar believed her appointment as a professional, and not a political post, helped her withstand these pressures. "Throughout my term I was not caught in a situation where I had to make unprofessional decisions because of a political approach. The importance of maintaining the independence of the income tax department is critical, but it depends on no small account on the character of the commissioner."
On asked whether she was implying that a seemingly political appointment such as her replacement Rub would find it hard to withstand the same pressures, Yaron-Eldar refused to comment.
She would however describe Rub as a good manager, who would be accomplished in "the organizational, managerial side" but that he suffers from a lack of professional know-how in the field of taxation. Asked if his lack of expertise meant he was the wrong choice for the position, she said professional knowledge was a vital ingredient for the job of income tax commissioner.
The outgoing commissioner had strong words for Justice Minister Yosef Lapid. Yaron-Eldar said the minister had surrendered to the pressure from attorneys' lobbyists which put paid to the bill that would have obliged the disclosure of legal opinions that back up individuals' and companies' tax plans.
Yaron-Eldar expressed great pride that around a quarter of the income tax department's current investigations focused on tax planning; the considerations of tax implications of individual or business decisions throughout the year, usually with the goal of minimizing the tax liability. Naturally, this threw up the treatment of billionairess Shari Arison, and Yaron-Eldar rejected the idea that she had given Arison easy treatment. Her offer of a $5 million tax bill was correct, she argued, as the department would not have managed to collect a higher sum of taxes from the Carnival Cruise owner.
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