Israel's Treasury Seeks to Tax Residents Over Burial Plots as Part of New Budget

The current draft of the Economic Arrangements Law includes a provision that would apply local property taxes to cemetery burial plots, according to a Yedioth Ahronoth report; Finance Ministry issues statement denying the report.

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A new measure of taxation has reached beyond the realm of the living.

Among the new economic measures proposed for the 2013-2014 budget is a proposal to rescind the exemption from local property tax (arnona) for cemeteries, according to a Yedioth Ahronoth report published Sunday.

If the new draft of the Economic Arrangements Law to be presented to the cabinet this week is passed, Israeli residents will be required to pay local property taxes reaching several hundred shekels for every burial plot they own, or that holds the remains of a family member. The exemption from local property taxes for cemetery burial plots was first rescinded in 2003, but after a massive public outcry the exemption was reinstated in 2010. Based on the Finance Ministry's proposal, burial plot owners, as well as heirs to the deceased, will be required to pay local property taxes starting from 2014.

On Sunday, however, the Finance Ministry denied the reports, saying that it plans to rescind the exemption from local property tax (arnona) for the hevra kadisha burial society, not for the public. "There is no truth to the report," it said in a statement.

On Saturday, thousands of people demonstrated against the new budgetary measures under the banner "Come on, to the streets! Take from the tycoons not from us!" Sources estimated that at least 10,000 people participated in the march that began at Habima Square and then proceeded through the surrounding streets, concluding at Rothschild Boulevard.

But there are small victories afoot. Yesterday it was publicized that the planned increase in co-pays for doctor visits and other medical expenses, such as bandaging and hearing devices, would be rescinded following strong public criticism. The proposed draft of the Economic Arrangements Law nevertheless includes several pieces of bad news for parents and students: The deep cuts planned for the Education Ministry's budget will lead to the cancellation or indefinite freeze of programs intended to both benefit students and reduce the financial burden on middle-class parents, as well as a funding cut for ultra-Orthodox yeshivas.

If the current draft of the Economic Arrangements Law is passed, in practical terms it will mean that the decisive majority of the education chapter of the Trajtenberg Committee's report won't be implemented. The major exception would be the recommendation to institute free education for children ages 3 and 4, which was the most the significant recommendation in terms of its effect on the government budget. The Trajtenberg Committee was tasked by the previous Netanyahu government with brainstorming solutions to address social and economic problems in Israeli society following to the 2011 social justice protests.

Nazareth Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy, left, and Sgt. Anthony Rae at a ceremony to unveil new gravestones in a Nazareth cemetery last week.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky
Kiryat Shaul military cemetery.Credit: Dan Keinan

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