Bar Refaeli Appeals Court Order to Pay $2.3 Million in Back Taxes

The supermodel says the lower court erred in saying the ‘center of her life' was in Israel in 2009 and 2010

Refaeli at the Eurovision 'orange carpet' in Tel Aviv, May 13, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to reverse a ruling requiring her to pay 8 million shekels ($2.3 million) in back taxes, saying she spent most of the years in question in the United States.

At the end of a high-profile court case, Refaeli was ordered to pay the money in a ruling by the Central District Court. Judge Samuel Borenstein said she had failed to disprove that "the center of her life" during 2009 and 2010 was in Israel, making her liable for Israeli income tax.

In the appeal filed Thursday, Refaeli said the court had erred and that she had spent most of the time in the United States with her then-partner Leonardo DiCaprio. The relationship, she said, met the test of being a “family unit” under Israeli tax law.

“The couple’s relationship was stable and lasted almost six years (until 2011), which in celebrity circles is akin to a generation,” the appeal said, adding that Refaeli had no permanent residence in Israel and that when she was in the country she stayed with her family.

“It’s only natural that when Refaeli visited Israel, her parents preferred that she stay with them. In the nature of things, it’s hard to imagine a different situation,” the appeal said.

Under Israeli law, residency for tax purposes is determined first and foremost by whether the person spends most of the year in Israel. But the law recognizes other factors that may void this standard, such as where the person’s family lives and where he or she is employed.

In his ruling, Borenstein noted that Refaeli hadn’t cited another country as her place of residency.

He said that young Israelis, like Refaeli at the time, who were born and grew up in Israel but don't yet have children, often go abroad for long stretches but ultimately return to Israel for the next stage of life. These people should be considered Israeli residents, he wrote.