The Education Ministry is paying a company more than a million shekels ($266,000) to set up a technical support hotline to help education workers fill out their employment tax form online and to secure the dedicated web portal for this purpose.
The form, called Form 101, is filled out every year by employees to determine their tax rate. Along with basic information like name, address and identity number, it asks about marital status, number of children, whether the employee has another job and other questions that help determine how much income tax, if any, must be withheld.
The engagement of the company, Unique Software Industries Ltd., was explained as being a necessary complement to setting up a system to allow workers to file their 101 forms online. “We believe that the quality of the technical support given to the educational workers will assure or stymie the success of this process,” the ministry said.
From the explanatory notes it emerges that the ministry is having trouble getting teachers to fill out the 101 forms and return them on time. As a result, “Every year the maximum tax [48 percent] is withheld from the March salary from thousands of educational workers because no Form 101 was received from them. These withholdings cause reduced motivation and frustration among teachers every year.”
The contract with Unique, which according to the explanatory notes already has the ministry’s salary database, begins in May and goes to the end of next April, with an option of extending the contract another year. The work will cost 1.069 million shekels.
According to the document, the call center will have to, among other requirements, provide support in both Hebrew and Arabic; pick up calls within 30 seconds; “draw up different scenarios for conversations and taking action,” and “oversee and control the telephone support services, with a stress on conducting pleasant and professional conversations that are efficiently timed.”
Over the years both the Education Ministry and the teachers unions have received numerous complaints about complex wage slips and inaccurate withholding that has at times led to teachers owing the ministry thousands of shekels.
Two years ago Haaretz reported on a teacher whose salary had not been calculated correctly for seven years, as a result of which she had to repay the ministry some 100,000 shekels, while hundreds of other teachers had to give back smaller amounts, in the thousands or tens of thousands of shekels. Teachers frequently complain that they cannot get satisfactory, professional answers to their questions when they phone the ministry’s district offices, and that often the ministry itself can’t figure out how to make the complicated salary calculations that involve various benefits and supplemental payments.