Tax Inspectors Raid Open-air Markets in Jerusalem

Millions collected in taxes, 24 vehicles seized, 13 unlucky business owners hauled in for questioning.

Jerusalem District tax officials spoiled the joyous mood of the Purim holiday this week with a two-day tax raid of the city's open-air markets.

Tax inspectors descended on merchants at the Mahaneh Yehuda, Mea She'arim, Bukharan Quarter and Old City markets, among others, collecting NIS 42 million in taxes and seizing 24 vehicles from tax scofflaws.

Dozens of tax inspection teams participated in the operation - part of a wider Israel Tax Authority program aimed at preventing and nabbing tax dodgers.

An unlucky 13 business owners were hauled to tax authority offices for questioning. An additional 10 were summoned to interviews after inspectors discovered that they kept no official account books, were not registered with the tax or VAT authorities and did not report their business activities.

Another 115 business owners were summoned for interviews due to repeated failures to report their earnings or pay taxes. More than half, 58, made good on their lapses. Tax officials said that those who failed to file tax reports would be served with accelerated indictments.

The raids on Mahaneh Yehuda were conducted in two waves, surprising venders who thought they were in the clear after avoiding the first wave. Inspectors found produce venders with no account books.

At one such market stall inspectors ordered an employee who refused to identify himself to close up and come along with them to be questioned. When the owner appeared suddenly he was taken in as well. Under questioning he admitted operating the business for three years without reporting his earnings. Officials estimated he avoided paying around NIS 300,000 in taxes over that time.