Appealing tax bill, model Refaeli tells court she and DiCaprio were family unit

Papers filed to Supreme Court claim that norms for ‘ordinary people’ cannot be imposed on lifestyle of celebrities to determine if they were living as a family

Israeli model Bar Refaeli and US actor Leonardo DiCaprio at the ceremony for the 'Cinema for Peace Gala 2010' during the International Film Festival Berlinale in Berlin, Germany, February 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)
Israeli model Bar Refaeli and US actor Leonardo DiCaprio at the ceremony for the 'Cinema for Peace Gala 2010' during the International Film Festival Berlinale in Berlin, Germany, February 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)

Supermodel Bar Refaeli filed an appeal Thursday against NIS 8 million ($2.25 million) she was ordered to pay in a tax case, arguing that her past relationship with Hollywood movie star Leonardo DiCaprio was tight enough to be considered a family unit — making her home base in the US rather than Israel.

In an appeal to the Supreme Court against a lower court verdict earlier this year, attorneys for Refaeli argued that the definition of a family unit is flexible and that the simple formula of married parents with children shouldn’t be applied to their celebrity client.

Refaeli’s tax case has revolved around where she was required to pay tax during the years 2009-2012 based on the location of her home, in Israel or abroad.

The Lod District Court in April rejected an earlier appeal by Refaeli, who was accused of trying to conceal earnings from tax authorities by claiming she was living abroad a decade ago, during her romantic relationship with DiCaprio. Tax authorities had shown the court that Refaeli maintained significant ties to her life in Israel.

Model Bar Refaeli poses for photographers upon arrival at the Dior ready-to-wear Fall-Winter 2019-2020 collection in Paris, February 26, 2019. (Thibault Camus/AP)

In the appeal Thursday, attorneys said that during their six-year relationship DiCaprio was Refaeli’s “most significant, constant and not casual” partner and that the two lived together in his Los Angeles home as “a family unit” in every way. According to the document, they even considered getting married and having children.

Attorneys further argued that the idea of a family unit “is a flexible definition that allows for a wide range of relationships, and which in any case is not confined to the conservative and distinct definition of a family consisting of a man and a woman who married and had children.”

Refaeli, in her early 20s at the start of her relationship with DiCaprio, was too young for it to be expected of her to be getting married and having children, the appeal said.

“It is impossible to compare and impose our world and our way of life — the world and the way of life of ordinary people — on the world and the lifestyle of the appellant and her partner, and the center of her life should be examined in accordance with the world in which she lived during those years,” attorneys wrote.

In her earlier appeal to the Lod District Court, Refaeli’s legal team had argued that during 2009-2010 the model was permanently residing abroad and therefore should not have to pay Israeli income tax.

But the judge rejected those claims and sided with tax authorities, who maintain that Refaeli lived in Tel Aviv during 2009 and 2010. The court ruled that since she was not considered a foreign resident under Israeli law, Refaeli must pay the massive bill from the Tax Authority that she received last June.

Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli with her mother Tzipi Levin in their home. 2001. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

State prosecutors are also preparing to indict Refaeli, along with her parents, on various tax offenses involving tens of millions of shekels. In January, state prosecutors informed Refaeli and her parents, Tzipi and Rafi, that they planned to press criminal charges against them on suspicion of additional money-laundering and tax-dodging offenses.

Authorities say that Refaeli lied in saying she lived mostly abroad, and failed to report the income, pricey gifts, and celebrity discounts she received during that time to Israeli tax authorities.

According to the Justice Ministry, Refaeli hid an estimated NIS 23 million ($6.1 million) of her earnings between 2009 and 2012.

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