Austerity measures to follow taxpayers to the grave

Ministers to vote on canceling tax exemptions for private burial plots

A man walks through a cemetery in Jerusalem (photo credit: Nati Shohat /Flash90)
A man walks through a cemetery in Jerusalem (photo credit: Nati Shohat /Flash90)

The old adage that nothing is certain save death and taxes was given new resonance Sunday with the news that Israel’s Finance Ministry intends to combine the two: The Treasury plans to introduce property tax on cemeteries.

As part of the Arrangements Law that is scheduled to be voted on by the Cabinet on Monday, the Finance Ministry hopes to cancel the property tax exemption currently enjoyed by Israeli cemeteries. As burial plots in Israel are privately owned, Israelis will likely be forced to pay the annual taxes for their loved ones if the bill passes.

As is currently the case with private homes and business, the property tax on burial plots will be based upon square meterage. Plots for couples will be billed as single graves.

The Chevra Kadisha burial services said that in the larger cities, this will mean that families will be forced to pay annually between NIS 300-400 (approximately US$ 80-110).

According to the proposal, not only will families have to pay taxes on new burial plots, but on those previously purchased as well, although the payments will only begin in 2014, and be pro-rated to when the plots were purchased.

The property tax exemption for cemeteries was cancelled in 2003, but in 2010 the city of Herzliya demanded that the public cemeteries pay the tax. Following an outcry the exemption was reinstated.

The Arrangements Law is presented to the Knesset every year along with the Budget Law, and incorporates various bills on different subjects, and puts them to the vote as one unified bill. Opponents have charged that the law is anti-democratic in that it bypasses the legislative process.

“There is no limit to cynicism and evil,” said Ze’ev Rosenberg, the director of the forum of Chevra Kadisha burial services. He called the proposal “underhanded opportunism,” and said that if passed, “the family of every deceased will be required to pay property tax on the grave until the coming of Messiah. It’s absurd.”

However, property tax law expert Yaron Nadam was quoted in Yedioth saying that it will take many years before the families will actually be forced to pay. “First, we will need to determine exactly who has to pay – from which side of the family as well as whether or not the heirs of the heirs will continue to pay from generation to generation.”

Update: The treasury has denied that families will be forced to foot the bill for property taxes levied on the Chevra Kadisha burial societies.

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