Finance ministry buries grave tax rumor

Families of the deceased will not foot the bill after re-introduction of property fees on cemeteries, Treasury says

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

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 Finance Ministry on Sunday denied rumors that a move to re-introduce property tax on cemetery sites would result in families paying an annual fee on plots of the deceased.

“There is no truth to the reports saying that there will be a property tax on burial plots”, the Treasury said in a press release.

The statement explained that, in the past, property tax on grave yards was paid by the Chevra Kadisha burial societies that operate each cemetery. For many years local religious councils paid property tax on the cemeteries they administered, much like any other body that makes use of land, the statement said.

In July 2010, at the request of MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), the law was changed to exempt the Chevra Kadisha organizations from paying the tax, a measure that led to millions in lost revenue per year for local municipalities, according to the statement.

The ministry said that in its 2013-2014 budget plan it proposes to cancel the exemption in order to restore the lost funds. The Cabinet will vote on the Arrangements Law that introduces the changes on Monday.

The Chevra Kadisha had claimed that restoring the tax in the larger cities would force families to pay between NIS 300-400 (approximately US$ 80-110) annually per plot.

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

However, the ministry noted that the price for reserving individual burial plots is protected by law and can only be changed by Knesset.

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

Asher Zeiger contributed to this report.

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