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Netanyahu claims tax exemption for all expenses in private home — report

Costs include food, electricity, and home repairs and amount to hundreds of thousands of shekels per year, Channel 13 says

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset plenum on October 19, 2020. (Shmulik Grossman/Knesset Spokesperson)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset plenum on October 19, 2020. (Shmulik Grossman/Knesset Spokesperson)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly claimed that all expenses incurred at his private home in Caesarea are related to fulfilling his duties as Israel’s premier, and he should therefore be exempt from paying taxes on them.

According to a Channel 13 report on Saturday, these expenses include food, electricity, and home repairs such as fixing window blinds, and amount to hundreds of thousands of shekels per year.

The Tax Authority recently turned to the Prime Minister’s Office to request details on which expenses in the home were for the purpose of Netanyahu fulfilling his role as prime minister, to which Netanyahu staffer Asher Hayun replied that it was all of them.

The Prime Minister’s Office said all of the expenses were approved by the premier’s accountant and legal adviser.

“When a prime minister moves from residence to residence he never ceases to be prime minister,” read a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office published by Channel 13. “Therefore, a procedure has been put in place that precisely defines the expenses that the state pays, and not a penny more. The state does not pay for the prime minister’s personal expenses at the residence in Caesarea. All of the payments for the residence are approved by the accountant and the legal adviser of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Earlier this year, Netanyahu drew sharp criticism after the Knesset Finance Committee voted to grant him controversial retroactive tax benefits worth an estimated NIS 1 million (some $270,000).

The benefits covered the cost of income tax Netanyahu owes due to upgrades to his vehicle, renovations at his private home in Caesarea, and other expenses dating back to 2009.

The Blue and White party was reportedly caught unawares by a clause added by Likud in the draft proposal of the unity deal sent to the committee, which stated that “income tax imposed on the prime minister between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2017, for income derived from payments, services and benefits, outside of salary and stipends, will be at the expense of the state treasury.”

The clause effectively means Netanyahu will be absolved of all taxes not related to his salary or allowance.

Netanyahu was slammed for placing additional financial burdens on the state while the economy was — and still is — struggling due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown measures aimed at stopping its spread.

He had apologized for the timing of the committee hearing in June but said the approval was justified.

In 2018, the Knesset passed legislation that absolves the prime minister of taxes for many of his private expenses. The law gave Netanyahu, one of the wealthiest lawmakers in the Knesset, an effective raise of NIS 200,000 per year.

The legislative clauses pertain to the period prior to the passage of that legislation.

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