New legislation introducing tighter restrictions on payments with large sums of cash will enter into force in Israel on Monday. The goal, as stated by the country’s tax authority, is to improve the fight against organized crime, money laundering, and tax evasion. Critics doubt the law will achieve that.
Under the new legislation, companies will be required to use non-cash methods for any transaction exceeding 6,000 shekels ($1,700), a notable decrease from the previous ceiling of 11,000 shekels ($3,200). The cash limit for private individuals who are not registered as business owners will be 15,000 shekels (close to $4,400).
Reducing the use of cash is the main purpose of the law, according to Tamar Bracha, tasked with executing the rules on behalf of the Israel Tax Authority. Quoted by the Media Line news outlet, the official elaborated:
The goal is to reduce cash fluidity in the market, mainly because crime organizations tend to rely on cash. By limiting the use of it, criminal activity is much harder to carry out.
However, an attorney representing clients in an appeal against the law filed in 2018, when it was first adopted, insists that the main problem is that the legislation is not efficient. Uri Goldman referred to data showing that since the law’s initial introduction, the amount of cash has actually increased. Pointing to another of its downsides, the legal expert further explained:
When the bill passed there were over a million citizens without bank accounts in Israel. The law would prevent them from conducting any business and would, practically, turn 10% of the population into criminals.
An exemption for trading with Palestinians from the West Bank and charities active in the ultra-Orthodox communities has also sparked controversy. Deals with large amounts of cash will be allowed in these cases, provided they are thoroughly reported to the tax administration. Goldman thinks this is unfair to the rest of the society.
In its original draft, first proposed in 2015, the law also featured a provision limiting the private holding of large sums of cash to 50,000 shekels ($14,500). Although it was dropped at the time, Israel’s Ministry of Finance now plans to reintroduce it and let the parliament decide whether to adopt it after the upcoming elections.
Uri Goldman also believes that the authorities should at least allow people to declare their cash and deposit it to a bank account. That idea was suggested during preliminary discussions on the legislation as well, but never approved. Otherwise, cash will remain in circulation even if not used like before, he noted.
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