Kristine L Ming

Special Knesset Finance C’tee team to ensure damages paid to residents of South

A team of MKs will closely follow the Tax Authority’s implementation of the government’s aid package to the South, Knesset Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) announced Tuesday, after the panel approved part of the payments.

Slomiansky appointed MKs Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), Elazar Stern (Hatnua) and Michal Biran (Labor) to keep track of the damage payments and benefit packages and be in contact with business owners in the South to help them get through government bureaucracy.

“I want the Tax Authority to know that the Finance Committee is following this issue,” Slomiansky said.

The Finance Committee also voted to approve damages payments to business dealing with tourism and agriculture, and restaurants, with agriculture sparking arguments between the MKs and ministries’ representatives.

“The government decided not to shoot down missiles [using the Iron Dome] that land at open areas, and that has consequences. It causes damages and there needs to be a solution,” Yishai Folk of the Farmers’ Union explained. “Farmers have to prove their income and damages, and in the end the chances that a farmer will get what the government is supposed to give him are slim.”

Eli Aharon of the Vegetable Growers’ Union said that the Tax Authority didn’t learn from Operations Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense and that people are not sufficiently compensated for damages.

A Tax Authority representative, Shirley Avivi, said that agriculture is a complex issue and the Agriculture Ministry needs to come up with guidelines for damages.

However, Agriculture Ministry Deputy Director-General for Funding and Investments Zvika Cohen said that he is not working with the Tax Authority.

“The property tax department is responsible for paying damages, and it chose to work with an external adviser,” he said. “I would be happy to be involved, but I’m not, despite the fact that this operation harmed massive amounts of land…The main problem is that winter is coming and the first rain and the land is not yet taken care of. This will cause heavy damages.”

MK Zevulun Kalfa (Bayit Yehudi) said the Agriculture Authority’s exclusion is unacceptable and scandalous, and the damage to agriculture is massive and the Tax Authority is not taking farmers seriously.

“When a greenhouse is hit, there is damage to the building, the plants and the product. [The Finance Ministry] pays for the building immediately, but not for the plants, and then later, not for the decreased output. There are a lot of problems,” Kalfa lamented.

The Bayit Yehudi MK emphasized that the priority should be to prepare the land for agriculture activity again.

MKs also complained that the Tax Authority representatives in the meeting did not bring sufficient information about the number of people applying for aid, how many received advances and how many requests were not yet taken care of.

David Rotenberg, the head of the damages department in the Tax Authority, said that there were 1,835 applications for aid due in the areas the Finance Committee discussed, amounting to NIS 114 million, and over 5,000 applications in total. The final date to apply is December 20.

As for advances, 2724 businesses applied, 27% of which were for indirect damages, meaning economic damage from days of work missed and loss of customers, amounting to NIS 108 million. Over half of the applications for advances were already dealt with.

MK Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beytenu) said it’s unclear how the Tax Authority decided who deserves aid and who does not, and why restaurants and places of entertainment are separate from tourism.

“Why does most of the NIS 500 million for damages go to hotels?” MK Pnina Tamano-Shata (Yesh Atid) asked.

“We need to fix the plan so that small businesses will benefit from it and not just giant tourism businesses,” Biran suggested.

Restaurants’ Union Director-General Shai Berman said that half of the NIS 40 billion the country brings in from tourism each year goes to restaurants, and that income went down 70% over the summer, but the government is only helping the big businesses.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Special-Knesset-Finance-Ctee-team-to-ensure-damages-paid-to-residents-of-South-376667

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