TEL AVIV - Rabbis who take payment for religious services such as weddings and bar mitzvahs must pay income tax for services rendered, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said Wednesday.
As far back as October 2003, tax inspectors warned they would tax the earnings of rabbis and mystics who charged for blessings and amulets.
Then-Inspector General Tali Yaron-Eldar asked former Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein to rule on when to tax rabbinic earnings.
The new ruling stems from the case of Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira, known as the
“Beer Sheva Tzaddik (holy one)”, who is suspected of tax evasion.
The rabbi was ordered to pay NIS 100 million on money he received from followers, but in the end agreed to pay NIS 20 million shekels to charitable organizations.
Inspectors estimate that the blessing and amulet industry is worth approximately NIS 1-2 billion (approximately USD 225 - 550 millon) a year, mostly amongst rabbis and mystics in Israel’s south.
The town of Netivot alone has 4-5 popular rabbinic courts.
Ministry of Justice officials say that until now this was considered a grey area, but that now clear instructions have been offered.