I made my semi-annual trip to my accountant’s office yesterday and, as usual, it was not a pleasant experience. This is in no way my accountant’s fault! Rivki at Don Shrensky & Company is one of the nicest and kindest people I’ve ever met (i.e., she always tries to soften the blow) and she has the patience of a saint! The main reasons that these visits have been so painful (financially and emotionally) is my pathetic Hebrew reading skills and lack of understanding of the differences between the American and Israeli tax systems for self-employed people. This is not Rivki’s fault as I just recently moved my business to their office from a different accounting firm.
As we reviewed the many red notices I received in the mail while she was on maternity leave, Rivki pulled up my accounts online and explained the thousands of shekels in penalties lodged against me by the various tax offices for a combination of errors and my lack of response to their overwhelming (due to my lack of Hebrew mastery) paper in the mail notices. Rivki patiently and thoroughly explained every field on all the monthly & bi-monthly forms I am required to submit to Mas Hachnasa (similar to the US IRS), Bituach Leumi (national insurance – similar to Social Security + more) and Ma’am (the evil VAT – value added tax – people who have been making my life hell), as well as how I am supposed to calculate each and make the payments.
Because I have been leery of investing over 3,000 shekels for an Israeli accounting software package (since it’s all in Hebrew and I don’t know if that investment covers future updates or is an annual cost), I am among the poor people who are required to record every detail of income and expenses in “the green book” – an archaic general ledger of sorts. The big problem – at least with the one I was able to purchase locally is that it’s missing some important column headings that would make completing the Ma’am forms simple. Thinking that this green book was created based on government standards and viewing CPAs as rigid rule keepers, I was shocked when Rivki crossed out the column headings in my book and gave me new ones – headings that actually made sense! Hopefully, going forward for the rest of this year my self-accounting will produce less red notices in the mail.
While I was in the waiting room, I noticed this book titled A Financial Guide to Aliyah and Life in Israel mixed among the newspapers and magazines and flipped through it – and devoured several chapters! I ordered a copy this morning because it’s loaded with information that I need, and I’m sharing it with you because having a book like this before making Aliyah would have reduced the struggle of trying to keep my head above water in the tidal wave of comprehending Israeli finances, tax and employment law to mere ripples. Published in 2012 and authored by Baruch Labinsky, MBA, TEP and Licensed Portfolio Manager with the Israel Securities Authority, this book covers:
- creating a personal financial plan
- selling your overseas home
- updating and confirming validity of insurance policies
- understanding the differences between the Israeli employment market and benefit packages vs. those common in North America
- asset management on both sides of the ocean (banking, investments, risks)
- retirement and estate planning
- the Israeli banking system
- tax planning
- buying & financing a home in Israel
- budgeting to live on an Israeli salary
I highly recommend it to anyone considering Aliyah, as well as those of you who have already come home.
P.S. When I tried to place my order via Amazon this morning I received an error message indicating that the book couldn’t be shipped to Israel (even though it ships FROM Israel)! So I contacted the publisher and was told to go to the author’s website http://labinsky.com/book-store/ and there I was able to order with PayPal in shekels.