Thursday, August 30, 2012

Trending: Taxpayers residing outside U.S. questioned at U.S. border regarding back taxes

Hey American Olim -- Remember the phrase, "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition"?

Well, no one expects to be questioned at the US border when flying to the US for a simcha or the IRS,  about back taxes.

This month's, "Journal of Accountancy" has a rather scary article about this very issue. First and last paragraphs are the key:
Taxpayers traveling to the United States with unpaid U.S. tax assessments can be detained at the border, questioned, and flagged for follow-up enforcement. If a taxpayer has an unpaid tax liability and is subject to a resulting Notice of Federal Tax Lien, the IRS may submit identifying taxpayer information to the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS), a database maintained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The database allows the DHS to identify taxpayers with unpaid tax assessments who are traveling to the United States (Internal Revenue Manual (IRM), §

A taxpayer who resides outside the United States may not be aware of outstanding federal tax liabilities if the address on record for the taxpayer is outdated or otherwise incorrect. Consequently, tax advisers with clients who reside outside the United States should ensure that the correct address for the taxpayer is used on the client’s returns and, if the client no longer is required to file U.S. returns, that the IRS still is able to contact the taxpayer about previously filed returns. Taxpayers should be advised that a failure to keep the IRS apprised of a change in mailing address may result in an unwelcome—and potentially embarrassing—surprise when the taxpayer seeks to enter the United States.
This could apply even if you DON'T owe money, but the IRS thinks you owe money, audited you (without your knowledge if they couldn't contact you), and then...while trying to visit...

So, make sure you file regularly, and make sure they have an address listed for you, which will actually reach you.

Remember the IRS motto: "We're not happy, till you're not happy..."

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Forgotten Rachels

Updated: 29/August/2012.  Thanks for those who pointed out that the term "The Forgotten Rachels" was coined by Tom Gross (which I was unaware of). He wrote about some of the "Forgotten Rachels" in The Spectator magazine on October 22, 2005. [Credit: EG]

With Rachel Corrie in the news today and trending on Twitter, it's time to remember some of the other Rachels who were murdered by Palestinian Terrorists (you know, the friends of the ISM) who didn't get a day in court. You can read about each of them in the enclosed hyperlinks.

Some of the forgotten Rachels: 

Rachel Levy (aged 17, blown up in a grocery store)

Rachel Levi (19, shot while waiting for the bus)

Rachel Gavish (killed with her husband, son and father while at home celebrating a Passover meal)

Rachel Charhi (blown up while sitting in a Tel Aviv cafe, leaving three young children)

Rachel Shabo (murdered with her three sons aged 5, 13 and 16 while at home)

Rachel Ben Abu (16, blown up outside the entrance of a Netanya shopping mall)

Rachel Kol, 53, who worked at a Jerusalem hospital and was killed with her husband in a Palestinian terrorist attack in July a few days after the London bombs.

Rachel Sela, 82, murdered the day before Purim on March 4th, 1996 when an Palestinian suicide bomber exploded at Dizingoff Center, Tel Aviv.

Rachel Tajgatrio, 83, murdered while shopping in Jerusalem's "Machaneh Yehuda" market when 2 bombs went off on July 30th, 1997.

Rachel Thaler, 16 years old from Ginot Shomron died of her wounds on February 27 2002, after a Palestinian bomber exploded in a shopping mall's food court, killing 3, wounding 30.

Rachel Tamari 65, murdered by a Palestinian bomb on the Dan #20 bus in Ramat Gan, on July 24, 1995.  6 Israelis died in that attack, and dozens were wounded.

Rachel Drouk, 35, mother of 7 from the Shilo community was murdered by Palestinian terrorist gunfire while on her way to a demonstration (October 28, 1991) -- that negotiating with Palestinian terrorists would be dangerous to Israel.  The driver of her car, Yitzchak Rofeh was also killed and 5 others wounded.

Rachel Weiss, 26, pregnant and mother of 3 small children (Rafael, Netanel and Efraim), were all murdered by Palestinian terrorists who threw a molotov cocktail at her car in the Jordan Valley (October 31, 1988)

Rachel Weiss, 69, stabbed to death by Palestinian terrorists who were sent by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin to as an "entrance test" to the Hamas organizations.  She was murdered in her home in Moshav Shapir, August 3rd, 1988.

Rachel Munk, 24, [married 6 weeks earlier] was murdered in a drive-by terror attack by on July 26, 1996, along with her husband Zeev Munk.  The attack took place on the Beit Shemesh - Kiryat Melachi road near Moshav Gefen.

Rachel Stern, 8 years old,  stabbed to death, along with her mother, while eating breakfast in their home in Kiryat Shmona, on April 11, 1974.  16 people were murdered that day by Palestinian terrorists in that attack.

Rachel Afita, 16, murdered by Palestinian terrorists in the Northern Israeli community of Maalot on May 15, 1974

Rachel Lev, 50, murdered by Palestinian terrorists when 5 bombs exploded throughout the Haifa area on October 23, 1969 and the following day.  7 people were killed in the attack, including her husband Eliyahu and son Avraham.

Rachel Mizrachi, 38, stabbed to death by Arab terrorists in her home in Tiberias, October 2, 1939.

May their memories be blessed.

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Israeli Court Rules: Useful Idiocy Not a Valid Legal Defense

Yesterday, the Haifa District Court rejected claims that Israel was at fault over the death of American Rachel Corrie.

Corrie, an ISM activist, was flattened and killed by an IDF armored bulldozer in 2003 while protesting Israel's right to defend itself of clearing terrorist minefields in the Gaza Strip near the Egyptian border.

Corrie's family accused Israel of intentionally and unlawfully killing their 23-year-old daughter, and launched a civil case after an IDF military investigation cleared the army's commanders and soldiers of wrong-doing. YNET reports:
In a ruling read out to the court, Judge Oded Gershon called Corrie's death a "regrettable accident", but said the state was not responsible because the incident had occurred during what he termed a war-time situation. At the time of her death, during a Palestinian uprising, Corrie was protesting against Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
"I reject the suit," the judge said. "There is no justification to demand the state pay any damages." He added that the soldiers had done their utmost to keep people away from the site. "
She (Corrie) did not distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done. He rejected a claim of negligence explaining that the bulldozer's driver had limited vision unlike Corrie. "She consciously put herself in harm's way," Gershon said. The accident had been self inflicted, he added. "
The Jewish Press adds:
The judge found that Corrie was in a closed military zone. Further, he ruled that, based upon the evidence, the driver of the bulldozer, whom the plaintiffs had claimed intentionally or negligently killed Corrie, could not have seen the International Solidarity Movement volunteer before she was struck. Corrie could have saved herself, the judge found, if she had removed herself from the situation. All claims of negligence against Israel in the death of Rachel Corrie have been dismissed. Corrie’s parents, the plaintiffs in the wrongful death case, will not be charged with court costs.
While my heart goes out to the Corrie family whose daughter was killed, it's tragic that the ISM used Rachel Corrie as a "Useful Idiot" in their war for the destruction of Israel. The Corrie family's anger and grief should be directed at the ISM which cynically used Corrie as a pawn against the IDF.

The Corrie family wrongly claims that was a plan to escalate the confrontation between the bulldozers and the "peace activists."  Apparently, there was a plan, but not the way the Corrie's have been led to believe...
But it was the ISM members who decided to escalate, as described by Newsweek writer Joshua Hammer in a lengthy article in Mother Jones. Why? One possible reason was because of the sexual tension that was hurting their relations with the local Palestinians.

"An anonymous letter was circulating," Hammer reported, "which referred to Corrie and the other expatriate women in Rafah as 'nasty foreign bitches' whom 'our Palestinian young men are following around.' That morning [of Corrie's death], the ISM team tried to devise a strategy to counteract the letter's effects.
'We all had a feeling that our role was too passive,' said one ISM member. 'We talked about how to engage the Israeli military.' That morning, team members made a number of proposals that seemed designed only to aggravate the problem. 'The idea was to more directly challenge the Israeli military dominance using our international status,' said the ISMer."
sourced from Lenny Ben-David's Research Blog
Years later, the picture is much clearer, as we know that ISM female activists are routinely harassed and sexually assaulted by Palestinians.

Reported by the Muqata, 2 years ago:
Back in July, Ha’aretz reported the story of a former Arab convict named Alladin who would find these young female peace activist staying in nearby villages, he would tell them he was on the run from the Shabak (Israel security), and ask them to hide him.
These young female dupes would of course be happy to help an Arab on the lam from the Israeli authorities and let him sleep in their rooms. So far one girl initially came forward about the attempted rape against her. She was found wandering the village of Umm Salmuna (near Bethlehem) in a state of shock, so who knows if the attempt actually failed.
But in the end retracted her story due to pressure to “not hurt the cause”. Pressure that came from the PA and the leftwing protest organizers. Haaretz had learned that representatives of both the popular protest movement and the PA have since applied pressure on the American peace activist as to prevent her from making the story public.
The story could have ended there, except that there’s more. Apparently, quite a number of female protesters have been sexually assaulted and molested by the Arabs they are protesting for.
If the Corrie family still needs an outlet to find meaning in their daughter's death, they should direct their pain at the ISM.   They could even champion the cause for other concerned parents to educate their children about why the ISM is a dangerous and irresponsible organization.

PostScript: I had to add this from a post entitled "The secular beatification of Rachel Corrie sums up everything that is wrong with modern solidarity with Palestine"
...The transformation of Corrie’s life and death into a black-and-white morality tale – featuring a well-off white American who was pure of heart, poor little brown people who have no hope, and a Zionist entity that is supremely evil – sums up the boneheadedness of modern-day Palestinian solidarity. There was a time when supporting Palestine meant looking upon Palestinians as a people capable of governing their own lives, even of running their own state, free from the meddling or bossing-about of outsiders. Now, Palestinian solidarity is all about treating Palestinians as the ultimate victims, as helpless, hapless, sad-eyed creatures who need decent Westerners, ideally well-educated ones brought up in Amnesty-supporting households, to come over and “save” them, in a not dissimilar way to how Bible-wielding white folk once tried to saved the savages of Africa.
Palestinian solidarity has become creepily anthropological. It increasingly treats Palestinians, not as a people who simply need more political independence, but as a threatened tribe that must be protected from further harm by “human shields” from the enlightened west. Decked out in Arafat-style keffiyehs (a PC form of blacking up), and possessed of a conviction that it falls to white-skinned, iPhone-armed westerners to expose Israel’s “genocidal” crimes to the world media, solidarity activists who travel to Palestinian territories are becoming more and more like secular versions of the crusaders of old. They are effectively going to Palestine to find themselves, to try to give meaning to their potentially shallow lives through imagining that they can “save” an entire people and halt a “genocide” by standing in front of a tank or writing some blog posts about how tragic are the lives of cute Palestinian children. It is a peculiar form of solidarity that reduces an entire foreign people to the level of child-like victims who need the likes of St Rachel to save them.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Back to School in Israel

Granted, some kids in Israel have already started going back to school yesterday, (some even last week), but the excitement this morning at a local bus stop was palpable as almost 2 dozen parents practically danced when the school bus arrived.

I think a flash-mob of parents dancing when the bus arrived, complete with fireworks and helium balloons would have been the best way to send the kids off to school. It reminded me of this classic commercial:

Even Google Israel's dedicated its webpage this morning to Israel's "Back to School" motif.
Parents: Congratulations on surviving another summer!

Google Israel's personalized "back to school" "Google Doodle" for 2012

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

From Facebook: The Two Tzadikkim

Only in Israel - freely translated by Jameel @ The Muqata.  (Seen on Facebook yesterday, August 20th, 2012)

A heartwarming scene you don't see every day.

Yesterday on a crowded street in Jerusalem, as I returned to my parked car I saw a young Chareidi (ultra-Orthodox)  man,putting coins into the parking meter next to my car.  I asked him, "Are you aware that you are putting coins into the parking meter next to my car?"  He replied, "Listen, in another second you will get a parking ticket."

And just then, I see that 10 feet away is a municipal parking inspector looking to write tickets.

"Ashrecha!" [May you be blessed] I call out to the young man, yet he was already running ahead to put a coin into every car's parking meter that had expired.

Yet this wasn't the end of the story.  The parking inspector -- a bare-headed, stubble-faced, hefty Jerusalem man chased after the young man, caught up to him, and started correcting him. "This car's meter hasn't expired yet and doesn't need any coins."   And the two of them continued down the road. I could not contain myself -- I went up to them and said, "You made my day! You are 2 amazing tzaddikim (righteous ones) and may there be more like you in Israel!.  

"I am not a righteous person replied the inspector.  He is (pointing to the young man).  I am just helping him along..."
From Facebook

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Power of the Misquote

In my professional career I've had several occasions to eat humble pie following the publication of a controversial article. The common denominator to all these instances was a combination of two factors:

1. A sad overestimating of my true power in the overall scheme of things.

2. An unrealistic assumption on my part that whatever I had written would actually be read.

And so I've learned the hard way that organizations and the nice men and women who run them are more inclined to unload employees who had caused them some embarrassment (or, worse, potential loss of revenue), than to protect them. On occasion, my offending piece caused threats of sacking my editors as well.

It is my sincere hope that by now, as I'm moving into the second half of my allotted 120 years, I no longer harbor delusions of my personal indispensability.

As you can see, I accept without a hint of resentment the commercial realities I've just described. If I wanted job security I should have taken the civil service exam. I picked this racket and so I abide by its rules.

What saddens me is the second part. Nine times out of ten there's no connection between what I've been accused of writing and what I actually wrote.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Who Gained From the Sinai Attack?

I’ve been wavering back and forth on this, but more and more people I’ve proposed this theory to are beginning to say that there might be something to it. Last week’s Sinai attack is still a mystery. A bunch of Palestinian terrorists kill the soldiers of a Muslim Brotherhood run country, all to get 2 APC vehicles with which to attack Israel! That’s very, very strange. The first questions I asked were, who could be responsible, and what might they gain from it? Other than the answer that the Palestinians are crazy and just like killing people (which we know to be true), there’s only one other answer that keeps popping up. At first my friends thought the idea was too sophisticated for them to pull off. But now they’re not so sure. The only group that gains by an Islamic group's attack on the Egyptian army is Egyptian President Morsy and his Muslim Brotherhood. Look what’s happened since the attack: Morsy’s moved heavy armor, fighter planes and gunships into the Sinai – and didn’t wait for Israel’s approval to do so. He plans to keep them there, and perhaps even add more. Morsy’s fired his top officers and replaced them – creating an internal loyalty realignment amongst the mid-level officers, as well as obviously his top level officers. Morsy's officially taken control over the Egyptian army, announcing himself as the Supreme Commander on Egyptian TV (making the Muslim Brotherhood into the Big Giant Head, I suppose). Morsy’s announced he’s reviewing the Camp David Accords in order to change them because Egypt needs full and unrestricted control over the Sinai. That's a lot of convenient fallout from one attack. At every level Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood gain by the Sinai attack, and in fact are the only winners. And that makes them the prime suspects behind the attack. What do you think?

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Monday, August 13, 2012

VIDEO: Women of Alon Shvut -- Daf HaYomi Siyum HaShas

Kudos to the women of Alon Shvut who finished Daf HaYomi and all of Shas.

Mazal tov!

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Dear Hillary, What were you thinking?!

Dear Madame Secretary Mrs. Hillary Clinton,

Shalom from Israel.  Pardon my directness, but I was flabbergasted by some of the findings of the USA's State Department's newly published, "International Religious Freedom Report for 2011," regarding religious freedom in Israel.  Obviously, it goes without saying that the State Department would find fault with the characteristics of a Jewish State, using the report to scold Israel for a myriad of issues,  ranging from the use of halacha for determining conversions to the "discriminatory" nature of Israel's view towards missionaries trying to sway Israel's citizens away from Judaism.

Yet in the State Department's attempt for "completeness," I did not expect the following criticism, which is in direct conflict to the US State Department's worldview on Israel.
"The 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law safeguards the holy sites of all religious groups, including in Jerusalem. All holy sites enjoy certain protections under the penal law, which makes it a criminal offense to damage any holy site, while historic sites are protected by the antiquities law. The government provided resources for the upkeep of holy places of all recognized religious communities, but provided significantly greater levels of government resources to Jewish holy places.

A government policy since 1967, repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court and routinely enforced by the police citing security concerns, denies all non-Muslims opportunities to worship at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. While the government ensured limited access to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif to everyone regardless of religious beliefs, only Muslims are allowed to pray at the site, although their access has been occasionally restricted due to security concerns. Police regulated traffic in and out of the compound and removed non-Muslim visitors if they appeared to be praying. Since 2000 the Jordanian Waqf that manages the site has restricted non-Muslims from entering the Dome of the Rock shrine and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Non-Muslim religious symbols are not allowed to be worn on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif."
 Is the State Department out of it's mind?  Do you honestly want there to be equal, or even semi-equal time for non-Muslims to pray, or even whisper words of prayer, on the Temple Mount?

The State Department wont let the Jerusalem-born children of US parents, to list Jerusalem, ISRAEL on their US passport for fear of upsetting the Arab world, yet you criticize Israel for not allowing Jews freedom of prayer on the Temple Mount?  Does not your worldview understand that allowing Jews to openly pray, freely, on the Temple Mount will release far more anger in the Arab world that writing "Jerusalem, Israel" on a passport, and will cause far more Arab angst than the construction of Jewish homes in the West Bank?

Have you lost your minds -- do you even realize what you have written?  Then again, I could be naive in the reading of "non-Muslim" to include, "Jews."  I could be mistaken, and your intentions were for non-Muslims, excluding Jews, which would fully match the State Department's policy towards Israel. 

While I personally have no issue with  Jews openly praying on the Temple Mount, I would appreciate your clarification on the issue.


Jameel Rashid
The Muqata Blog

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Planning to Survive an IRS Audit in Israel

Almost every American living in Israel is aware of the legendary "additional child tax credit" (ACTC) "tax credit/refund" of $1000 per child.  Over the years I've written about it on the blog; The IRS Taxman comethThe Apocalypse: Feds arrive in Israel, With Liberty and Passports for all, as well as the importance of filing the FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report) -- disclosure of all Financial Holdings and Bank accounts outside the United States that belong to American citizens that are in excess of $10,000.  Therefore, almost any American who has moved to Israel and has a pension fund or keren hishtalmut -- is required to file the US FBAR.

However....because there exists an entire underground "industry" of return preparers who have filed fraudulent returns, fabricating earned income in order for their clients to claim child credits, and have retroactively filed for tax credit refunds after children have been naturalized (not American by birth, but by being brought to the USA and made citizens there) -- many tax practitioners in Israel have stated that the IRS has begun scrutinizing (read: AUDITING) all returns of Americans in Israel claiming the ACTC.

Thankfully I have not (yet?) been audited, but with the IRS targeting everyone  -- I am putting together this list on how to proactively prepare for an audit. 

Step 1: Take a deep breathe, count to ten, and don't panic. 

Assuming you used a reputable tax-preparer, didn't count a kollel stipend as income,  and you didn't retroactively try to claim the refund after bringing your kids to the US for naturalization -- you should be able to survive the audit unscathed.

Step 2: The key for surviving the audit is to prepare now, even if you aren't being audited.  Proactivity is the key.

You should prepare and gather the following information:

A letter from the comptroller of your company stating -

- Duration of your employment
- For the previous 3 years, your salary, income tax, health tax, and national insurance (ביטוח לאומי) payments
- The bank name, branch number, and acct. no. into which your salary was paid.

Your original form 106’s and authorized English translations** for the previous 3 years.

A letter from your family physician listing the names and date of births of all your kids, and a statement that s/he has been treating them for the previous how many years and that they reside with you and your spouse. The letter should be on Kupat Cholim stationary, preferably with an English letterhead.

A letter from each of the schools your kids attended during at least the previous 3 years indicating their names, date of births, the grade they’re currently studying in (if relevant), and a statement that you and your spouse are their primary care providers and that they reside with you. The letter should also indicate your address, that you paid their school fees, and that you attend parent-teacher meetings faithfully.

A copy of your marriage certificate. If married in the USA - your marriage license. If married in Israel, the registration form provided by the Minister of Religious Affairs when you got married, (not your Ketuba), and an authorized English translation.**

Copies of US passports for each member of the family.

Copies of IL passports for each member of the family.

Copies of Social Security cards for each child.

Copies of IL birth certificates for each child.

Copies of US Consular Report of Birth Abroad for each child.
**Authorized English Translation means you need an authorized translator (not yourself)  and it must be approved by a notary.   This may actually be cheaper in the US than in Israel because notary services in the US cost a fraction of notarization services in Israel (which are outrageous). Thanks to the CPAs and translators who have updated me that the translations do not need to be notarized. See the comment section for an authorized translator.

Step 3: Don't try to deal with the audit by yourself. Pay a CPA in Israel -- they have far more experience, and even if you get all the documentation above by yourself (which will save you much time and hassle), its still best to pay the CPA and let them be the interface to the IRS.

For more information on the IRS targeting American tax filers in Israel, see this article, "Americans in Israel Under IRS Scrutiny for Child Credit Claims" by Eric Kroh.

Yihiyeh Biseder!

PS: Kudos to the underground "industry" of return preparer and services who caused this massive Chilul Hashem.  You know who you are, and you will be audited a thousand times over in hell.

If you need the name of reputable CPAs in Israel, you can contact me by email.

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