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Explosive report claims France is targeting Jews for tax evasion, but there’s a catch

Explosive report claims France is targeting Jews for tax evasion, but there’s a catch
An explosive report by the Israeli financial daily newspaper Globes claims that France has established a secret department to target French Jews believed to be avoiding tax. The claims, however, quickly crumble under scrutiny.

The exclusive report, published December 28, alleges that authorities at Bercy Street, France's Ministry of Finance, established a specialist, Hebrew-speaking "secret department" on the 13th floor to handle tax evasion by French Jews through property deals in Israel. The paper also claims that department is due to hire an additional five members of staff to help tackle the alleged rampant tax evasion.

The report cites multiple unnamed sources, insiders, and experts to legitimize claims of institutionalized anti-Semitism in a country which is world famous as a constitutionally defined secular republic.

The “secret department” allegedly examines Land Registry deals in Israel in cities such as Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Ra'anana, Netanya, and Jerusalem for anomalies that correlate with foreign passport information. The crack team of Israeli tax law veterans also reportedly targets French Jews who are in the process of emigrating to Israel.

"It is very, very irregular to hire 20 Hebrew-speaking employees, or any other language, in a foreign tax authority. Most tax authorities have one or two Hebrew-speakers,” an anonymous “international lawyer specializing in taxation who is familiar with the secret department” told Globes.

“Every tax authority has employees that speak a foreign language, but hiring 20 or more Hebrew-speaking investigators is very irregular.”

A 2008 Israeli law does offer new and returning immigrants a 10-year exemption from taxes and reporting on income generated abroad, but to suggest that French authorities are targeting people on the basis of ethnicity or religion alone is an allegation which the government has denied in the most vehement and unequivocal of terms.

"In the framework of the campaign against tax evasion, the authorities in France conduct investigations concerning individual cases, in accordance with the international agreements. The authorities in France deny the existence of a special department. It is extremely important to state that the things that were written are false.”

"Taxes in France are calculated according to risk considerations. There is therefore no connection whatsoever to the national affiliation or ethnic origin of taxpayers. Next year, automatic exchanges of information are scheduled between OECD member countries," the French Embassy in Israel said in a statement, as cited by Globes.

In addition, while there have been multiple investigations into alleged money laundering schemes in Israel via the real estate market, and figures from the Israel Ministry of Immigration and Absorption show a major spike in emigration from France to Israel, in the first half of 2017, there is one major flaw in the investigation that the French Finance Ministry was quick to point out.

“The building has only nine floors and therefore cannot contain the alleged specialist department on the 13th floor,” the finance ministry said in an online statement, with just a hint of irony.