Tax Authority Takes Aim at 4 Species Sellers
The Israel Tax Authority has launched a campaign against stalls selling the traditional four species on suspicion of tax evasion, Globes the financial news service has reported.
According to the report, raids have interrupted sales in Bnei Brak, Herzliya, Kfar Saba, Netanya, and other cities, in a bid to catch green fingered criminals exploiting the holiday season to earn a quick fortune without declaring their earnings.
The four species of willow, myrtle, date palm and the etrog citron fruit are a central feature of the upcoming festival of Sukkot in which Jews are commanded to wave the species whilst holding them together.
Although willow can be found with relative ease throughout the country, buyers have been known to pay into the hundreds of shekels for myrtle and date palms while etrogs which are often imported have been known to be sold for hundreds of dollars each.
One seller who wished not to be named said: "As a seller, in a few days it's possible to make enough money to last the whole year."
According to the globes report: "The Tax Authority knows that a lot of money flows under the table in it. Stall owners have an aggregate turnover of millions of shekels during the holiday season, and many do not report their income, or report only part of it."
Aside from street sales, the report also said there was "rampant smuggling of high quality four species products." Adding that in the last two weeks alone customs at Ben Gurion Airport had seized 400 etrogs from three passengers who tried to smuggle them into the country without paying duty and without permits from the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Health.
One etrog smuggler, apprehended upon arrival in Israel from a flight from France, was caught with 150 high quality etrogs hoping to sell ahead of the festival. A yeshiva dean was stopped by customs officials at Ben Gurion Airport without declaring a store of the sought after fruit.