Who said that everything in the Israeli economy was stuck? The Knesset Finance Committee has just demonstrated how efficient it can be, rushing through its deliberations at lightning speed.
At last someone is seriously tackling the issue of amendment 132 to the Income Tax Law. One might even begin to think of our elected reps in an entirely new light.
Amendment 132 is not a mere technical tweak. It is a comprehensive overhaul of the tax system as recommended by the Rabinovitch committee, which submitted a tax reform proposal a month ago.
The law has dozens of clauses, all touching the lives of every single citizen. The last time the income tax law was overhauled was in 1975. We may assume that changes introduced now could be here for years to come.
Which is all the more reason why those MKs who are rushing to fast-track the law shouldn't boast about it. Leading accountants and lawyers complain that Finance Minister Silvan Shalom is trying to shove the complex reform through Knesset within days, just to wrap it up before parliament's summer recess. This legislative dash will generate years of further amendments and court hearings, the experts lament. And that's without letting the imagination run riot.
Last week the Israel Bar Association voiced its fears to the Knesset Committee. The law representatives complained that as they were writing their responses, a new version of tax reform arrived.
"And before the ink was dry on that version, we heard of a third version, which we have yet to receive," they wrote, warning of the quality of any final version of tax reform riddled with errors and inconsistencies, due to the hurried treatment.
A similar charge, expressed more publicly, came last week from the deputy attorney general Davida Lachman-Messer, on whose desk was a newer version of the bill. It became increasingly clear that the legislative process was turning into a mockery.
The tax reform is supposed to come into effect on January 2003. The reforms will have widespread, long-term impact on Israeli livelihoods. There is no reason why the legislative consideration devoted to the reforms should not last weeks.
The Finance Committee should meet even throughout the Knesset summer recess to tackle the fundamental points and subtleties of the new tax rules. The issue of S-corporations (used as tax havens for individuals) is only one of the myriad of problematic clauses in the reforms.
Would it be such a disaster if the Knesset passed the reforms only in the winter session?