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Shabbat Parashat Teruma 5778

P'ninat Mishpat: Policy Change to Pay Settlement Tax

(based on ruling 76067 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The defendant (=def) has lived in a yishuv for years, originally with his family. A few years ago, he was divorced but continued living in the yishuv as a boarder, and he was not required to pay a yishuv tax. In September 2013, the yishuv board (=pl) voted to make people in def’s situation pay the tax. After not receiving payment from def for a few months, pl hand-delivered a letter threatening legal action if def did not pay. In May, pl summoned def to our beit din. Def sent a letter to beit din complaining about the change in policy, the impersonal way it was carried out, and the fact that the yishuv had not given him his own mailbox (which explains why he did not get pl’s earlier letters). Def did not sign an arbitration agreement or promise to submit to beit din, nor did pl receive beit din’s permission to seek payment through the court system (their agreement had an arbitration provision to come to beit din). Pl went straight to hotza’ah lapoal (court collection services) to extract payment with the claim that def’s tax obligation is a straightforward obligation, and def did not legally fight that action. Pl extracted 4,371 shekels from def, and hotza’ah lapoal charged him an extra 2,250 shekels for the process. As of the time of the din Torah, the amount def still owed, according to pl, was 9,770 shekels. Def argues that since the family that includes his children, which he helps support, is taxed, it is wrong to tax him as a separate family unit. He claims to never have refused to come to beit din, just that he demanded that beit din ensure he receive a mail box before he would come. Also, members of pl agreed to a reduction in the tax, so pl cannot now demand full payment.

 

Ruling: Regarding pl’s authority to start taxing def, Halacha recognizes the public’s broad taxation rights (see Shut Harashba VII:340), and, historically, we rarely find beit din intervening. Since there are no claims that pl acted arbitrarily or discriminated, just def’s claim that he viewed the decision as unfair, we find no basis to second guess the democratic, legal decision. The claim that pl acted insensitively in carrying out the decision is not relevant in adjudication. 

Regarding the public’s right to extract payment at hotza’ah lapoal without proper adjudication, the dayanim differed. One dayan invoked the Rama’s (Choshen Mishpat 4:1) ruling that in a dispute between the community and an individual, the community is entitled to seize guarantees of payment before adjudication. The majority ruled that the reasons behind the Rama’s ruling are unique to the old system, where the community collected taxes to pay the king. In contrast, the taxation in question here is a more standard monetary claim, which should follow normal systems. However, all the dayanim agree that pl was required to continue the process of adjudication; def never rejected beit din but simply raised certain reservations. Therefore, the sum of hotza’ah lapoal expenses is to be reduced from the taxes due.

Finally, while a member of pl may have expressed willingness to forgive some of def’s obligation, def did not go through the process used to request reductions; an individual board member has no authority to waive funds owed.
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