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Guide to Customs Benefits for Returning Residents

What are Customs?

Customs - is a tax levied on the import or export of goods. Its main purpose is to protect domestic production against competing imports. It is a source of income for the state.

The tax is calculated as a percent of an object’s worth, called the VAT (Value Added Tax), or as a flat purchase tax called the fixed tax. Sometimes, when both are calculated together, it is called the mixed tax.

When you arrive in Israel after claiming your luggage, you exit the Arrival Hall through one of the following two lanes:

The Green Lane :

You can go through the green lane and not have to pay tax only when you are carrying permitted personal effects of the kinds and quantities listed below.

Your entering the green lane is a statement that you have only the permitted types and quantities of items prescribed by law.

The Red Lane:

If you have any items to declare and pay taxes for, you must go through the red lane.

If you are unsure which track to choose? Go to the red lane!

Remember ! Importing objects and / or amounts against the law, is a criminal offense for which you will pay an administrative penalty or face prosecution, and / or confiscation of goods.

Customs benefits for returning residents

As part of promoting the return of Israeli citizens living abroad, despite the improved economic conditions there,

For returning residents and others (listed below), they have removed significant tax barriers that hinder the return of Israelis to Israel and have entitled them to a full (and sometimes partial) tax exemption for the belongings in their possession.

Please note! Returning residents will be able to exercise their benefits from their official day of return and for the following nine months.

The rights granted by the Personal Import Law depend on the status, age, and marital status of the one entering Israel for the first time, and according to the details in his entry document.

Conditions for returning resident status in Customs

A returning resident — is an Israeli citizen who once lived in Israel over the age of 17, moved abroad and returned to Israel after at least two years or more abroad.

•  A resident of Israel eighteen and older.

•  Presenting a returning resident certificate, or a certificate that one is being processed for returning resident status.

•  A valid Israeli passport — one should make sure he has a valid Israeli passport and Israeli passports for children born abroad.

•  A year of absence —  He lived abroad for at least two years before returning to Israel, as long as he didn’t visit intermittently or continuously for four months every year during the last two years before he finally moved to Israel.

A year’s absence from Israel — is calculated from the day after he left to go abroad.

The period he lived abroad is calculated by the Gregorian calendar.

•  Filling out a declaration form detailing the goods (Form 130). You can get a sample form in our office or download it here.

•  Filling out a questionnaire to recognize a returning resident who is eligible for an exemption from customs duties (if the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption did not authorize his returning resident status) (Form 131). You can get a sample form in our office or download it here.

Others who qualify for benefits as a returning resident

A second time immigrant — a person who gave up his Israeli citizenship, or who declared “I do not want to be an Israeli” and ceased to be a resident of Israel because he lived abroad for at least 7 years, or his residency expired for some other reason, such as: he acquired foreign citizenship. He is entitled to immigrate under the Law of Return, and is entitled to receive Customs benefits subject to conditions.

Conditions for importing tax exempt personal effects when you enter Israel (green lane)

•  Personal belongings - such as clothing, footwear, and personal toiletries, of the types and quantities that any person might bring.

•  Wines and beverages - up to 1 liter of an alcoholic beverage and 2 liters of wine for a person aged 18 and over.

• Alcoholic perfumes - up to ¼ liter per person.

•  Tobacco of any kind - whose weight does not exceed 250 g, up to 200 cigarettes in one packet for persons 18 years and older.

•  New items for personal use or as a gift for another person, whose worth does not exceed $200 (US) - for each person entering, age two and older.

The exemption is individual for each person, and one can not combine the amounts of those entering Israel together to get a tax exemption for an object worth more than $200.

The tax duty on an object whose value is more than $200, is for the full value of the object instead of the amount over $200.

•  Used objects for personal use that belong to the passengers, such as a camera, camcorder, laptop, TV, personal jewelry, musical instruments, baby stroller, sports equipment, non-motor bike, etc.

•  Food - up to three types of food, as long as they don’t exceed 1 kg of each type.

Note : The tax exemption for the personal effects mentioned above which allow you to pass through the green lane is only if you brought the items with you when you arrived in Israel. In other cases, you must go through the red lane.

Conditions for importing "household items"

Household items - includes standard objects that are used in an apartment, including home sports equipment (home gyms, bikes, tennis equipment, etc.) and home office equipment, such as a printer, fax, etc. "Until one item of any kind "and the following conditions:

•  Devices and tools which are industrial in nature or are not usually found in an apartment or backyard can not be imported duty-free from Customs. These include plumbing goods, construction materials, flooring, wallpaper or wall coverings, tiles, etc.

If in doubt, one should check in advance with Customs whether the exemption applies, and whether the object in question is eligible for a "household goods" exemption.

•  Three shipments only — A "shipment" can be a container, and it can also be a small cardboard box.

Delivery of a single tax-free cardboard box will be considered as utilizing one shipment of the two permitted shipments. The personal household items in your personal luggage (about 50 pounds) when you enter Israel will not be charged taxes and will not be considered as one shipment which is deducted from the duty-free two shipments. However, you have to go through the red lane to declare the goods.

The entitlement to two shipments are for a family whose members have the same status.

•  A family can import one item of every kind of electric and electronic appliance but may have two televisions and two personal computers. Likewise for major furniture items.

•  You must furnish proof that you have your own home in Israel (you have to present a document that shows you are an apartment owner or you have to show a contract for a rented apartment that bears a stamp duty).

•  All the import items and documents must be registered in your name.

•  Within one year of your entry to Israel, you must report for compulsory army service, or prove that you are exempt from reporting for army service.

•  All the things that are released with you must be for your use in Israel for a period of at least six years (for car imports, the period of personal use in Israel is for 4 years) and must be of a reasonable quantity when they are released from Customs, as stipulated in Customs regulations.

•  One may not transfer the objects to others before the end of the eligibility period, with or without remuneration.

•  You must make a declaration and detailed list of all the objects in your luggage.

•  The Tax Authority may require, at its discretion, and for a period determined by the Authority, that you deposit a bank or other guarantee to ensure compliance with the conditions.

Conditions for importing household goods by mail delivery

If you get a mail delivery which contains household items (as defined above), the mail delivery will be considered as one of the two shipments that you are entitled to duty-free.

However, if the mail package sent to Israel contains only personal items such as clothing and footwear, it will not subtract from your eligibility to receive two duty-free shipments of household items.

This is provided that the mail package arrived from 30 days before your arrival in Israel until three months after your date of arrival.

Items forbidden to import

Objects forbidden to import to Israel include:

•  A knife, except for a pocket knife, a knife designated for use with your profession, or for household purposes, or any other legitimate purpose.

•  A laser speedometer jammer.

•  Firearms that appear like a pen or starting pistol, or that operate on gas, etc.

•  A tear gas canister that looks like a firearm.

•  Prohibited gambling / lottery games.

•  Explosives and flammable substances, and similar dangerous objects.

•  Live creatures such as poisonous snakes.

•  Tools used in the preparation or consumption of a dangerous substance.

•  Break-in or indecent items.

•  Forged and counterfeit coins and documents.

•  Dangerous toys.

•  Objects that may incite violence, terrorism or racism.

•  Objects that show identification or sympathy with terrorist groups.

Objects whom an authorized authority must approve for import

There are objects that must meet the criteria set by an authorized authority to be imported, such as:

•  Gas grill (barbecue) - if certified by the Standards Institute.

•  Mobile phone - with the approval of the Ministry of Communications.

•  Motorized scooter - if certified by the Ministry of Transport.

•  Meat, milk, and fresh fish - with the approval of the Ministry of Health.

•  Fruits, vegetables, and plants -  if certified by the Ministry of Agriculture.

•  Drugs - with the approval of the Ministry of Health.

•  Raw materials - with the approval of the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Sometimes they will require an individual import authorization / license. To clarify the criteria, you should check with the relevant authorized authority.

Conditions for importing hand tools

During one’s period of entitlement, one can import tools duty-free (that are not considered part of one’s personal luggage) provided that the tools are designated for one’s professional needs, and they are tools carried by hand whose value does not exceed an amount equal to $1,650 - according to their value in the Customs price list.

Conditions for importing devices and machines for a business

Machinery, devices, and tools needed to start a business in Israel, of the kind used in industry, workshops, agriculture or other approved purposes, are duty-free under the following conditions:

•  One must deposit a bank guarantee of the amount of taxes due on tools of this type.

•  The value of all the equipment does not exceed $36,000 — including the hand tools (listed above).

•  The equipment will be used in the immigrant’s plant, and will be kept on the plant premises.

If the immigrant is not the sole owner of the plant, but a partner or shareholder of the plant, he must prove that he has at least 50% control of the said plant and is active at the plant.

In this case, the immigrant is entitled to rent to a plant the goods that he imported and released duty-free, provided that this fact is stated explicitly in the contract between the entitled person and the plant. The partnership or the company is entitled to use the goods as long as the immigrant is a partner or shareholder and he is himself active at the plant.

In the event of the dissolution of the partnership at the plant before the 5 year period from when the goods were released is up, the imported duty-free goods will remain in the possession of the immigrant, and will not be transferred to the possession or use of anyone else without the approval of the Israel Tax Authority, and after payment of applicable taxes.

Conditions for the duty-free purchase of household items in Israel

An immigrant is eligible to purchase household effects" in Israel duty-free, provided that they are produced in Israel, and provided that Customs approved his eligibility to purchase them.

An immigrant may exercise this right up until four years from the date he entered Israel.

He has to ask for an official price quotation, which he must present to the Customs office in his area to get a duty-free certificate.

Once he receives his eligibility form, he must submit it to the store to get the product without paying VAT.

Spouses who divorced during their period of eligibility will each be able to exercise their rights when purchasing household effects in Israel.

Conditions for bringing or sending money in and out of the country

According to the Law of Return, when an immigrant enters Israel the first time, he has to report if he has 100.000 NIS or more.

He must fill in a "Money entry and exit report" form (Customs Form 84). You can get a sample form at our office or download it here.

You can also receive the form at any one of the customs branches and customs units at border crossings.

Note : The Anti-Money Laundering Act stipulates that any large sum of money beyond what is permitted by law that enters the territory of Israel must be reported to the Anti-Money Laundering Authority. Although the entry of large amounts of cash is not a criminal offense, bringing in capital without reporting it is a criminal offense.

The obligation to report applies to both bringing money in and taking money out of Israel. Anyone who violates the reporting requirement is liable to six months imprisonment or a fine.

When you remove the money from Israel, you must submit the form prior to taking the money out of Israel.

When you bring the money to Israel, you must submit the form within 72 hours from receipt of the money.

Conditions for the import of a motor vehicle

The conditions for importing a vehicle is the same as for all Israeli residents (besides the regulation that an Israeli citizen can not import a vehicle whose manufacturing date was more than 24 months before).

•  A valid Israeli driver's license for the type of his imported vehicle.

•  48 months hadn’t passed from the vehicle’s manufacturing date when it was registered (for a motorcycle, 24 months).

•  The vehicle will be imported to Israel within nine months from the date of entry to Israel.

•  One is at least 17 years old when he comes to Israel.

•  The Ministry of Transport approved importing the vehicle. (For further information, contact the Department of Standardization in the Ministry of Transport).

•  One can import up to two vehicles in the space of 12 months.

•  The vehicle must be only for his personal use for 1 year from the time of import

Import taxes that apply to car imports are sales tax, VAT, and taxes calculated on the base value of a vehicle. The taxation rate is according to the Customs price list.

Other conditions regarding entitlement for importing

An Israeli student resident — who returned to Israel after he had been abroad for at least 18 months, and studied as a regular student in a recognized institution of higher education for two consecutive academic years, or was a full-time student at the said institution, and received a masters degree from the same institution, will not be recognized as a returning student if he returned to Israel after 6 months had passed from the day he graduated or from the day he obtained the degree.

Returning student — must obtain confirmation from the institution where he studied that he was a student for two academic years, or he obtained an academic degree.

Other conditions related to a couple’s eligibility to import items:

•  An immigrant is eligible for tax exemption benefits for home items that his / her spouse already utilized in the past before their marriage, provided that six years passed from the date the spouse utilized the benefit.

•  An exemption for one of the spouses will not be approved without checking the passport of the other spouse even if only one of them has eligibility status.

•  Spouses who entered the country together or individually after they had separated, or are in the middle of divorce proceedings, shall be considered as married, and will have to present the passport of the other spouse.

•  One who is entitled and comes to Israel without his / her spouse, and would like to receive the Customs rights of a returning citizen, has to come equipped with a Customs form "Permit for a spouse living in Israel to exercise the spouse’s eligibility”, with the spouse’s notarized signature or a statement made in the presence of Israeli consul abroad. He should attach a photocopy of the passport of his / her spouse who remained overseas (Form 142). You can receive a sample form at our office or download it here.

Contact information

Below is a list of Customs branches :

Jerusalem Customs branch — 66 Kanfei Nesharim, Jerusalem. 02-6545555.

Center Customs branch — 3A Israel Galili, Rishon Lezion. 03-9421666.

Haifa Customs branch — Port Gate 3, Haifa. 04-8354811.

Ashdod Customs branch — 2 HaBanaim St., Forum Building, Ashdod. 08-8510610.

Ben Gurion Airport Customs branch — Ben Gurion Airport, Lod. 03-9751111.

Eilat Customs branch — Eilat port, Eilat. 08-6383888.
Questions and Answers:
For how long can I utilize my rights to customs benefits
Up to 9 months from entry into Israel.
Does a returning resident get tax benefits when he imports a car
No. His status is the same as an Israeli civilian who wants to import a vehicle.
Does one eligible for tax benefits have to show his spouse’s passport
I have an item that is worth over two hundred dollars. What tax rate do I have to pay
An item worth more than two hundred dollars will be charged the full tax value.
Will visits to Israel make me lose my returning resident status
Yes. Visits of more than four consecutive or cumulative months per year before receiving your status as a returning resident can affect your customs benefits.
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