In general, the annual results (i.e. the excess of income over expenses or vice versa) of an Israeli company or branch, as detailed in the taxpayer’s financial statements, form the basis for computing the taxable income of the business.
The base amount is then adjusted pursuant to the provisions of the tax law to arrive at ‘taxable income’.
Inventories are generally valued at the lower of cost or market value (i.e. net realisable value). Conformity is required between book and tax reporting of inventory. The first in first out (FIFO) or weighted-average basis of valuation is acceptable; the last in first out (LIFO) method is not accepted.
Capital gains tax is generally payable on capital gains by residents of Israel on the sale of assets (irrespective of the location of the assets) and by non-residents on the sale of the following:
- Assets located in Israel.
- Assets located abroad that are essentially a direct or indirect right to an asset or to inventory, or that are an indirect right to a real estate right or to an asset in a real estate association, located in Israel. Taxation applies only in respect of that part of the consideration that stems from the above property located in Israel.
- Assets that are a share or the right to a share in an Israeli entity.
- Assets that are a right in a foreign resident entity that is essentially a direct or indirect right to property located in Israel. Taxation applies only with respect to that part of the consideration that stems from the property located in Israel.
The cashless transfer of rights and assets arising from certain mergers, spin-offs, and asset transfers may be exempt from tax upon meeting various requirements.
Determination of the capital gain
Corporate tax on capital gains is imposed on the disposal of fixed and intangible assets where the disposal price is in excess of the depreciated cost.
Computation of real gain and inflationary components
For tax purposes, the capital gain is generally calculated in local currency, and there are provisions for segregating the taxable gain into its real and inflationary components. The inflationary amount is the original cost of the asset, less depreciation (where applicable), multiplied by the percentage increase in the Israeli consumer price index (CPI) from the date of acquisition of the asset to the date of its sale. The inflationary amount component is exempt to the extent it accrued after 1 January 1994 and is generally subject to tax at the rate of 10% if it accrued before that date.
The real gain component, if any, is taxed at the rates set out further below.
A non-resident that invests in capital assets with foreign currency may elect to calculate the inflationary amount in that foreign currency. Under this option, in the event of a sale of shares in an Israeli company, the inflationary amount attributable to exchange differences on the investment is always exempt from Israeli tax.
Sale of assets (including publicly and non-publicly traded shares)
The real gain is generally subject to tax at the corporate tax rate applicable in the year of the gain (23% in 2020). Special exemptions may apply for non-residents (see further below).
Special rule for retained profits upon sale of shares
Special provisions apply to part of the real gain that is attributed to the seller’s share of retained profits in the case of a sale of (i) non-traded shares that were acquired prior to 1 January 2003 or (ii) publicly traded shares where the seller was a 10% or more shareholder.
In the case of a disposal by corporations of (i) non-traded shares and (ii) traded shares when the seller generally directly or indirectly holds at least 10% of the sold Israeli company during the 12-month period preceding the sale, special provisions apply to such part of the real gain that is attributed to the seller’s share of retained profits. The share of retained profits is the amount of gain equal to the proportional part of the retained profits of the company that the seller of the shares would have rights to by virtue of those shares. Detailed rules apply in determining this profit component.
Generally, the seller’s proportionate part of the company’s retained profits is taxed as if this amount had been received as dividends immediately before the sale (i.e. at a tax rate of 0% in the case of an Israeli-resident corporate shareholder or at a tax rate of 30% when the seller is a non-Israeli resident corporate shareholder that generally holds 10% or more in the rights of the Israeli company [it is unclear if this 30% rate may be reduced by an applicable tax treaty]). The part of the retained profits that is attributed to the period ending on 31 December 2002 is subject to tax at the rate of 10%.
Special exemptions for non-residents
Publicly traded Israeli shares
Non-residents corporations not having a PE in Israel are exempt from tax on capital gains from the sale of shares of an Israeli company traded on the Israeli stock exchange or on a foreign stock exchange. Certain exceptions apply.
Where the shares were purchased by the non-resident prior to being publicly traded, subject to the availability of exemptions detailed below, capital gains tax might apply for the portion of the gain that was generated up to the day of the share’s public listing but not to exceed the capital gain actually arising upon the sale of the share and provided that the value on the day of public listing was more than their value on the date of purchase and that the proceeds upon sale exceeded the value on the date of purchase.
Non-publicly traded shares
For purchases after 1 January 2009, an exemption exists under domestic law for non-residents, regardless of their percentage holding in an Israeli company, from gains derived from the sale of securities not traded on a stock exchange, provided the following conditions are met:
- The investment is not in a company in which, on the date of its purchase and in the two preceding years, the main value of the assets held by the company, directly or indirectly, were sourced from an interest in (i) real estate or in a real estate association (as defined in the Income Tax Ordinance [ITO]); (ii) the use in real estate or any asset attached to land; (iii) exploitation of natural resources in Israel; or (iv) produce from land in Israel.
- The capital gains were not derived by the seller’s PE in Israel.
- The shares were not purchased from a relative (as defined in the ITO) or by means of a tax-free reorganisation.
A non-resident company shall not be eligible for this exemption if Israeli residents are controlling shareholders or benefit or are entitled to 25% or more of the income or profits of the non-resident company, either directly or indirectly.
For shares purchased between 1 July 2005 and 1 January 2009, more restrictive conditions apply in order to be eligible for the exemption. Detailed rules apply.
Non-residents may qualify for a tax treaty capital gain exemption, depending upon the particular circumstances and the provisions of the applicable tax treaty (e.g. in some tax treaties, no capital gains exemption is allowed where the holding in the sold Israeli company exceeds a certain percentage).
When assets are attributable to an Israeli PE or are real estate rights (including rights in a real estate association), a treaty exemption will generally not be available.
The Israel Tax Authority (ITA) is very sensitive to treaty shopping, and it will be necessary to demonstrate to the ITA that the foreign holding entity has business substance in its country of residence and that the structuring of the holding through that entity was not implemented for tax treaty benefit purposes.
Capital losses may offset all capital gains (including gains from Israeli or foreign securities) and gains from the sale of property (whether Israeli or foreign source).
Where the capital loss is from a non-Israeli asset (including when carried forward into future years), the loss must first be offset against foreign-source capital gains.
Capital losses derived from the sale of securities may also be offset against interest and dividend income generated from the sold security and also against interest and dividend income received from other securities (where the income was not subject to tax of more than 25%).
Capital losses from the sale of shares are generally reduced by any dividends received by the selling corporation during the 24 months preceding the sale, unless tax on the dividends of at least 15% was paid.
Capital losses can generally be carried forward indefinitely and set-off only against capital gains.
When an Israeli tax resident, including a company, ceases to be an Israeli resident for tax purposes, its assets are deemed to have been sold one day before it ceased being an Israeli resident. Although exit tax is primarily applicable to individuals, this might also apply to corporations incorporated outside of Israel whose management and control is transferred from Israel to another jurisdiction at a particular time.
Any gain attributable to the deemed sale of assets may be paid on the day the residency ceased or it may be postponed until the date the assets are actually realised. When the tax event is deferred to the sale date of the assets, the amount of the Israeli capital gain portion is determined by taking the real capital gain at the time of realisation, multiplied by the period of ownership from the day on which it acquired the asset until the day it ceased being an Israeli resident, divided by the entire period from the day of the asset’s acquisition until the day of realisation. The Minister of Finance is authorised to prescribe provisions for the implementation of the exit tax, including provisions for the prevention of double taxation and the submission of tax reports, but no provisions have yet been issued.
Received by an Israeli-resident company
Dividends received by an Israeli-resident company from another Israeli-resident company that originate from income accrued or derived in Israel are exempt from corporate tax, except for dividends paid from income of an AE (see the Tax credits and incentives section). This affords the opportunity to transfer after tax profits within an Israeli group of companies for further investment.
Dividends received by an Israeli-resident company from a non-resident company, as well as dividends received from an Israeli company that arise from foreign-source income of the distributing company, are generally taxable for the receiving company at the rate of 23%. Under certain circumstances, the receiving company may elect to be taxed on such dividends at the corporate tax rate, in which case it will also be entitled to a foreign tax credit with respect to corporate taxes paid by the company distributing the dividend (i.e. an ‘underlying’ tax credit).
Received by a non-resident shareholder
Dividends received by a non-resident shareholder from an Israeli company are generally subject to tax at the rate of 25% (30% if paid to a 10% or more shareholder), subject to a reduced rate of tax under an applicable tax treaty.
Several of Israel’s tax treaties have very beneficial withholding tax (WHT) rates for dividends being paid from Israel. The ITA is very sensitive to treaty shopping, and it will be necessary to demonstrate to the ITA that the foreign holding entity has business substance in its country of residence that will support its residency for treaty purposes and that the structuring of the holding through that entity was not implemented for tax treaty benefit purposes. Furthermore, many of the treaties contain a beneficial ownership clause as a condition to enjoying the treaty WHT rates.
Received by an Israeli-resident company
Interest income received by an Israeli-resident company is subject to the regular corporate tax rate (23% in 2019).
Received by a non-resident
Interest income received by a non-resident company is generally subject to tax at the rate of 23% or subject to a reduced rate of tax under an applicable tax treaty.
Interest received by a non-resident from deposits of foreign currency with an Israeli bank is exempt from tax, subject to certain conditions.
Rent and royalty income, less allowable deductions for tax purposes, is subject to tax at the regular corporate tax rate (23% in 2020).
From an Israeli tax perspective, a partnership is, in principle, a fiscally transparent vehicle. Accordingly, Israeli tax law does not tax partnerships as such; however, generally, each partner is taxed in respect of its share of the partnership income, with the taxable income allocated to a corporate partner taxed at the regular corporate tax rate. Consequently, the actual distribution of partnership income to a partner is a non-taxable event.
An Israeli-resident company is liable for tax on its worldwide income. Double taxation is avoided by way of a foreign tax credit mechanism that also applies unilaterally in the absence of an applicable double taxation treaty (DTT) (see the Tax credits and incentives section).
Under the controlled foreign company (CFC) regime in Israeli tax law, an Israeli company or individual may be taxed on a proportion of the undistributed profits of certain Israeli-controlled, non-resident companies in which the Israeli shareholder has a controlling interest (10% or more of any of the CFC’s ‘means of control’). See Controlled foreign companies (CFCs) in the Group taxation section for more information.