Russian Orthodox Church seeks end to tax claim on land in Israel

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TEL AVIV, November 3 (RIA Novosti) - The official mission of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Holy Land is seeking the retraction of a tax claim on a plot of Russian land near Tel Aviv, the mission's lawyer said Monday.

Boris Lemper said the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem wants authorities to lift the arrest order on a monastery land plot in Yaffo, a southern suburb of Tel Aviv, and annul tax claims as ungrounded.

Lemper said the reason for the order, which puts a freeze on the property, was the failure to pay a now-defunct tax on undeveloped land.

"This tax has long been abolished, but when it was active, they deemed monastery lands undeveloped, and charged for the 1991-1999 period 12.5 million shekels [about $3.3 million]. This tax is now no longer in effect, and the tax service department that dealt with it has been abolished," the lawyer said.

The mission did not know about the claims, Lemper said, because tax officials sent their correspondence to the wrong address.

The only restriction that property arrest records impose is that the land cannot be sold. The mission has no such plans, but lawyers have appealed to the tax service demanding that the tax claims be withdrawn because the tax should not have applied to monastery lands due to their special status.

The head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem bought the 20,000 square meter plot in Yaffo in late 19th century. Today there is a monastery and a church on the land, half of which is leased to the Tel Aviv city hall.

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