Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A little light book-keeping

For years, I have been doing bookkeeping. I took a course a bajillion years ago, and it has served me well. I've been "financial operations" (fancy title for "bookkeeper"), accounts manager, accounts payable clerk, accounts receivable clerk, a/p AND a/r clerk, payroll manager, operations manager and office manager. When I moved from New Jersey to New York, I looked up NY State tax law and employment laws to learn what the differences were between the states. When I moved to Canada, I looked up and learned the Provincial tax laws, Federal tax laws, and employment laws (by the way, when I say "look up", I mean I called the government offices to send me the appropriate pamphlets and books, because we did not have Encyclopedia Googlica in those days).

Because I did a lot of freelance work, I looked up and learned what I needed to put on invoices, how to charge tax, how to pay the government the taxes I charged, how to pay employees, when I needed to file, how often - all the fun stuff that goes along with charging fees and paying the people involved in accumulating those fees.

Here in Israel, I am freelancing. I have no idea how taxes work here or how to keep books. I found out I need to have certain business identifications when people I did work for told me they needed to have a receipt from me. Okay, so I'll write a receipt.

Oh, nooooo. You can't just write a receipt here in Israel. What do you have to do? I have no idea. I've seen an accountant, who just confused me even more than I was when I started out. He said I should be an Osek Mursheh (a business category), and was talking to me about how to collect VAT (Value Added Tax), record it and report it to the government. He mentioned ledger books. The accountant spent a fair amount of time going over this information. He filed for us with the government, and when we finally received our certificates, I discovered they said Osek Patur (the other category).

But, but...?

We called the accountant and he, of course, said that he told us we should be Osek Patur, we don't make enough money yet to be Mursheh (nuh-uh, I have NOTES, mister!), we don't have to worry about collecting VAT. I should point out, this is the same man whose staff sends us emails in Hebrew that we can't understand, and when we call for an explanation, he tells us it was a mistake and not to worry about it. What?


During out meeting he told us we need to get pre-printed invoices and receipts. Then we were told we can print our own invoices, but need pre-printed receipts. Then the accountant told us we can do our own invoices, but he strongly recommends against it (according to him, the government is paranoid and thinks everyone who is freelance is out to cheat the government, and if you print your own invoices, you must be doing something sneaky). When we went to the printer, they were confused as hell, because apparently NOBODY who is an Osek Patur gets invoices printed.


For someone who has made a pretty good livelihood doing bookkeeping and related services, my frustration level with not being able to get a grip on all this is so high, I've developed a nervous tick that involves loud yelling just at hearing the words "invoice" or "receipt." It's just not acceptable that something so simple should be so confusing and convoluted. I know, I'm in Israel and that is just a ridiculous thing to say here. If something is simple, the Israeli government will find 15 ways to Tuesday to make it as difficult and complicated as possible. To be fair, though, the government is very good at taking already complicated things and making them pretty understandable. Everything in Israel is 'Afuch (upside down).

So meanwhile, my billing is piling up, and the government information is in Hebrew, so I can't teach myself the laws here - never mind the fact that many of the laws are still outdated. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there are still laws on the books regarding income reporting to the British Mandate Authority!
"When citizens are reporting field profits in the region of Shomron, His Supreme Majesty Sultan Mehmed VI requires one sheep for every ..."
It's not that salaries are lower in Israel, it's just that no one can figure out how the hell to get paid! Tomorrow - a visit to accountant #2. Wish us luck.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Carnival time!

This week's Haveil Havalim, or weekly blog carnival, or more simply a wrap-up of goings-on in the Jewish blogosphere, is up. And we're on it! Click on over to Esser Agaroth to see this week's goodies.

Just note that Morey's blog is "Rock Solid Writing" and I'm not sure why EA put a blog about aliyah under the category of "outside Israel" but hey, we're happy to be included :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I'm gonna git you Succah!*

* props to good friend Larry Getzler

Everything's better in Israel. Okay, 99% of everything is better in Israel. Right now, our succah was better in the Old Country (ie, Vancouver).

Let me explain. In Israel, we have a mirpeset (balcony). Based on Jewish law, our mirpeset is a kosher succah (hut-like thing) as soon as we put kosher schach (branch-like covering thing) on top. We bought a bamboo mat that we just roll out on top of our mirpeset. Well, Morey rolls it out, after he climbs up on the roof of the building.

Chick-chock, snip-snap, Bob's yer uncle, we have a kosher succah.

Except. It just looks like our mirpeset, just with a bamboo mat on top.

So we went out and bought cloth walls to hang from the roof of our mirpeset. The cloth walls definitely make it look and feel like a succah, but it's still weird. And it looks a little wonky.

I never thought to take pictures of our succah in Vancouver, although now I wish I had. In Vancouver, we had a backyard, so every year, I'd borrow our neighbour's awesome ladder (g'day Brett!), grab my trusty drill, screws, hammer, nails and 2x4s and build our 8-foot by 8-foot succah. Made out of plywood and lattice, it took me two days to finish.

Then Brett and I would chop down loads of the bamboo that grew wild in our backyards, and Morey and I would carefully lay them across the top of the succah, making our roof. Then I would decorate the inside, starting with the amazing Moroccan lamp that our friend and neighbour Bear (a"h) loaned us.

It was easy to decorate because the walls were wood and lattice, so I could easily get hooks into the walls. Now, we have two stone walls, and two precariously hung cloth walls. It's not so easy to hang things. And the roof of the mirpeset is too high to reach easily without a ladder (and we're without a ladder), so we can't easily hang things from the roof.

I miss our big ol' backyard succah. Tent poles and twine just isn't the same. I miss the leaves and branches hanging down (not too far) through the roof slats. Bamboo mats just don't hang. We're hopeful that someday we'll have a place here in Israel with a yard and we'll be able to truly build a succah once again.

Mind you, it may sound like I'm complaining, but I'm not. I miss our Vancouver succah, but what we gain for the holiday of Succot in Israel far outweighs the deficiencies in our strange little mirpeset succah. Like, for starters, it very rarely rains on Succot here, so we can actually use the darn thing. And we can sit in the succah without a space heater or 5 layers.

And hey, the weird little thing's kinda growing on me.