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Guide to Customs Benefits for Returning Residents

For the benefit of visitors to the site, we prepared a detailed and clear guide concerning Customs duties and exemptions for a resident who is returning to Israel.
 
To encourage the return of Israeli citizens who live abroad, the state has removed tax barriers for returning residents or others (who appear below). Sometimes they will be entitled to a full (and sometimes partial) tax exemption.
 
Note: Returning residents will be able to exercise their benefits from their official day of return and for the following nine months.
 

What Are The Various Kinds Of Taxes?
 
VAT - Value added tax, is a uniform 17% (as of today) added to the cost when one purchases consumer goods in Israel.
Purchase tax - is a tax imposed mainly on consumer goods which varies depending on the type of goods purchased. It applies only to certain products as stipulated by the Minister of Finance, and may be in addition to other taxes imposed on them.
Customs duty - is a tax imposed on the import or export of merchandise. Its main purpose is to protect domestic production from foreign competition. The Customs charge is not uniform and is calculated according to the type of product as stipulated in law.
 

Who is defined as a “returning resident” concerning Customs?

A returning resident - is an Israeli citizen who is 18 and older (or 17 and older to get non-Customs benefits), who in the past lived in Israel, lived abroad at least two years or more before returning to Israel permanently, and didn’t visit Israel either cumulatively or continuously more than four months of each year he was abroad before returning to Israel.
A year of absence from Israel is calculated from the day after he went abroad according to the secular calendar year.
A visit which begins in one year and runs continuously into the next year, is considered as one visit, and he may visit again for another 4 months that year.
The period of his IDF service (regular or reserve duty) will not be affected by his entitlement period or the time he visited Israel.
 

Those who are eligible for Customs benefits like a returning resident:
 
A permanent resident — who has a visa to permanently live here (besides the citizen of an enemy country or a resident of the territories).
 
Second-time immigrant — one who is recognized by the Interior Ministry as a second-time immigrant, such as: a person eligible to immigrate due to the Law of Return, who in the past relinquished his Israeli citizenship, or a person who declared in the past “I don’t want to be an Israeli” and lived at least 7 years abroad, or whose residency expired for another reason such as he acquired foreign citizenship.
 
A student who is a resident of Israel — a student who returned to permanently reside in Israel after living abroad for at least 18 months for the purpose of studying in an institution of higher education (which is recognized as such for two consecutive academic years by Israel) or was a full-time student in the institution and received an academic degree from that institution abroad (within 18 months), and returned to Israel within 6 months immediately upon completing his studies or receiving the degree.
 

Other conditions related to a couple’s eligibility for Customs benefits:

   
                                                                  •  A returning resident -is eligible to import tax exempt home items that his / her spouse received in the past free of tax, provided that six years passed from the date the spouse received those items.
  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 is eligible for a tax benefit. If the couple entered the country together or individually after they had separated or are in the middle of divorce proceedings, they shall be considered for this matter as if they are married, and will have to present the passport of the other spouse.
•  One who comes to Israel without one’s spouse, and would like to receive the Customs rights of a returning resident, has to present the filled out form "Declaration of Spouse Who is Abroad” (Form 142). You can receive a sample form at our office or download it here. The spouse’s notarized signature or a statement made in the presence of Israeli consul abroad must be attached to the filled out form. One should also attach a photocopy of the passport of one’s spouse who remained overseas which is valid at least two years before the day of one’s return to Israel.
 

Customs Benefits and Conditions When You Arrive In Israel:
 
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.
Which items are exempt from tax in the 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
 
The Red Lane: 
 
If you have items which you have to declare and pay taxes for, you have to go through the Red Lane. If you aren’t sure which lane to go to, go to the Red Lane!
 
Paying taxes - If you are liable to pay the full amount of taxes for example on new items that are not exempt from taxes (a new personal computer, a video camera) or similar non-exempt items, you will be charged the applicable taxes before Customs clearance.
 
Remember: The Israel Tax Authority determines the tax based on an item’s value as it appears in its price lists, which serve as their reference. If the person entering shows a purchase receipt whose value is less than 20% of the value as it appears in the Customs price list, the value of the object will be calculated according to the Customs price list and not as it appears in the item’s purchase invoice.
 
Deposit Guarantee - If you are interested in taking the item out of Israel when you leave, you can pay a cash or credit card guarantee in lieu of the Customs fee. The guarantee is a deposit, and will be refunded when the items are removed from Israel on time. The guarantee will be forfeited and you will be charged only if you do not remove the items at the set time.
 
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.
 

Benefits and conditions when importing "household items":
 
Household items - includes up to one item of each standard item that is used in an apartment, including home sports equipment (home gyms, bikes, tennis equipment, etc.) and home office equipment, such as a printer, fax, etc. They can be imported exempt from taxes under 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.
•  One can make two shipments of household goods only. A "shipment" can be a container, and can also be a small cardboard box. If you bring with you a box of personal household items in your personal luggage (about 20 pounds) when you enter Israel, this box will not be deducted from your eligibility to two tax-free shipments of household effects and you will not be charged taxes. However, you have to go through the red lane with the box to declare the goods. The entitlement to two shipments includes all family members who have the same status.
•  A family can import one item of every kind of electric and electronic appliance but may have two televisions, two personal computers and main furniture items.
  You must furnish proof that you have your own home in Israel by presenting a document that shows you are an apartment owner or by showing a rental contract for an apartment that bears a stamp duty.
•  All the import items and documents must be registered in your name.
•  A document which demonstrates that you arranged your (compulsory) IDF army service, or proves that you are exempt from enlistment.
•  All the goods must be only for your personal use in Israel for a period of at least six years. 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.
 

Benefits and conditions for importing household goods by mail delivery:
 
If you get a mail delivery which contains household goods (as defined above), the mail delivery will be considered as one of the two shipments that you are entitled to receive 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.
 

Benefits and conditions for importing hand tools:
 
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.
 

Benefits and conditions for importing devices and machines for a business:
 
One can import free of tax machinery, devices, and tools needed to start a business in Israel, of the kind used in industry, workshops, agriculture or other approved purposes 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.
 
 
Benefits and conditions for the import of a motor vehicle:
 
The conditions for importing a vehicle for a returning resident is the same as for a regular Israeli resident besides one difference — a returning resident can import a vehicle whose manufacturing date was within the last 48 months (in contrast to an Israeli citizen who can import a vehicle if it was manufactured within the last 24 months) with the following conditions:
   
                 
•  He has a valid Israeli driver's license for the type of 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.
 

Benefits and conditions for bringing money in or out of the country:
 
One who enters or leaves Israel has to report if he has 100,000 NIS or more with him whether he has it in cash, bank checks or travelers’ checks. He has to 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 from Customs units at border crossings.
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.
 
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.
 

Items Forbidden To Import:
 
Objects absolutely 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.
   
To clarify the criteria, you should check with the relevant authorized authority.
 
The Products   The Competent Authority Address  Telephone  Fax 
 Communications products, 
baby monitors, smart phones 
(when importing four or more devices), 
remote controls, etc.

 Ministry of Communications

 Migdal Shalom, 9th Floor, 9 Ahad Ha'am St., Tel Aviv

 03-5198282 03-5198113

 03-5198103
 Fruits, vegetables, plants and seeds, etc.  Ministry of Agriculture, Plant Protection Services  Beit Dagan, Office reception hours: Wednesday 08:30-15:00  03-9681587  03-9681599
 Motorized scooter and vehicle spare parts  Ministry of Transport  5 Bank of Israel St., Generi Building, POB 867, Jerusalem 91008  03-5657117  03-5618260
 Food products, medications and nutrition supplements  Ministry of Health, Food Service  12 Ha'arba'a Street, Tel Aviv 64739  08-6241010  02-5655972
A gas-powered grill Standards Institute  42 Hayim Levanon Street, Tel-Aviv 69987  03-6465164 1


Documents required for a returning resident to receive eligibility for Customs benefits:
 
   
                               
•  Presenting a returning resident certificate, or a certificate that one is being processed for returning resident status.
•  A valid Israeli passport
  A returning student - showing a certificate from an academic institution that he studied there for two academic years or received an academic degree from it.
  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.  
 

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.
 
Personal Customs import for a returning resident:

03-9421703
03-9421705
03-9421706
Questions and Answers:
For how long can I utilize my rights to customs benefits
Answer:
Up to 9 months from entry into Israel.
Does a returning resident get tax benefits when he imports a car
Answer:
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
Answer:
Yes.
I have an item that is worth over two hundred dollars. What tax rate do I have to pay
Answer:
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
Answer:
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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