Despite ongoing debate, gay couples with children receive tax benefits in Israel

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Despite a heated, ongoing debate around the issue, the tax authority in Israel has instructed that same-sex couples with children should begin receiving tax benefits immediately.

A bill to extend tax benefits to same-sex couples who have children has only passed a preliminary hearing in the Knesset, but the Israel Tax Authority issued the instruction this week.

The bill passed its preliminary reading last Wednesday, but is yet to pass its second and third readings.

The website of the authority published an order sent by Miri Savion, the deputy director general for assessment and inspection, which notes that same-sex couples should be given the benefits.

The memo sent to employees of the authority read: “Same-sex couples will enjoy the same tax breaks afforded by law to other couples for the same reasons.”

During a heated debate on the issue, supporters of the bill were forced into a staunch defence of its principles.

According to the law as it stood before this instruction, women receive tax benefits for all children, but men are only entitled to similar benefits until the child reaches three years old.

The passage of the bill has generated conflict within the coalition between the Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi parties. Bayit Yehudi vetoed the bill earlier this year after it objected to language in the bill which gave legal recognition to homosexual couples.

In a deal created on Tuesday night (December 24), the two parties agreed to pass the bill in its preliminary reading and work out the details during the committee process.

Same-sex marriages are recognised in Israel, but must be conducted overseas. Israel does not currently allow same-sex or inter-faith unions to be conducted domestically as only Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Druze religious authorities can perform the ceremonies, and none offer marriage to same-sex or inter-faith couples.

According a New York Times report, experts have estimated that over recent years a quarter of Jewish couples have left Israel to marry, or cohabit without marrying.

In May 2012, the Knesset rejected a bill that would have allowed same-sex and inter-faith civil marriage.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not offered a public position on the issue.