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In Landmark Decision Supreme Court Rules Orthodox Jews Don’t Have to Pay Taxes

hobby-lobby-500In the three years since the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Hobby Lobby to exempt itself from including contraceptive coverage for its employees, based on their professed religious beliefs, closely held Jewish corporations have used the court’s logic to allow themselves to steal from non-Jewish employees, stop paying sales tax, stop the paying FICA taxes they withhold from their employees’ paychecks and to stop reporting their incomes to the IRS altogether.

In a case that is widely expected to reach the Supreme Court, Goldie’s Scrumptious Delight argues that it should be allowed to take small change and iPods from employees’ pockets in the changing room. The local Brooklyn specialty shop, which makes cakes and pastries for over-the-top weddings and bar mitzvahs for the discriminating kosher consumer, has had the police called by irate employees multiple times over the past three years. In lower courts the kosher pilfering shop has argued that while most medieval halachik commentators agree that stealing from non-Jews is not allowed, some commentators have allowed it and this is their strongly held religious beliefs and the courts have no right to impinge on them.

In another case in Flatbush NY Tirtza’s Tznius-but-Classy Fashionwear had stopped paying sales tax after the Supreme Court’s decision, arguing that the government’s use of funds collected through sale’s tax go against their deeply held religious beliefs. In a statement to the Yated on July 20th 2014 Tirtza’s co-owner Genendel Feldman said “We would never build parks where goyim could go play basketball and act like vilde chayess, Moishe Rabbainu would never do it, so why are we paying the government to do it?”

In a recent decision in Manhattan district court the state found against Tirtza’s Tznius-but Classy Fashionwear on the grounds that Genendel’s grandson had been photographed at Bobov’s Camp Shalva where the boys play basketball once a summer.

Moishe’s Discount Yarmulkas and Tzitzis was audited by the IRS for failing to file timely quarterly taxes, the audit revealed that Moishe’s had been withholding social security and medicare taxes from its employees as required by law, but they hadn’t been making payments to the IRS.

In court Moishe’s owner Yankel Fefferkorn argued that while he has no objection to withholding the taxes, his deeply held religious convictions do not allow him to pay into the ponzi-like social security system because it is a form of gambling and thus he cannot in good faith make those payments. He offered an out of court settlement wherein he would stop spending the withheld funds on his monthly date night with his wife and instead start an investment fund for his employees’ retirement which he would manage. An IRS representative is quoted as saying “that’s ridiculous!”.

This case too may end up in the Supreme Court.

And finally there’s the curious case of Yum Mee Glatt, a kosher Chinese restaurant in Monsey NY. The owners of Yum Mee have stopped reporting their employees’ incomes altogether on the grounds that their employees have, in the past, been kicked off government programs to which they feel they are entitled based on their strongly held religious beliefs which force them to send their kids to yeshiva and live in expensive neighborhoods.

In this widely discussed case, legal experts feel that the court will grant Yum Mee Glatt their request.

Find out more about frum tax reporting on 4totah.com

{ 56 comments… add one }
  • Susan Barnes June 30, 2014, 2:28 PM

    Right on the mark.

  • Never Frum Enough June 30, 2014, 5:50 PM

    My thoughts exactly. Funny, but not so funny…..satire!

  • CentralJerseyMom July 1, 2014, 6:04 PM

    Unless you actually read the decision. It applies the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which was passed almost unanimously by Congress and signed into law by Bill Clinton. The law requires government, in enacting a law or policy of general application, to select the alternative that imposes the least burden upon religious freedom.

    The Affordable Care Act itself did not require employers to offer insurance coverage for contraceptive measures. It simply used broader language (“preventive care and screenings”), which the Health and Human Services under President Obama interpreted as including contraception and abortion services.

    The Court’s decision found that there were less burdensome alternatives available to the government than requiring all corporate employers to make contraceptive and abortion coverage available to their employees. To accommodate employers such as Hobby Lobby the government could simply have extended the exemption it gave already to religious non-profit organizations. Or it could have subsidized such coverage through payments and credits to insurers.

    The availability of these less burdensome alternatives meant that the HHS regulations in this instance did not satisfy the requirements of RFRA. I suspect that few people would not agree with the basic principle of the RFRA. They just don’t like it when they personally disagree with the religious beliefs of the group being protected.

    • Shragi July 1, 2014, 7:34 PM

      I certainly agree with the principle of the RFRA, and, as you so presciently point out – I don’t like that it’s being squandered on denying women the right to birth control in their health insurance policies, I think it would be much better put to use in the ways I outlined above.

      • CentralJerseyMom July 2, 2014, 7:23 AM

        Hobby Lobby agrees to cover 13 of 17 forms of “birth control.” It is the ones that are considered to be abortifacients that they don’t want to cover. I’m still a little unclear on where the constitutional right to have somebody else pay for your birth control comes from. I worked for a Fortune 500 company for 15 years and their insurance did not cover ANY birth control. Yes — those who wished to obtain birth control were able to take the money that the company paid them and actually (gasp) buy it themselves. We are not talking about Medicaid recipients here. In the cases of the four drugs which Hobby Lobby does not want to pay for, these are one-time usage drugs (eg “Plan B”) of limited expense. We’re not talking about “every month for 10 years which can really start to add up” kind of expense.

        • Hercule July 2, 2014, 12:29 PM

          Yeah, I’m sure the minimum wage mother, earning $8 an hour before taxes, will have plenty of money to spend $100 on monthly pills. Of course, in central Jersey, I’m sure you don’t need birth control since you’re probably attempting to beat the Duggars.

          • CentralJerseyMom July 2, 2014, 1:00 PM

            Try to educate yourself about the issue. The Hobby Lobby case had nothing to do with monthly pills (as I said above). It had to do with one-time-only potential abortifacients such as Plan B. However, that’s not even the point. HHS made alternative methods for obtaining contraceptive coverage available to employees of religious organizations. HHS choose not to make such alternatives available to employees of non-religious organizations such as Hobby Lobby. According to the SCOTUS decision, that was a violation of RFRA.

    • Alter Cocker July 3, 2014, 4:34 PM

      I don’t think companies should be forced to pay for birth control. That’s not like normal health coverage.

      If you want to have sex without conceiving, then pay for it on your own.

      • Talia bat Pessi July 4, 2014, 2:37 AM

        erm, it kind of is…there are numerous health reasons for which a woman might take birth control pills that have nothing to do with actually preventing conception.

        • Alter Cocker July 4, 2014, 9:47 AM

          I’m pretty sure the primary use of birth control pills is to prevent conception, and that the majority of pills sold are being used for that purpose.

        • CentralJerseyMom July 5, 2014, 12:17 PM

          Once again, Hobby Lobby did not object to birth control pills whose intention is to control ovulation. They objected to methods that work post-conception by preventing implantation of an embryo. And then again, contra to what is stated in the NY Times today, the Affordable Care Act never stated that employer’s insurance had to cover contraception and abortion. That was the idea of HHS who believe strongly that the terms “womens’ health” = “women having sex but not having children.” It’s interesting that there have been successful arguments that insurance has to cover reproductive techniques such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization on the grounds that infertility is a coverable medical condition since it involves loss of a major biological function. Apparently *preventing* a major biological function is also a medical condition that insurance must pay for.

      • Shragi July 4, 2014, 11:16 AM

        I agree with you, and I also think that Jewish employers shouldn’t have to report their Jewish employees’ incomes when reporting it means they will lose the benefits they’re religious beliefs tell them they’re entitled to.

  • M July 13, 2014, 6:39 PM

    I understand that this is satire, but I wanted to point out that the argument justifying welfare fraud in Orthodox communities, namely that they don’t send their children to public schools, ergo they are entitled to stealing from other welfare programs, is absurd on its face.

    Now listen closely folks: Public school and its funding are largely the domain of cities, counties, and states. Schools are funded primarily with STATE income taxes, local property taxes, lottery revenue, and sales taxes, not federal dollars. Earned Income Credits, Food Stamps, Medicaid, WIC, Headstart, etc are all FEDERAL programs.

    This argument is similar to suggesting that because Rochel stole from Rivkah, Rivkah is entitled to stealing from Leah. Leaving aside the two-wrongs-don’t-make-a-right thing, one has nothing to do with the other.

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