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December 25, 2017 9:21 am

Bank of Israel Mulling Creation of Digital Shekel to Curb Tax Evasion

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Israeli shekel coins. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. – Israel’s central bank is considering the creation of a digital shekel aimed at weaning the the Jewish state’s economy off cash and curbing tax evasion.

“For the past few weeks the Bank of Israel has been looking at this matter, which has various aspects to it, including monetary and legal,” a source close to the matter reportedly told TheMarker, an Israeli financial news website. “There are many central banks studying the subject. There is no operative plan at the moment and perhaps there may never be, but it is something the Bank of Israel is studying.”

Unlike bitcoin, a peer-to-peer digital currency with no central distributing authority, the digital shekel would be controlled and distributed by the Bank of Israel.

The digital shekel would function in the same way as cash, but rather than being in the form of a banknote, it would appear only in digital form and would likely be used on smartphones as well as similar devices. Digital shekel transactions would be carried out electronically through code, in a similar way to credit card purchases and wire transfers.

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Israel’s underground economy is heavily reliant on cash and accounts for 22 percent of the Jewish state’s gross domestic product. The Israeli treasury estimates that 50 billion shekels ($14.36 billion) in unpaid taxes go unaccounted for annually. The country’s underground cash economy also funds terrorism.

Reports of the Bank of Israel’s considerations regarding the creation of a digital national currency come shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forecasted that the global banking system would become obsolete, and that digital currencies could potentially play a central role in upending the current global financial system.

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