How to Open an Amuta Bank Account
Once your new non-profit organization is legally registered at the Ministry of Justice, whether it is an amuta (association) or cheletz (public benefit or charitable company), the next step is to open an amuta bank account or a cheletz bank account for the corporation.
This Series of Posts
Our team of lawyers has experience in a variety of fields, including Israeli non-profit law. This article is one in a long series focusing on what you need to know about non-profits or charitable organizations in Israel. This series of posts will discuss various issues that may be helpful to you as you administer your Israeli non-profit organization.
Banks in Israel
The largest banks in Israel are Leumi, Ha’Poalim, Mercantile, and Mizrachi Tefachot. Other commonly used banks are the First International Bank of Israel, Bank of Jerusalem, and Union Bank.
What is the right bank to open an amuta bank account in? The answer is surprisingly simple – whichever bank has managers that know and trust the account holders / signatories (and vice-versa). Differences in procedures and required paperwork between different branches of the same bank are often greater than the differences between different banks, so working with people you know, trust, and can resolve any issues that may arise is the most important aspect of opening an amuta bank account.
The Basic Procedure
Any bank may be approached by representatives of the organization with the organization’s documents of incorporation. The clerks will ask for general information regarding the organization’s budget and expenses, as well as the scope and sources of income. The various banks’ requirements are more or less the same, however, each may ask for slightly different forms, and some will ask for additional particulars during the process. There is a long list of paperwork that is required.
Why Is It So Difficult to Open an Amuta Bank Account?
Opening a bank account, especially for a new non-profit organization, has become an increasingly difficult and bureaucratic process. Some say that the reason is that non-profits are not good clients for the bank, because by nature they do not rely significantly on credit and loans and will not hold large amounts of money deposited in the account.
From our experience, the main reason is related to the recent FATCA measures enforced by the United States government upon banks worldwide, with diplomatic and economic pressure on the banks as well as the state of Israel, and other states with significant US relations. The Bank of Israel will fine banks for failing to precisely adapt to FATCA regulations, and there is increased suspicion of money laundering when foreign money is delivered to non-profits in Israel. These conditions have led to a situation where banks are hesitant and cautious about opening bank accounts, particularly for new non-profits.
If you are interested in starting a non-profit organization (whether an amuta or cheletz) in Israel and would like to consult with us on opening an amuta bank account or any other matter related to managing an Israeli amuta, please contact us.
Advocate Joshua Pex specializes in Israeli non-profit law and would be happy to discuss the needs of your non-profit organization with you.