North American accountants in Israel find jobs in a variety of work places. There are the large accounting firms:

These large firms hire CPAs  and non CPAs with experience in relevant fields such as taxation, audit, advisory, technology, etc. There are jobs in smaller accounting firms, as well such as: Philip L. Stein & Associates, XPAT Tax Services LTD, and Crowe Horwath, and in Israeli companies where they can work in the finance department, as ax compliance managers, controllers, etc. In addition, some accountants have developed businesses filing U.S. tax returns for American Olim and acting as tax consultants. Although there are jobs available for North Americans without an Israeli CPA, having this added certification can open doors professionally and enable you to climb higher on the corporate ladder. The exam is time consuming and challenging, therefore, many North Americans do not take it.

Thank you to Tamar Last for her contributions to this article (August, 2020).

Most employment opportunities are to be found in the central region of the country, primarily in Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva and in the surrounding smaller cities. To a lesser extent, other options exist in the Haifa and Jerusalem areas, and in other parts of the country. In order to become familiar with the Israeli accounting processes and economy, be prepared to go down a level before moving up. A qualified accountant could initially find a position as an assistant chief accountant in industry or as a staff accountant in a private practice. People often find work through Glassdoor & Linked In, and personal referrals.  The Institute of Certified Public Accountants (Lishkat Ro’ei Heshbon B’Yisrael), a voluntary body for the advancement of the accounting profession, provides information for accountants who are seeking work. For more information, see the following link.

When searching for employment in Israel, it is critical to create a network and reach out to people in the relevant field in order to get a better understanding of the market and hopefully more access to  job opportunities.

Obtaining an Israeli CPA license involves five steps:

  • Opening a file at the Mo’etset Roeh Cheshbon
  • Requesting exemptions from the accounting exams
  • Registering for the exams that you are required to take
  • Taking the exams
  • After the exams, a mandatory internship period is required

Opening a File
The first step an accountant must take is to open a file, or Tik, at the Mo’etset Roeh Cheshbon (Israel CPA Council) located at The Ministry of Justice, 22 Rehov Beit Hadfus, Floor 4, POB 34357, Jerusalem 91342. Phone: 02-6549333. To open a Tik, you must submit the following documents:

  • For CPAs: Your original CPA license. Alternatively, you may provide a copy of the license certified by an Israeli lawyer (not necessarily a notary), or certified/notarized abroad according to local laws and authenticated by the Israeli Consul in the country of certification or notarization.
  • A photocopy of the license
  • For non-license holders: An official university transcript and (if possible) a syllabus of relevant courses
  • A letter from the licensing board in your country stating that you are a member in good standing (with the exception of payment of annual fees)
  • Letters from previous employers. Bring a separate letter from each place of employment. Note: You will need to prove that you have at least two years of experience in order to receive an exemption from 11 of the 15 accountancy exams.

In addition to providing these documents, you will be required to fill out a form with general background information.

NOTE: All accountants need a 6 months staj period, regardless of employment history.

If you have questions about your eligibility to meet Israeli licensing requirements, please see: Professional Licensing in Israel[message type=”info”]If you have an accounting degree from a recognized institution overseas but you are not a CPA, it is recommended that you submit your degree for evaluation to the Department of Evaluation of Foreign Degrees at the Ministry of Education. However, there is no problem with opening a file at the Mo’etset Roeh Cheshbon before your degree is evaluated.[/message]

The Mo’etset Roeh Cheshbon requires you to take 15 exams in order to obtain an Israeli CPA license. CPA’s from North America with at least two years of work experience are exempt from most of the exams, with the exception of the following: Business law, corporate and commercial law and tax law (two exams). If you do not hold a CPA or Chartered Accountant license, you may need to take additional exams. Exemptions are determined on the basis of the material that you studied in your accounting course.

To request exemptions: You must fill out a separate exemption request for each exam. There is a charge for each exemption request – 105 NIS per request, up to a maximum of 735 NIS. Any number of requests beyond 7 is free of charge. Payment is made through the Postal Bank.[message type=”info”]If you have a CPA and 2 years of work experience, you do not need to pay this charge.[/message]

Exam Registration
Exams are held twice a year, in December/January and in May/June. Registration takes place a few months beforehand. To find out when registration begins, contact Mo’etset Roeh Cheshbon, or keep an eye out for advertisements in the Israeli papers. The December/January exams are offered in both Hebrew and English, except for a portion of the taxation exam, which is only offered in Hebrew. When you register, you must submit a request to take the multiple choice part of the exams in English. The May/June exams are only offered in Hebrew. To register for the exams, send a letter to the Mo’etsah with your Teudat Zehut number, your address and phone number. You will receive a letter from the Mo’etsah indicating that you have been registered.

Taking the Exams
Some of the exams are multiple-choice. Major topics such as taxation, financial accounting, and auditing require written answers. Often, preparatory courses for the exam are offered to Olim by the Employment Division of the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration. In addition, a living stipend may be available for the duration of the course. If you are fluent in Hebrew, Erez Cohen offers a two month course in Tel Aviv to prepare for the exams. Examinees are encouraged to contact the Mo’etset Roeh Cheshbon to clarify which types of legal material may be brought in for use during the exams. Examinees may also bring a dictionary or electronic dictionary to the exams.

You can obtain an Israeli CPA license before actually making Aliyah. The process is the same as above, with the following additions:

  • Opening a file: You can open a file at the Mo’etset Roeh Cheshbon by mail. Instead of submitting original documents, you can submit notarized copies. You may provide a copy of the license certified by an Israeli lawyer (not necessarily a notary), or certified or notarized abroad according to local laws and authenticated by the Israeli Consul in the country of certification or notarization.
  • Requesting exemptions: You will need to pay for exemption requests at an Israeli post office. This is the only part of the licensing process that cannot be done by mail, however, if you have a friend or relative in Israel, they can do this on your behalf.
  • Registering for exams: When you register for exams, use your U.S. or Canadian passport number instead of a Teudat Zehut number.
  • Taking exams: You may take the exams while visiting Israel, before you declare Aliyah.

There are many opportunities available for those interested in working for an accounting company in Israel. However, there is also a market for those interested in building their own accounting business.

Accounting cannot be studied on its own in Israeli Universities and colleges, it is usually paired with economics another major such as economics or law.

Most higher education institutions offer a three-year accounting degree and until recently, included the option to also study a “Shnat Hashlama” as an extension to the accounting degree. The Shnat Hashlama is a supplementary year of studies which counts towards your CPA licensing exams.

In general, there are 15 official CPA licensing exams. A student who finished their accounting degree in Israel will be able to request an exemption from 10 of them. If the student also completes the Shnat Hashlama, an additional exemption will be granted for three more exams (Taxes A, Taxes B and Finance A). Upon completion of the Shnat Hashlama, the individual will only be required to sit the Advanced Finance and Advanced Audit exams. These exams require months of preparation and are usually taken in the Binyanei Hauma event halls in Jerusalem.

The exams can be retaken as many times as you would like. A passing grade of 60 is all that is necessary – but do not underestimate these exams as they are extremely tricky and are up to eight hours long.

Once the exams have been taken, the individual must complete two years of mandatory internship “staj” at an authorized institution. These institutions may include large, medium or small accounting firms, government offices or large private companies.

If you did not pass the licensing exams the first time round, you may still start your internship and retake the exam during your internship. The employers are usually understanding and view the interns as “students”, such that extended holidays for studying are acceptable.

Recently, it was announced that the Shnat Hashlama will be canceled and the entire structure of the degree will be reformed.

The reform will include the following changes: The degree will be extended to 3.5 years (7 semesters) but the Shnat Hashlama will be cancelled. If the degree is completed, the exemption will be provided for most of the exams and only the final licensing exams will remain.

The final licensing exams will only be available once a year in July. The exams will be shortened to a maximum of 4 hours long and will now include three exams: Advanced Financial Accounting, Advanced Audit and Taxation.

Please provide a brief description of your field.

I work in financial accounting. Previously I worked in public auditing. In general, the field has positions as auditors, assistant controllers, controller, CFOs, etc. You can find work in a public accounting firm, in house in a private or public company, or find work as an outsourced accountant.

What is your current position?

I am a Financial Controller in  a high tech company with offices in Israel and the US.

How did you find your first job after making Aliyah and how did you find your current position?

People coming at different levels of their career will have  very different options and experiences. My experience is more relatable to someone coming to Israel early in their career (within the first five years). When I arrived, I applied to every single job online that related to accounting and for the most part, I did not hear back. My opportunities primarily came through connections/ networking. Eventually I got my first job in Israel at one of the big 4 accounting firms  through networking. I worked in auditing for a few years focusing on the high-tech industry . My work was approximately 60% English and 40% Hebrew.  I learnt a lot of professional Hebrew on the job and the firm provided some ulpan in the office.  When I was ready to leave public accounting, the firm assisted me in finding a job as a controller by one of its clients.

What education, background and experience should an Oleh looking to work in financial accounting have?

An American CPA is helpful because many Israeli’s don’t understand the concept of being an accountant without a CPA (since in Israel that isn’t an option). You don’t really need an Israeli CPA for the most part. If you are interested in being a partner in the big 4, you will probably need an Israeli CPA, but you can do most things without it, like being a CFO etc. An audit background and/ or having assistant controller or controller work is an asset, if you’re looking for working in these areas.  

How important is Hebrew in your field?

Hebrew is important for basic conversations, but financial Hebrew is the most important for the job. Most of these jobs require you to put together  financial statements in Hebrew. My understanding of Hebrew is very strong, but my verbal is weaker I have been managed since I can put together Hebrew financial statements and basic tax reports, which I leant to do as a public auditor in Israel. When I first came, I  put together a list of the most used accounting terms in Hebrew and  memorized them. Many high- tech companies in Israel, which have US offices,  manage their US office’s finances out the Israeli entity. In companies like that, there is a lot more work in English and I would estimate based on my experience that the ratio is  closer to a 60% English 40% Hebrew ratio. .

What are the benefits of your job?

I get a nice amount of flexibility working for a smaller tech company. They don’t require clocking in and out and allow me to work from home once a week. Work life balance is valued in Israel as well. There are also some travel opportunities if you are interested.

Is this employment more in demand in certain areas of Israel?

Even in high- tech, companies are not specifically looking for US financial accountants. Israelis tend to think that their accounting is drastically different than in the US. This is not the case, but many places don’t want to be the first Israeli experience on your resume.  However, once you do get into the industry, there is a lot of room for professional development.

What is the salary range?

Junior to Senior Auditors earn an approximate range of  6,500 NIS/mo 8,500 NIS/mo. Experienced Senior to Managers earn an approximate range of  9,000 NIS/mo to14,000 NIS/mo. Salaries do increase with Senior Managers earning around 17,000 NIS. The salary range for a controller is between  15,000-30,000 NIS.  This all depends on industry, experience, company size, location etc.

Do you have any other advice or tips for Olim looking to work in your field in Israel?

It is worthwhile to learn financial Hebrew and familiarize yourself with international accounting and transactions.  Its important to know that it can be hard to “break in” to the industry in Israel. Connections are key and sometimes you have to take a step down in the field to work your way up, but it is possible!

The following is an interview with Binyamin Radomsky, CPA (IL) ACA (UK)

Please provide a brief description of your field.

The office I work in provides a full gamut of tax planning and compliance services to businesses and individuals living and working in Israel. That includes helping people to “sleep at night” knowing that the tax man isn’t going to be coming after them, as well as potentially saving people large sums of tax.

What is your current position?

I am a partner at Aboulafia Avital Shrensky & Co. In Jerusalem, jointly heading up the taxation department; with a specific expertise on olim from English-speaking countries and their international affairs.

How did you find your job?

I was previously working at another firm, Feldman Brody & Co, when they merged with Aboulafia. I got that job after a friend saw an advert that Feldman Brody was looking for a UK qualified accountant. I am very grateful to that friend, and also to Messers Feldman & Brody for their incredible knowledge and training. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their help.

What education, background and experience should an Oleh looking to work in accounting have?

When I was training in London, the only requirement for joining the training course was having a degree – irrelevant of what subject. The system works a little differently here in Israel, but a university level education is a must, as is having a reasonable feel for numbers. You have to be able to look at a calculation or financial statements and ask yourself “does this make sense?”

Is there any kind of license or certification you need, to work as an accountant in Israel?

In order to be able to sign off on various reports, you have to be certified as an accountant. The certification procedure requires both the passing of exams and completion of a training period at an accountant’s office. The training is normally 24 months, but in certain circumstances (generally for olim qualified in their home country and with experience), this can be reduced to 6 months.

How important is Hebrew in your field?

It’s not just important, it’s crucial – you cannot possible deal with the tax offices without it! That being said, a lot of the Hebrew is very industry specific, and so you’ll pick it up over the course of your work.

What are the benefits of your job?

That’s a tough question. I guess there are two aspects that I enjoy most. One is researching and coming up with legitimate schemes to help people save significant amounts of tax. And the second is the client interaction; many people have an inherent fear of tax authorities (and everyone has heard  of horror stories), and it’s satisfying when people thank you for helping them know that they have met their obligations and are available to explain matters to them in a language that they can understand and relate to.

Is this employment more in demand in certain areas of Israel?

There is a lot of demand for staff all over the country, with of course the main hub being Tel Aviv and Gush Dan, where the majority of business is carried out. But of course all of the major cities have larger and smaller offices. That being said, a lot of people are entering the market each year, and I think that supply often exceeds demand. That can often lead to people going self-employed, which carries with it potential to higher rewards,  but also carries extra risks and administrative burdens.

What is the salary range?

Someone starting out in a firm outside Tel Aviv can expect to start on minimum wage, and slowly progress up the scale. A newly qualified accountant can expect NIS 7-8,000 gross per month. Tel Aviv salaries will normally carry a premium, but those jobs can often demand more time. After that, much will depend on your role and abilities, as well as the firm that you are working in. The self-employed can obviously earn fairly nicely, but running your own business is not for everyone.

Do you have any other advice or tips for Olim?

There’s no shortage of accounting practices of differing shapes and sizes, and you should be able to find somewhere that’s a good match for you. But be prepared for the cultural shock of how business in general, and accounting in particular – especially tax, are dealt with. If you come with an open mind and a willingness to succeed, you can go far.

How do you feel about working and living in Israel?

I absolutely love it. Yes, there are times when internal matters or clients can frustrate you, but that can be true anywhere in the world. I even embrace working on Sundays – although the occasional break outside Shabbat and Yom Tov would be nice!

The following interview is with Avraham Deutsch, CPA, a self-employed accountant

Please provide a brief description of your field.
I am an American CPA specializing in handling tax returns and tax planning for Americans living in Israel, as well as servicing Israelis (or other non-Americans) who are required to file with the U.S. Government. Generally speaking, American citizens need to file tax returns as long as they have minimal income, while non-U.S. citizens have to file tax returns if they have investment-related income in the U.S.

How long have you worked in this field?
I’ve been working as an accountant for over 25 years.

Did you work in this field prior to making Aliyah?
I worked in New York for two large firms (KPMG and Coopers & Lybrand) and then I worked as a senior manager in a smaller firm. When I came on Aliyah in 1993, I first worked for Kesselman & Kesselman (PWC) for a few years, and then I started my own firm.

What education do you need to break into your field?
I have a BS in accounting and an MA in taxation. I also have an MBA in finance. I feel that the more education you have, the better equipped you are to handle the challenges involved in running an accounting business. Minimally, I recommend that you obtain a BS in accounting and an MA in taxation.

What skills or experience do you need in order to build the business that you have?
Building a business (of any type) involves more than just having the necessary education and understanding the technical aspects that need to be handled. There are a lot of interpersonal skills that are necessary, as well. For example, in order to succeed in the accounting field, you need to have the patience to listen to client’s concerns and deal with their issues. Most accountants who make Aliyah don’t start their own businesses – most people go to work for accounting firms. Being a business owner requires that you are risk-oriented, and that you deal with a flexible schedule – sometimes 20 hours a day, sometimes 4 hours a day – and not everyone is cut out for that. You also have to be very entrepreneurial. You shouldn’t shy away from it and you shouldn’t be afraid to take a chance. Thank G-d it worked out for me! I always wanted to go into my own business. Although I had a small practice in the U.S., I mainly developed my business after moving to Israel, and I am grateful that I was able to do that here.

What type of training should someone making Aliyah come with, in order to break into your field?
If you are working for accounting firms overseas prior to making Aliyah, it may be preferable to work for small to medium-sized firms, where you can gain a more well-rounded type of experience. When you’re working in a larger firm you often get stuck in a very specific type of work, and you may not learn about other areas of accounting. In addition, I believe it helps to come to Israel with prior experience running your own business. While you definitely can run a business in Israel without having similar experience overseas, it is harder. I also have an MBA, and I learned from my degree that marketing is really essential to the success of a business. I try to use my education in the marketing area to the ultimate.

Does it make any difference whether you studied in Israel or abroad?
If you want to practice U.S. taxation in Israel, it is better to get an American education. However, learning the Israeli tax system is beneficial as well. For example, if you are working with a client who needs assistance with both U.S. and Israeli tax compliance and planning, you really need experience in both areas. A person who is running a business wants to be able to provide services for all types of people and situations. In contrast, if your interest is in Israeli taxation or accounting as opposed to U.S. taxation, you would have to pursue that on the Israeli track and study here in Israel.

Is your field different here than in the U.S. and if yes, how is it different?
The systems of taxation are very different. The tax authorities are different, the laws are different. However, business is business wherever you go. Besides the technical aspects, the concept of running a business is fairly similar in each country. A lot of people have fears about running a business because they’ve heard horror stories about Mas Hachnasa (Israel’s Income Tax Authorities). But the same horror stories apply to the IRS.

What is the pay scale one can expect in this field?
Everyone’s heard that salaries are lower in Israel than in the U.S., but how much you earn depends on your level of experience and is a function of many factors. You can make more money being self employed than as a salaried worker, but there is also more risk. It is very hard to start out being self-employed, and a lot of people who have good intentions end up realizing that it’s not for them. There is competition out there and you need to be especially flexible about what you charge.

Are there any upcoming areas of specialty that you would recommend?
I don’t recommend focusing on a specific area unless you are particularly interested in it. When you are running your own business, it is more important to have a wide knowledge base so that you can successfully service your clientele. As a side note, accountants who are not interested in running their own businesses but who prefer to climb the corporate ladder will find that the opposite is true. It is more beneficial in the corporate world to have experience in large-scale firms where you can gain high level expertise in a very narrow area. You become the expert. For example, if you are interested in being a salaried employee and working in a more specialized area such as bankruptcy or accounting for offshore entities, hone your skills in that specific area.

What recommendations can you offer a student who is interested in working in this field?
I recommend a summer internship in Israel. There are several programs that offer this, and it is something people should look into. You can come on an internship program or find your own internship. I’ve had several interns work with me over the last few years, and I was able to give them solid work experience over the course of the summer. I’m happy to hear from people who are interested in a summer internship.

How do you feel about working and living here in Israel?
Every day I wake up and I say the prayer “Modeh Ani Lefaneha” expressing how grateful I am that I live in Israel. When I’m driving to different parts of the country, meeting with clients and seeing signs in Hebrew, it is a great thrill. Even 18 years later! If you dream about Aliyah, bring your dreams to fruition. It is not an easy thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do; you can succeed and have a great life here.

Any other advice that you’d like to offer?
Though I primarily speak English throughout the day, it is essential to have a high level of Hebrew. I took an Ulpan when I first came to Israel, and I took a second one about five years later in order to perfect my skills. In addition, my family regularly speaks Hebrew at the Shabbat table. There are a lot of forms in Hebrew that I must read and fill out in order to submit tax returns – for example, documentation from people who have Israeli wage slips, contracts and bank accounts. You have to understand what is being displayed on the statements or contracts. There are also a lot of Israelis who don’t speak English well and who are more comfortable speaking Hebrew. I work primarily with Americans, but 15-20% of my clients are Israelis – a lot of Israelis have lived in the States and obtained citizenship and have to file in the U.S. I really enjoy speaking Hebrew, and I don’t shy away from it. If you want to be able to engage Israelis as clients, you have to be able to speak in Hebrew.

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