Soviet Clarification of Head Tax Welcomed but Still Unacceptable

A Jewish leader said today that a Soviet official’s statement that the education head tax was being waived for older emigrants and scaled down substantially for others on the basis of the number of years they have worked, was “welcome” as far as it went. But Richard Maass, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, said the diploma head tax remained an “unacceptable” economic barrier for educated Jews wishing to leave the USSR and that his organization would continue its efforts to have it abolished.

Maass was commenting on the statement of Soviet Deputy Interior Minister Boris Shumilin, released Friday by Novosti, the Soviet external news agency. Shumilin claimed that the education tax affected only about 10 percent of all persons applying for exit permits and that the State gave “due regard” for age, health, length of work and other individual factors in applying it. He said reports to the contrary were “Bourgeois propaganda hostile to the Soviet Union, especially Zionist propaganda.”

Maass noted that Shumilin’s statement “seems to imply some relaxation of the rigid and unconscionable exit tax that was arbitrarily imposed on educated Soviet citizens in August” (1972). But the Soviet official contended in his statement that the work yardstick and humanitarian considerations have prevailed all along. He also claimed that exit visas were granted in 1972 to 95.5 percent of all Jewish applicants, a statement disputed by Jewish activists in Moscow over the weekend.

ONLY A HANDFUL OF CASES.

Shumilin emphasized repeatedly in his statement to Novosti that the education head tax applied to all Soviet citizens seeking emigration, regardless of nationality, whose country of destination was not another Socialist state with which the USSR has special relations. He said that “in the recent period” 530 visa applicants were exempted from paying the head tax out of consideration for their financial status.

Jewish activists in Moscow said Friday that they did not know of any cases in recent weeks in which such systematic waivers or reductions were applied. The sources noted further that most of the Jewish emigrants exempted from the head tax had their visas granted just before the American Presidential elections and that “since then there have been only a handful of scattered cases.”

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