Victor Louis Says USSR Will No Longer Implement Head Tax, but Law Will Remain on the Books

Victor Louis, a Soviet journalist with Kremlin connections who visited Israel in 1971, said today that Soviet authorities will no longer implement the law promulgated last Aug. which requires holders of academic degrees to pay a tax based on their educational level if they wish to emigrate. Louis’ dispatch from Moscow was published in the newspaper Yediot Achronot. He claimed that while the tax law will not be formally abolished, the head office of the ovir, the Soviet visa bureau, has confirmed that the tax will no longer be collected.

(In Washington, several Congressional leaders said today that legislation designed to free Soviet emigration will be enacted by Congress despite the latest reports from the Soviet Union. In New York, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry said the latest Soviet moves are encouraging but the basic emigration problems remain unchanged. See P. 3 for full stories.)

According to reports yesterday from Moscow and other sources, 44 Jews with academic degrees were informed over the past two days that they may leave the country without paying the diploma tax. With one or two exceptions, none of those exempted were “hard core” activists.

MAY REFUND TAXES ALREADY PAID

Louis’ dispatch hinted that Soviet authorities may consider refunding the diploma taxes received from Jews during the six months that the law was implemented. An estimated 300 Jews have paid the tax. Louis said that if a refund is authorized, the money would be turned over to relatives or friends of the Jews who paid the tax and have since left the USSR. The recipients must be living in Russia, Louis said.

The exemptions reported yesterday were seen as a move by Soviet officials to mollify a majority of U.S. Congressmen who support amendments pending in the House and Senate that would deny most favored nation status and other trade concessions to the USSR until it removed restrictions on emigration.

Some sources here regard Louis’ report as part of a general Soviet propaganda offensive designed to influence public opinion, particularly in the U.S. Louis is seen by some as an instrument of the Kremlin frequently used to carry out propaganda missions in the West on behalf of the Soviet leaders. Louis visited Israel in the spring of 1971, ostensibly for medical treatment. He met at the time with Simha Dinitz, Premier Golda Meir’s political secretary, who is now Israel’s Ambassador-designate to the U.S.

NEXT STORY