Financial news and advice — March 2016

Sweden is set to become the world's first cashless country, while new legislation in the US makes nonpayment of taxes grounds for passport confiscation.


Supermodel investigated for tax evasion

Bar Refaeli, Israel's top model, worth an estimated US$20 million, was arrested in Tel Aviv in December for suspected tax evasion and released on US$193,000 bail. The country’s tax authority alleges the supermodel, who used to date Leonardo DiCaprio and is now married to Israeli billionaire businessman Adi Ezra, failed to report and pay taxes on millions of dollars in income and goods she earned abroad. Refaeli claims she’s exempt from paying taxes in Israel because she’s not a resident. But investigators say she lied about her residency and was living in Tel Aviv apartments registered in her mother’s and brother’s names. Authorities confiscated Refaeli’s passport and she cannot leave Israel without permission for six months.


Pay tax or stay put

Passport and lock

If you're surprised to learn that nonpayment of taxes is grounds to confiscate a passport in Israel, wait until you hear this. The Internal Revenue Service now has that same power in the US. A new section to the Internal Revenue Code was signed into law late last year allowing the State Department to “revoke, deny or limit” passports for anyone the IRS certifies as having a delinquent tax debt in excess of $50,000, including penalties and interest.


Guys are most gullible

Ever wonder who actually falls for all those online scams? It’s mostly young men, a UK police study of cybercrime finds. Not only were men aged 21 to 40 the most likely to be taken in by mass marketing scams, such as lottery and charity cons, but they were also prime targets of dating, banking and corporate frauds, the City of London police figures show. People aged 80 or older, however, were the most likely to be repeat victims of fraud.


Man has 1,497 credit cards

Walter Cavanagh is a card-carrying Guinness Book of World Records winner. Literally. The 73-year-old from Santa Clara, Calif., has been dubbed “Mr. Plastic Fantastic” by Guinness for having the most credit cards in his name — a whopping 1,497 of them — with a total credit limit of US$1.7 million. But that doesn’t mean he’s a spendthrift; far from it. He uses just one of the cards and pays off his balance every month. His collection started as a bet with a friend, and most of the cards are safely stashed in safety deposit boxes.


Bye-bye bank robbers

Sweden is close to becoming the first cashless country, the New York Times reports. Bills and coins represent just 2% of Sweden’s economy, compared with 7.7% in the US; and in 2015 only 20% of all consumer payments in Sweden were made in cash, compared with an average of 75% in the rest of the world. In addition, more than half of the branches of the country’s biggest banks don’t keep any cash on hand, and cash deposits are not accepted.