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Public outcry mounts as Erdoğan’s government implements sweeping tax hikes

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Social media was abuzz with criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government following a series of tax increases that have left many Turks disgruntled.

Online platforms were inundated with angry responses to the tax hikes, which included value-added tax (VAT), notary, passport and visa fees and even tariffs on imported mobile phones. Users expressed their displeasure, accusing those in authority of once again imposing financial burdens on ordinary citizens.

In an announcement on Friday, Turkey declared a 2 percentage point VAT increase across two categories, along with an uptick in the tax collected from lending institutions on consumer loans. The VAT rate applied to goods and services climbed to 20 percent from 18 percent. Basic goods such as toilet paper, detergents, and diapers saw their VAT rise to 10 percent from the previous 8 percent, as stated in the Official Gazette.

President Erdoğan endorsed several measures, including an increase in the Bank Insurance and Transaction Tax (BSMV), levied on banks for the consumer loans they extend to 15 percent, a 5 percent increase. One of the decrees announced in the gazette led to a 50 percent surge in fees covering notary, passport, visa, diploma and traffic costs.

A registration fee for mobile phones brought in from abroad saw a striking 228 percent hike, climbing to 20,000 lira ($765.74) from the former 6,091 lira. Additionally, the fee for opting out of the compulsory military service (bedelli) program rose to TL 122,350.

The response was immediate, with many people, including politicians, economists and artists, turning to social media to express their unhappiness.

The wave of displeasure against these tax increases quickly became a trending topic of discussion on social media. Thousands of Twitter users lambasted the government’s “torrent of tax hikes.”

Economist Özgür Demirtaş said, “Just now: Fees increased by 50%, VAT rates soared: the rate that was 18% is now 20%, and the rate that was 8% is now 10%. The Consumer Loans Special Transaction Tax, previously at 10%, has risen to 15%. The duty on cell phones imported from abroad has jumped from TL 6,000 to TL 20,000 …”

Criticizing the immediate implementation of the increases, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Gökan Zeybek said, “In an operation executed overnight, wage raises evaporated before they could be pocketed. ‘Giving with a spoon and taking with a ladle’ epitomizes this situation.”

Pointing at potential political motivation for the tax increases, Şenol Babuşçu, a professor of finance and banking at Başkent University in Ankara, observed, “Ever since the AKP participated in the election as the ruling party, it has utilized state finances for campaigning. The public is bearing the cost of the state-funded election and will continue to pay more in the future.”

Tax expert Ozan Bingöl underscored the hike in mobile phone tariffs, stating, “The duty on personal cell phones brought by people from abroad has increased from TL 6,091 to TL 20,000 by presidential decree!”

Economist Veysel Ulusoy expressed his disappointment, saying, “Didn’t the government raise all fees, taxes and service charges by 112% at the beginning of the year? What does this early morning economic punch signify? VAT has risen, fees have gone up … and the list goes on. In essence, it’s turned into a fiasco.”

Academic Fatih Yaşlı drew attention to the socioeconomic implications, stating, “A taxation system leaning towards consumption rather than wealth, assets and earnings implies a shift in the tax burden from the affluent to the poor, essentially amounting to transfer of wealth and, undoubtedly, class stratification.”

The government’s decision to implement these tax hikes has provoked a substantial public outcry. The measures follow a recent bill introduced in parliament that proposed increasing the corporate tax rate from 20 percent to 25 percent to cover earthquake-related necessities.

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