BY ALAATTIN AKTAS
A tax, which is known as the earthquake tax in the public, has been applied after the earthquakes on August 17, and November 12, 1999. It was supposed to be applied to communication services, and it was named the special communication tax. The tax period, which was stipulated to be implemented until 2000 at the beginning, was extended twice before AK Party made it permanent.
The taxation totaled TRY 86.2bn in 2003-2022. But the amount should be calculated in line with today’s currency in a country like Turkey where inflation is high. The amount corresponds to USD 36.5bn when it is calculated with the average FX rate of the relevant years. It hits TRY 685bn when it is calculated with today’s USD/TRY.
Taxes, which are collected in a pool, can be used for all purposes. So, the special communication tax, which has been applied to earthquake expenses, can be used for all expenditures. But there’s an application purpose of this tax: earthquake…
Why did this tax become permanent if all wounds of earthquakes in 1999 were bound up?
If it became permanent as it’s known that earthquakes will never end in Turkey, where the money was spent?
One of our former Finance Ministers previously answered that it was spent on health, tunnel, and bridge constructions when the fate of the money was asked.
But we saw that the money, which was collected for earthquakes, was spent on road construction, which collapsed and became unpassable. On one side of the roads were the people in throes of death in the rubbles, while others were bending over backwards for help on the other side, but had to wait!
Prof. Murat Bati wrote in his article that an Earthquake Fund must be launched so that the money collected for earthquakes can be used for them. Here is what he said:
“Certain revenues can’t be allocated for certain expenses, according to the Public Finance Management and Control Law. This is known as the ‘adem-i tahsis’ (roughly means autonomy in allocation) principle in the literature. These taxes, which are registered as direct revenues in the general budget, is transferred to the Treasury pool and they can be spent for all public services to the extent allowed by the budget law regardless of their subject or collection place.”
“So, it’s impossible to use the special communication tax, which has been applied to bind up wounds of earthquakes and registered as revenues in the general budget, just for an earthquake.”
“The special communication tax should be excluded from the tax type, which is registered as revenue in the general budget and be transformed into a fund. Transforming it into a fund with a strengthened audit just like the Unemployment Fund will bind up this wound. Otherwise, our financing problem will remain unsolved.”
We know that the earthquakes in the Southeast won’t be the last. It is not known when it will happen, but Istanbul stands at the door as a much greater danger.