Turkey paves way for Twitter ‘e-office’ to bypass tax row

Turkey paves way for Twitter ‘e-office’ to bypass tax row

Neşe Karanfil ANKARA
Turkey paves way for Twitter ‘e-office’ to bypass tax row

Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek says microblog Twitter may pay taxes to Turkey via an ‘e-office.’

The Finance Ministry is working on a draft to allow Twitter to open an “electronic office” in Turkey, which will allow the microblogging giant to pay taxes in Turkey and ease tensions with Ankara.

“According to the current law, Twitter is not liable to pay taxes in Turkey, as it pays taxes where its servers are located,” Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek said, adding that Twitter’s executives were visiting Turkey but problems still existed as it does not have a base in Turkey, in accordance with international and OECD implementations.

“A new tax law will bring in the ‘electronic workplace’ issue, making companies tax liable even they do not have a central office or branch in Turkey due to the fact that they are electronic workplaces,” Şimşek said.

He added that some companies have accepted being tax liable in Turkey but the issue is still being discussed with Twitter.

This is also a hot debate in the U.S., as technology companies generally prefer to operate in countries where there are tax advantages, Şimşek said, adding that the code would make advertisement revenues on social media also subject to taxes.

The code will take its final shape in discussions at parliament, he stressed.

Turkey hit international headlines when it blocked access to Twitter last year, hours after then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to “wipe out” the social media platform on March 20, 2014.

YouTube was also banned in Turkey on March 27, hours after a top-secret government meeting on Syria was leaked allegedly revealing top government officials discussing a possible false-flag operation on Turkey in an effort to drag it into Syria’s war.

The Constitutional Court unblocked Twitter on April 2, 2014, and YouTube on May 29, 2014, citing freedom of expression, but these rulings drew the ire of the government.

Meanwhile, Turkish authorities last month said all websites publishing alleged records related to Syrian-bound trucks belonging to the National Intelligence Agency (MİT), which were halted for inspection by a prosecutor last year, would be blocked, presaging a possible new ban on Twitter and Facebook. The two largest social media networks, however, quickly complied and removed the content on Jan. 14.

Turkish President Erdoğan, who has voiced his displeasure with Twitter on several occasions, personally sent his first tweet on Feb. 9, opting to send an anti-smoking message.

During the Gezi Park protests of June 2013, he described the microblogging website as a “menace.”