Turkish education NGO hit by tax penalty over donations

Turkish education NGO hit by tax penalty over donations

A non-governmental organization, mainly working for female children’s education, has been hit with a tax penalty fine of around 2 million liras over donations that are claimed to have been collected “illegally.”

The Support for Contemporary Life Association (ÇYDD) has been accused of earning undeserved revenues through donations gathered using POS machines and mail order, daily Cumhuriyet reported on Dec. 12.

However, the ÇYDD chairman, Ayşel Çelikel, refuted the accusations, telling Cumhuriyet that tens of associations collected money through similar means and Finance Ministry inspectors were wrong to deal with them like a commercial institution.

“They treated us like we gave something in return for every donation we collected through POS machines or mail order,” Çelikel added.

She also claimed that the Social Security Institution (SGK) had fined the ÇYDD on a number of occasions, considering the volunteers helping there as if they were illegal workers.

Çelikel said the NGO had been first accused of tax evasion because of the money collected through wreaths and sent to funerals sponsored by donors.

“We have had a wreath service operating for five years. We collect money at the mosque in this way. We write the name of donor on a wood label and receive this money as a donation. We don’t do anything in return. Tens of associations do this in the same way. All donation receivers queue in front of mosques. We use this as a student scholarship,” she said.

Finance Ministry officials claimed that the ÇYDD was giving goods or services in return for the donations and started imposing penalty fines.

The ÇYDD then filed a lawsuit against the penalty at an Ankara Tax Court and won. Despite the court’s verdict defining the money as a donation, however, the Finance Ministry has appealed to the Council of State and the high court’s decision over the case is still awaited.

Çelikel said they would file another lawsuit against the penalty fine over the money collected through POS machines and mail orders at an Istanbul Court within a month.

“We will fight against the punishments. We won the case in Ankara and I am sure we will win this one as well,” she said.

“We often say that the judiciary is used as a tool, but it is also a large family. There are honorable people among them as well. It would be unjust to accuse them all,” she added.

“This association will not end. They shouldn’t mess with it. As long as this society gives this much support, our association will exit forever,” she stated.

Founded by late Turkish physician Türkan Saylan in 1989 with the aim of developing education in Turkey, the ÇYDD has 99 branches across the country and is involved a number of projects, mostly supporting female students’ attendance in education.

Saylan, who had died of cancer in 2009, was subject of huge public support a month before her death when her house was searched within the scope of the Ergenekon case, an investigation into a suspected gang that was allegedly plotting to topple the government and end religious movements in Turkey, primarily the one led by Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen.