Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Tax Discourse (Or, Lack Thereof)

I sometimes think of Turkey as the Texas of Europe, and Turkey's regressive tax policies give me all the more reason to draw the comparison. Liam Hardy at American Anatolian Viewpoint takes a look at Turkish tax structures, writing that taxes here are not as widely debated as in the United States. I wonder why this is so, particularly when Turkey's reliance on regressive taxation disadvantages workers. Is this one more result of the lack of a viable Turkish left? Are there studies providing more concrete information about how Turkey's tax system affects social inequalities? Who is empowered by Turkey's tax system, and who all is hurt?

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the revenue Turkey collects from personal income taxes and profits stands at less than six percent of the total GDP, and has been declining steadily since 2000. (See "Public Finances" at the bottom of Turkey's OECD statistical profile.) This is the lowest among all OECD countries. As the Anatolia News Agency pointed out in its report Monday, a decline in personal income tax collections likely shifts the burden to workers and more vulnerable members of society. Though the Agency cites no sources, I would very much like to see more analysis of the problem.

Also worth taking note of are the remarkable revenues taken in on cigarette sales, which no doubt hit the families of smokers quite hard. (And, in Turkey, smoking is not only an "upper-class" addiction.)

According to the United Nation Development Program's Gini index calculations, Turkey stands between Peru and Ecuador in terms of economic inequality. All European Union member countries rank far ahead of Turkey according to Gini's equality measures, in addition to Croatia and Macedonia, the two other countries that have accession partnerships with the EU.

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