‘Tax evaders’: Turkish officials take a veiled shot at Twitter over lack of office presence

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 16:41 EDT
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A picture representing a mugshot of the Twitter bird is seen on a smart phone with a Turkish flag in Istanbul on March 26, 2014 [AFP]
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Social media firms operating in Turkey should open offices there and pay taxes, authorities said Tuesday, amid a row with Twitter which the Turkish prime minister has branded “tax evaders”.

Without mentioning Twitter by name, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said social media platforms were dodging taxes if they operated without opening a physical office.

“When you take a look at double taxation agreements, a foreign taxpayer must have an office in order to pay tax,” Simsek said.

“Social media companies must definitely open a representative office here,” he added.

“If they have good intentions, they open a representative office. If they harbour bad intentions, then we will sit down and mull alternatives,” stressed the minister.

The comments came as Twitter executives, led by Colin Crowell, the San Francisco-based company’s head of global public policy, held a second round of closed-door talks in Ankara at the presidency.

Twitter bosses held a first meeting with Turkey’s telecommunications authority on Monday, which officials hailed as “positive”.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s graft-tainted government blocked Twitter in March after the micro-blogging side was flooded with anonymously posted audio recordings allegedly portraying the premier and his inner circle in corruption.

But Ankara had to lift the much-criticised, two-week ban after the nation’s top court ruled on April 3 the blockade breached the right to free speech.

Turkey’s combative prime minister hit back at the court ruling and on Saturday threatened to “go after” Twitter, accusing the social media site of tax evasion.

The finance minister has said the court ruling had weakened the government’s hand to push the social media companies to pay taxes.

Local media reported that Twitter officials were “not categorically against” the opening of an office in Turkey but no final agreement had been reached.

The ban on Twitter was among a wider crackdown on social media ahead of crucial March 30 local elections, in which Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) scored a nationwide victory despite corruption allegations.

Another popular social media site YouTube has been blocked in Turkey since March 27 despite two separate court orders to lift it.

The Internet ban has sparked condemnation at home and abroad, generating concerns about freedoms and democracy in Turkey, which has long aspired to join the European Union.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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