Turkish Cyprus government’s ‘earthquake taxes’ for wage earners draws criticism

The Turkish Cyprus coalition government’s move to tax all wage earners for one year under the name of “aid for earthquake victims” has drawn ire, with unions and opposition politicians showing skepticism as to where the funding will be channelled to. Union representatives have also said that the aid collection should be based on a voluntary basis.  

A man waves a Turkish Cyprus flag in Istanbul's Taksim Square in this file photo.

Nikolaos Stelya / Gazete Duvar 

The coalition government of Turkish Cyprus, consisting of the National Unity Party (UBP), Rebirth Party (YDP), and Democrat Party (DP), has decided to impose income taxes on citizens following the Kahramanmaraş-based earthquakes.

Accordingly, in line with the Council of Ministers’ “Decree on Reorganization of Income Deductions and Taxes Regarding Natural Disasters and Some Obligations in order to Eliminate Economic Losses in the Country," taxes ranging from 1 percent to 5 percent will be deducted from people’s salaries.

A tax of 1% will be taken from those earning between 10,000-30,000 liras a month, 1.5% from those earning between 30,000-55,000 liras, 2% from those earning between 55,000-75,000 liras, and 5% from those earning 75,000 liras and above.

According to the information released in the Official Gazette, the decree will stay in execution until February 2024.

The move has drawn widespread reaction, with the Public Workers Union (Kamu-Sen) president Metin Atan saying that members are suspicious of where the funding will be channelled into amid problems of transparency. He said that Kamu-Sen members want donations to be collected on a voluntary basis, rather than as an obligation.  

'Humane feelings are trying to be abused'

Turkish Cypriot civil servants' union KTAMS (KTAMS) president Güven Bengihan said it was wrong of the government to take a decision that concerns the whole public with a decree. “It is very wrong to take a decision hastily with regards to a decision that concerns everyone, from the retirees to minimum wage earners, and make a deduction from everyone. Humane feelings are trying to be abused,” Bengihan said.

Seven public and private sector unions, having the same view as KTAMS, referred to the government’s move as “opportunism,” saying they will take the issue to the judiciary, according to reporting by Özgür Gazete Kıbrıs online news website.

The move also has drawn ire from the opposition, with the left-wing Republican Turkish Party (CTP) lawmaker economist Devrim Barçın saying that he petitioned the government not to deduct retiree salaries, but that his petition will be overlooked in violation of the Constitution.

CTP lawmaker Doğuş DERYA said that the UBP-YDP-DP coalition was “doing opportunism through the pain” and was “forcibly collecting money” amid suspicions that it might not serve the intended means.

(English version by Didem Atakan)