The people of Turkey will pay the true cost of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s fundraising campaign to help the poor weather the impact of the coronavirus because donations are tax deductible, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said.
A legal amendment from 2014 states that all donations made to campaigns launched by the Turkish president can be deducted from income tax, Kılıçdaroğlu told Sözcü newspaper in an interview.
As coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rack up in Turkey, opposition politicians have consistently called on the government to follow the lead of other countries that imposed a comprehensive lockdown and to guarantee that workers who are forced to stay at home receive income.
The government has resisted those calls, instead imposing a series of measures that restrict intercity travel and keep vulnerable parts of the population at home.
A $15-billion stimulus package revealed on March 18 provided tax relief and payment deferrals, but was short on concrete financial support for households. Erdoğan said the donation drive he launched on Monday, dubbed the National Solidarity Campaign, aimed to provide support for low-income individuals impacted by the virus.
The president kickstarted the campaign by donating seven months of his own salary. But Kılıçdaroğlu said politicians and business leaders who follow his lead would be able to claim the money back in full as deductions from their income tax, meaning that the taxpayer would ultimately foot the bill.
The CHP leader recalled a scandal that emerged in January with reports that Başkentgaz, Turkey’s second-largest regulated gas distribution network, had taken advantage of a law that allowed it to reclaim in income tax deductions a large amount of money donated to government-affiliated foundations through the Turkish Red Crescent.