Tax audits up 52 percent in 2013 due to political pressure

The Tax Inspection Board (VDK) conducted 52 percent more audits into companies in 2013 year on year as auditing has been increasingly used as a political tool by the government to silence dissent.

In response to a Parliamentary question submitted by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Sezgin Tanrikulu, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said in February that 71,352 tax audits had been conducted in 2013 while 2012 saw 46,845 audits and 2011 saw 16,267.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is stepping up its use of political power to silence political dissent. During the countrywide Gezi park protests last summer, Erdogan openly accused such prominent firms as Koc Holding, a member of the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TUSIAD), of supporting the anti-government protests. Koc subsidiaries have been hit with fines as a result of audits in 2013.

Similarly, three subsidiaries of central Anatolian conglomerate Boydak Holding, whose vice chairman criticized the government over a raid on another company over the summer, faced a round of tax audits in November 2013.

Mustafa Boydak, also chairman of the Kayseri Chamber of Industry (KAYSO), in July urged the government to refrain from pressuring elite companies, alluding to the government’s tax probes into Koc Holding subsidiaries.

Boydak’s July comments followed a raid on the Turkish Petroleum Refineries Corporation (TUPRAS) after government inspectors found large-scale tax evasion last year in oil-distributing companies. TUPRAS is a subsidiary of Koc Holding, Turkey’s largest conglomerate. Analysts questioned the timing of the raid, as it came amid the Gezi Park protests and followed stern warnings from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the conglomerate, which opened its hotel in Taksim to Gezi Park protesters escaping tear gas fired by police.

Erdogan had said Gezi backers — whom he often referred to as the “interest rate lobby” — would “pay for their misdeeds.”