Starting a business from scratch is not easy – but the rewards are certainly impressive if you can get over the initial hurdles and work through the legislation and taxation hassles that all business owners have to endure! If you’re contemplating moving abroad and starting a business in Turkey once you arrive, this article is for you.
We will explore some of the realities of starting a business in Turkey as well as taxation information that you need to know.
A lot of expatriates decide to start a new business when they move abroad as it can be the ‘easier’ option rather than looking for employment. If language skills are only rudimentary and the expat in question wants more freedom from their overseas relocation, starting a business is often the obvious choice. However, it is at this point that certain realities need to be faced. If you’re going to be starting a business in Turkey you need to speak Turkish.
You might think you’ll get buy if you open a bar for expats and holiday makers in a popular resort such as Side for example, but how will you deal with the tax authorities, how will you deal with getting an alcohol licence and even a music permit? You can of course ensure you have staff who speak Turkish and who can come with you and assist you all the way, but you will need to get up to speed with the language if you want to ensure you are not being cheated or you’re not missing some vital piece of paperwork that puts your business in jeopardy.
The next reality that you need to face is that it is inevitable that business owners work twice as hard as employees! You try running your own business and not wanting to be involved with it and tinkering with it and overseeing the smooth running of it 24 hours a day! Even seasoned business owners who have done it all before or who have a successful empire will find it very hard to be hands off. So, if you’re moving abroad for a quiet life and a laid back life and a life where you don’t have to work very hard – don’t move abroad to Turkey and start your own business!
Yes the rewards are there – yes you can maybe sleep late or avoid the commute or work hours more suiting your lifestyle…but you will have to work hard!
Other issues to be aware of – if you’re a female expat and you’re opening or starting your own business in Turkey, be prepared to be met with a certain amount of disrespect. Despite being an incredibly liberal nation and one in transition and becoming far more open to Western societies’ ideas, strong and independent women going it alone are still something of a ‘surprise’ to the male dominated business world in Turkey.
When it comes to getting paperwork, permissions, licenses and official stamps and seals so that you can begin trading you will have to visit a whole host of public offices and get used to the fact that everything takes time. There’s a phrase that you will have to get used to hearing – ‘burası Türkiye’ – it’s usually accompanied by a disinterested shrug of the shoulders! It means ‘this is Turkey’ and the shrug implies ‘get used to it.’ Few expats do get used to it, but all learn they cannot change it. British public offices used to be the same and even in a nation like Germany which many assume to be super efficient, public offices take their time to get things done. I don’t know why – if I knew the answer governments around the world would be paying me a fortune to be a consultant to them to get their nation working!
So – once you realise you need to learn to speak Turkish, that you will be working more hours than ever and that a lot of the rest of the time you will be waiting and waiting for seemingly irrelevant pieces of paper, you’re really ready to start your own business in Turkey.
Now you need to think about tax! Taxation rules in Turkey are subject to change – and interpretation! So you have to have a good tax adviser or accountant on your side. Do NOT even attempt to begin trading without having found someone to help you with the tax side of things first. You will be liable to income tax in Turkey on your business income – this tax is called ‘gelir vergisi’ and just like in the UK it is charged on a progressive scale, from 15% to 35%. KDV is VAT or sales tax and this is charged and chargeable on almost everything, private consumption tax is ÖTV and this is levied at various rates on things such as petrol, vehicles, cigarettes and alcohol – there is also an environmental tax that municipalities collect from businesses and home owners usually via the water bill.
These are just a handful of the main taxes you need to be aware of, you can of course add on your company taxes and all of a sudden you can see that the financial landscape is not so clear when you’re living in Turkey and running your own business. So, get help from the outset, find people you can trust to advise and assist you, stay on top of the numbers, don’t over stretch your finances, be realistic and…go for it! Being your own boss is a tremendous triumph.