Wealthy Turks urged to repatriate foreign funds

ANKARA, April 25 Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:04am BST

ANKARA, April 25 (Reuters) - Turkey's government sent a bill to parliament on Thursday to reintroduce a "wealth amnesty" aimed at luring back funds held abroad by affluent Turks without punitive taxes and fines.

Under the programme, Turks will pay just two percent on eligible funds, avoiding taxes that could otherwise reach 30-40 percent. They will also avoid an investigation into whether the wealth was generated in Turkey and improperly kept overseas.

Turkish individuals or companies will be obliged to declare their wealth before the end of July to benefit from the amnesty. The bill is not expected to face much resistance in parliament and could pass next month.

Turkey last used such a programme in 2009 to help mitigate the effects of the global financial crisis, drawing backing some 50 billion lira ($28 billion at current exchange rates) from Turkish firms and individuals.

An economy official said it was hard to predict how much the new programme would draw back. Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said last week Turkey had emerged as a "safe haven" since the last amnesty, meaning it would be more successful this time.

Babacan was quoted by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet as saying Turks held a registered $130 billion in foreign accounts, of which $50 billion were held in U.S. Treasury bills.

Turkey was Europe's fastest-growing economy in 2011, expanding 8.5 percent, but growth slowed sharply to 2.2 percent last year and the government is keen to see a recovery ahead of an election cycle beginning next year.

Its dependence on imported fuel makes its current account deficit the country's main economic weakness and increases the importance of keeping Turkish capital in the country - or of bringing funds back in. (Reporting by Orhan Coskun; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Patrick Graham)

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