Doing Business in Turkey – From Outside the Country

Turkey permits foreigners and foreign businesses of any nationality to do business in Turkey. This is true whether they are selling goods or providing services.

They do not need any permits to do this if their business is located outside Turkey. If they want to have a physical presence within Turkey, paperwork is needed (see our Guide to Starting a Business in Turkey).

Depending upon where your business is based, there may be tariff and other barriers.

Video guide

You can learn about business in Turkey by watching this full-length interview (below) with Turkish lawyer Başak Yıldız Orkun, and by scrolling down and reading the detailed guide that she has written with us.

The video guide below is a playlist – split into several parts. One part will play right after the other.

Barriers to trading with Turkey from abroad

European barriers

In 1995, with the signing of the EU’s Customs Union Agreement, Turkey began a very long and slow path towards joining the EU. It has adopted the EU’s Common External Tariff (CET) for most industrial products and is committed to eliminating tariffs and quantitative restrictions on such goods. However, there are still substantial tariffs on agricultural goods and some other protected items.

This does not mean to say that there are no obstacles to doing business in Turkey, even if you’re dealing with industrial goods. There are lots of regulations with which you will have to comply: for example, as to packaging and translation. Dealing with the administration is sometimes not straightforward and the rules can change with little or no warning.

For more information see, for example, the UK guide to doing business in Turkey (this is a PDF).

Barriers to trade with the US and other (non-EU) countries

US and other non-EU companies face barriers when selling goods into Turkey. The amount depends upon the category of the item in question. These are to be found in the Turkish government’s schedule of about 20,000 different items.

Tariffs on imports from non-European countries are, typically, approximately 3% above European Union (EU) rates, but vary on a product-by-product basis. The average tariff is about 4.1%, though some sensitive items (including agricultural goods, clothing, medical devices and e-commerce) are protected by much bigger tariffs.

For some more information, read this article (PDF) on regulations surrounding business in Turkey.

General barriers

Turkey is a member of GATT/WTO, so these rules will apply.

Once goods have been imported, they will be treated in the same way as domestically produced goods as far as Turkish domestic taxation is concerned.

Of course, there are certain rules with which you must comply if you wish to do business in Turkey. This guide will deal with those rules.

In addition, there are issues of business culture with which you will have to get to grips if your business venture in Turkey is going to be successful.

The rules to doing business in Turkey

There are five main rules that apply to businesses that are based overseas but who want to sell their goods or services in Turkey:

  1. You do not need to register the fact that you are doing businessin Turkey.
  2. If you are not resident in Turkey for taxpurposes, you and your company will not be subject to Turkish income or corporation taxes on your business activities in Turkey.
  3. You must account for any VATand special consumption tax arising out of the sale of your goods or services.
  4. You must comply with the laws, including consumerprotection laws, that would apply to businesses based in Turkey.
  5. You must not engage in any of the businessactivities that are restricted. These are usually business activities that have some implications for national security or Turkish culture, and they are often permitted only to citizens of Turkey.

Restricted businesses

There are certain restrictions as to the types of business activity that a foreigner (whether based in Turkey or not) can carry out. See our Guide to Starting a Business in Turkey.

It is important to note that these restrictions are because of you being a foreigner and not because of your business being based overseas. In other words, you would not be able to work in these areas even if your foreign-owned business was physically present in Turkey.

Business culture in Turkey

Turkey has a strong business culture. If you do not understand it and try to work with and within it, it can make life very difficult for you or, in the worst case, cause your business to fail.

Of course, you’re not forced to adapt to the Turkish way of doing things but if you simply conduct your business in the same way as you would ‘back home’, you will find that this is a high-risk tactic.

See our Guide to Business Culture in Turkey for more information.

Choose the right business structure for Turkey

This is one of the first things you need to think about. Getting it wrong could cost you a great deal of time and money.

If you’re reading this guide, your default position is probably that you wish to have no structure in Turkey but simply to provide your goods and services from your home country. Whilst this is permissible, it may not be your best solution – so it’s worth thinking at an early stage about whether there is (for you) a better way of working with Turkey.

Of course, having thought about it, you may still decide that simply working from ‘back home’ and selling your goods or services into Turkey is best for you. You may also decide (many people do) that you will start off by ‘giving it a go’ – by supplying your services or goods directly – and then review the position after several months or a year or two. There is nothing wrong with doing things this way, and it has the benefit of initial simplicity, but it can make things more expensive and complicated when you do decide to set up some sort of presence within Turkey: so this might prove to be an expensive option longer term.

There are several options at to the business structures you could adopt; see our Guide to Starting a Business in Turkey.

Get to know people in Turkey

Networking is incredibly important in Turkey: more so than in most countries. Many local people will be wary of doing business with you until you are a ‘known face’.

Of course, if you’re not physically present in Turkey, this can be a challenge and it may be something that you never successfully achieve. However, within the limits of your not being in Turkey on a regular basis, there are a few ways to make yourself well known, and therefore well trusted, in Turkey.

Most involve being in Turkey from time to time.

If your goods are being distributed via a local agent or distributor, you will find it well worthwhile making the time to go and see that person. If you’re offering services in conjunction with a local ‘partner’ the same applies.

Those partners or distributors may expect you to contribute to a marketing fund to engage in some of the activities usual in Turkey and so raise the profile of your product or service. If they want this, it is important to understand exactly what is being proposed, its cost, and how the expenditure will be controlled and accounted for.

If you are supplying the goods or service directly to the public, making direct contact with them can also be very helpful. This could, for example, be by attending trade shows or other consumer-facing events.

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