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DEFINITION OF A FREE ZONE

A free zone is an area enclosed by a fence that is outside the customs boundaries of the host country. Entry and exit points are supervised by customs officials.  Free zones grant certain economic or financial advantages to facilitate manufacturing and world market trade.

In general, a free zone is an area that is within the boundaries of a country, and yet is considered to be outside of the customs zone and is designed to attract export-oriented activities.

The primary purpose of free zones in Turkey, as explained in Turkish Free Zones Law No. 3218, is:

  • Promoting export-oriented investment and manufacturing activities,
  • Increasing foreign direct investment and technology transfer into the country,
  • Encouraging business towards export,
  • Developing international trade, and
  • Generating employment.


Free zones not only make significant contributions to the economy of the country in which they are located, but they also serve as modern and advanced business hubs to encourage foreign trade with their flexible and advanced structures.  Today, it is estimated that there are approximately 3,000 free zones worldwide in more than 120 countries. There are 18 free zones in Turkey.

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ADVANTAGES

The Aegean Free Zone provides unique advantages for companies with its focus on manufacturing, which generates employment and increases trade volume.

Tax Advantages

  • Manufacturing companies are 100% exempt from corporate tax.
    Wages of workers employed by the companies that export at least 85% of the FOB value of the goods they produce in the Aegean Free Zone are exempt from income tax.
  • Goods and machinery imported to the Aegean Free Zone from other countries are exempt from customs tax.
  • Goods purchased by Aegean Free Zone companies from Turkey are subject to export regulations, which makes it possible to purchase goods and services without paying the value added tax. Plus, goods of Turkish origin costing less than $5,000 USD (or its equivalent in Turkish Lira) may be exempt from export procedures upon request in order to ensure timely procurement.
  • It is possible to stock goods for an unlimited time within the Aegean Free Zone. User companies are allowed to then sell into Turkey, and need only pay required duties (customs tax, VAT, etc.), for the type and amount of goods sold.     
  • There are no stamp taxes, no tariffs and no duties levied on companies operating in the Aegean Free Zone.
  • VAT and withholding tax are not applied in leasing activities.

Earnings and Revenue Repatriation

Aegean Free Zone earnings and revenues can be transferred to any country, including Turkey, freely and without any restrictions.

Manufacturing Area Allocation

Land, ready-to-use factory buildings, open and closed storage areas, and office area requirements of the Aegean Free Zone companies are addressed in the shortest time possible.

One-Stop-Shop – Dynamic Management

Basic services such as electricity, telecommunications, natural gas, food services, etc. are provided by ESBAS at a one-stop-shop, meeting all requirements quickly to prevent loss of time.  

Logistical Advantages

The Aegean Free Zone is located close to the EU and Middle Eastern markets, near major ports, international airports, highway networks and at the heart of culture, tourism and entertainment centers. It is 4 km to Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport, and 12 km to the Port of Izmir and the Izmir city center.

Izmir has great advantages in terms of national and international sea and air transportation. The Alsancak, Aliağa-Nemrut, Dikili and Çeşme ports are key locations for sea transport. The Port of Çandarlı, which is still under construction and is expected to be one of the 10 largest ports in the world, will be another point of connection enhancing the potential of Izmir.

Principle of Equality

All domestic and international companies take equal advantage of the incentives and benefits of free zones. User companies and operators can also make use of the non-tax incentives during investment and manufacturing stages.

No Time Limitation

It is possible to keep goods for an unlimited time within the Aegean Free Zone.

Realistic Accounting for Inflation

All Aegean Free Zone payments are made in foreign currency.

Reduced Bureaucracy

Red tape and bureaucracy are minimized during application and operation. 

ESBAS ADVANTAGES

Our most important principle at ESBAS is to develop and provide services of utmost benefit to our Users while continuously improving our operations.  Being a one-stop-shop with minimum bureaucracy gives the advantage of speed in order to prevent loss of time, enabling Aegean Free Zone users to concentrate on their operations.

Services Provided to Zone Users

  • Leasing
  • Electricity, Natural Gas, LPG, Telecommunication, and Industrial Tap Water
  • Food, Catering, and Drinking Water Services
  • Environmental Cleaning, Garbage Collection, and Industrial Waste Collection
  • Zone Access, Weigh Bridge, Loading/Unloading, and Free Zone Vehicle Stamp Services
  • Construction and Renovation Services
  • Project Audit and Construction Inspection

Optional Services

  • Occupational Health and Safety
  • Child Care Center
  • Foreign Trade Services
  • Landscaping
  • Personnel Shuttle Buses
  • Sports Facilities and Social Activities
  • Sanitation Services
  • Conference and Training Facilities

LEASING SERVICES

ESBAS offers various leasing options to companies for their manufacturing and trading activities. This allows companies to start operations on an optimum scale, with ESBAS addressing expansion demands in a fast and convenient manner.

Land

Companies can lease infrastructure-ready parcels for up to 45 years at reasonable cost to construct their own buildings.

Private Factory Buildings

Ready-to-use facilities of 210 m2 to 2,000 m2 are available for lease.

Warehouses and Modular Factories

Private storage areas of 50 m2 or more together with loading/unloading services are available for lease.

Outdoor Storage Areas

Outdoor storage areas of 100 m2 minimum are available for lease.

Office Space

Ready-to-use office units of 15, 18, and 36 m2, or even larger, are available for lease.

STARTING OPERATIONS

Operating License Options

Companies are required to apply for an “Operating License” before they can operate in the Aegean Free Zone. Types of Operating Licenses are: 

  • Manufacturing

All activities involving purchase of raw materials and intermediate foods used in production, selling, marking, packaging, labeling and exhibiting manufactured goods

  • Trading

Purchase-sale, storage, labeling, packaging and exhibition of traded goods

  • Assembly-Disassembly

Assembly and disassembly of machinery and equipment

  • Maintenance-Repair

Maintenance and repair of machinery and equipment

  • Other (Banking, Consultancy, etc.)

Areas outside the licenses above vary depending on the duration of the Operating License, activity field of the company and the leasing options:

  • 45 years for users leasing land and investing in their own manufacturing building,
  • 20 years for leasing a ready-made manufacturing building, and
  • 15 years for trading and assembly-disassembly.

Operating License Application Process

ESBAS’s professional staff is available to take you through the entire process step-by-step, from selecting a location to applying for an Operating License. In order to become an Aegean Free Zone investor, the following steps are required to obtain an Operating License:

  • The Operating License Application Form can be obtained through the link below. (ESBAS can advise on how to fill out the Operating License application form)
  • An application fee of $5,000 USD is deposited into the Free Zones Special Account (a USD account) at the Central Bank of Turkey.
  • The Aegean Free Zone Directorate examines the Operating License form and attachments and forwards them to the Ministry of Economy’s General Directorate of Free Zones, Overseas Investment and Services in Ankara.
  • The Ministry of Economy’s General Directorate of Free Zones, Overseas Investment and Services evaluates the Application Form. If the application is not accepted, the application fee is refunded to the applicant.
  • If the application is accepted, a Lease Contract is signed with ESBAS within 30 days of receipt of written approval of the application from the Ministry of Economy’s General Directorate of Free Zones, Overseas Investment and Services. 
  • A copy of the Lease Contract, which is signed and approved by the Aegean Free Zone Directorate, is sent to the Ministry of Economy’s General Directorate of Free Zones, Overseas Investment and Services.
  • The Ministry of Economy’s General Directorate of Free Zones, Overseas Investment and Services approves and sends the Operating License to the applicant company.

Click here to download the application steps in pdf form.

Click here to download the Operating License Application Form.

 

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1.    What are the tax advantages for a company with a manufacturing license?

Profits of companies with manufacturing licenses derived from sales of products manufactured in Turkish free zones are exempt from income and corporate taxes. This exemption is valid until the end of the license period for companies established before February 6, 2004. Companies established after February 6, 2004, and companies with renewed licenses are exempt from these taxes until the end of the taxation period, or if Turkey becomes a member of the European Union, until the end of the taxation period of the year that Turkey becomes a member of the EU. The wages of workers employed by companies that export at least 85% of goods are exempt from income tax. Companies operating in a free zone may purchase goods inside and outside the country without paying any VAT. Free zone companies are exempt from import costs such as customs tax, SCT (Special Consumption Tax), and RUSF (Resource Utilization Support Fund) for imported goods.

2.    What documents must be submitted to the tax office for tax exemptions for manufacturing companies?

According to provisional article 3, paragraph 2 of the Turkish Free Zones Law No. 3218 in order to be exempt from income or corporate tax, free zone users are required to submit the documentation below to the tax office:

  • A copy of the manufacturing license,
  • A copy of the industry registry certificate and capacity report,
  • A document  indicating the machine and equipment layout to be used in manufacturing must be submitted to the tax office during the establishment of liability (if the establishment is taking place for the first time); or in cases of status changes, together with the first provisional tax return just after the status change (after the tax payers that will start manufacturing in a new area have their status change entered into their license).

3.    Which gains and revenues of manufacturing companies are outside the scope of the exemption?

Tax exemptions are not applicable to the gains and revenues of taxpayers with manufacturing licenses from:

  • Activities unrelated to manufacturing,
  • Sale of goods manufactured outside the free zone,
  • Sale of goods not indicated in the Operating License, and
  • Sale of goods manufactured by a subcontractor inside or outside the free zone.

4.    How does Turkish business law apply to companies operating in free zones?

Companies operating in free zones are no different than other companies operating in Turkey in terms of business law. Users operate in compliance with provisions enacted by the Turkish Ministry of Labor and Social Security.

5.    Can foreigners be employed in free zones?

Companies are required to apply to the Undersecretariat of Foreign Trade, General Directorate of Free Zones, Overseas Investments and Services or the Free Zones Directorate for a “Work Permit” for foreign managers and qualified foreign personnel. Forms and attachments to be submitted for a Work Permit must be printed, filled out and signed. The application is evaluated by the General Directorate in coordination with the relevant authorities. Applicants are then given a Work Permit if they meet the requirements.

6.    In which transactions and cases will a Special Account Fee be paid?

A Special Account Fee shall be applied at the rate of 0.1% over the CIF values of goods imported into the free zone, and at the rate of 0.9% over the FOB values of goods sent into Turkey from the zone. This fee is collected from the companies in the free zone; companies who have obtained their licenses before February 6, 2004, and which are exempt from corporate tax; and manufacturing companies benefiting from the corporate tax exemption. Companies other than those manufacturers who have obtained their licenses before February 6, 2004, will not pay this fee since they are subject to taxation. A Special Account Fee is not collected for goods brought from abroad for investment, as well as those goods purchased free of charge from abroad for processing purposes.

7.    What do Operating Licenses cost? How long can companies operate?

In free zones, sectors have been grouped into manufacturing, trading, assembling-disassembling, maintenance-repair, banking, and other sectors. Companies must pay a license fee of $5,000 USD for each sector within which they wish to operate. Operating License periods are 20 years for manufacturing and 15 years for trading and other sectors. For companies that have invested in their own facilities, these periods are 45 years for manufacturing and 30 years for other licenses.

8.    Can a 100% foreign capital company be established in a free zone?

Provided they are not sole proprietorships, foreign capital companies that are 100% foreign natural and legal entities can be established in a free zone.

9.    Which books (financial records) are kept in free zones?

All books required by the provisions of Turkish Code of Commerce shall be kept by free zone companies. In addition to these books, a separate inventory book listing the entrance and exit of goods shall also be kept. 

10.   Which authority shall be responsible for approval of the books kept in a free zone?

As per the provisions of the Turkish Code of Commerce, all books shall be approved by the notary, whereas the inventory book listing the entrance and exit of goods shall be approved by the Regional Directorate and the Directorate of Customs. 

11.   Can our payments be made in Turkish Lira in the free zone?

Yes, but only for expenses made during the investment stage. Payments of consumables purchased within the country can also be made in Turkish Lira. 

12.   How can companies purchase goods from within Turkey?

Goods sent to the free zone from within Turkey are subject to export regulations. Accordingly, free zone companies can purchase goods from Turkey without VAT. Free zone companies can also purchase goods for investment and consumption purposes without VAT, but are subject to export regulations when goods leave the zone. Furthermore, it is possible for purchases of less than $5,000 USD to be paid in the free zone under simple VAT procedures without being subject to export VAT.

13.   Is VAT applied for goods delivered to free zones from Turkey?

Sales from Turkey to free zones are subject to the export regulations and are exempt from VAT as per the VAT code.

14.   Does withholding tax apply if corporate tax paying users of the free zone distribute profit?

If corporate tax paying users of the free zone distribute the profit earned at the zone, then a tax deduction should apply over the distributed profit rate. Even if the profit is transferred to another country, provisions of double-tax agreements between the two countries must be observed.

15.   What is the Free Zone Transaction Form?

The Free Zone Transaction Form is a document issued for all trading activities in free zones. In other words, it has to be issued for all goods and services sold/bought to/from domestic market , abroad or entities inside the free zone.

16.   Are taxpayers operating in free zones subject to tax audits?

In terms of tax audits, taxpayers operating in free zones are no different than other tax payers in Turkey.

17.   Is it possible to receive an exemption from stamp duty and fees in free zones?

Taxpayers operating in free zones are exempt from the fees and stamp duties for all procedures performed within the free zone until the end of the taxation period, or if Turkey becomes a member of the European Union, until the end of the taxation period of the year that Turkey becomes a member of the EU.