Aziz Önal / Bingöl, Nov 20 () - The Finance Ministry has dispatched officials to conduct tax inspections after villagers in the eastern Turkish province of Bingöl sold a number of meteorites they found, though the villagers fiercely object to the move and say the meteorites were “sent by God.”
Treasury officials arrived at the village of Sarıçiçek to investigate after media reports about villagers selling meteorite pieces worth up to $200,000 to collectors from Russia and Europe.
All sales worth more than 21,000 Turkish Liras ($7,000) are subject to taxation.
Local villagers have objected to the ministry’s move, arguing that the meteorites could not be considered natural wealth because they were “sent from above.”
“God sent them from the skies. They should be exempt from tax” one villager Rıdvan Ergün told the Doğan News Agency.
“They said the stones belong to the state. But we did not extract them from the ground. Taxes should only be imposed on [stones] extracted from the ground,” Ergün added.
Another villager said locals were not involved in trade as the revenue from the meteorites was used to pay debts.
“It is true that the villagers gathered the stones. But they did not trade them; they only paid their debts,” Ergün claimed. “We did not establish companies or hire people to look for stones. We just gathered a few stones. We don’t believe that should be taxable.”
Sarıçayır residents started to sell the pieces they found after being told by an Istanbul University academic how valuable the meteorites were.
They said they had sold meteorite pieces for up to $60 per gram.
“God willing, everybody should find this stone. Poor people keep looking for it. They need it more than we do,” one local said.
Meanwhile, Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek has taken to Twitter to seek the public’s opinion on the move to tax the Sarıçayır villagers over the meteorite sales.
“Should the meteorites sold in Sarıçiçek be taxable? What do you think?” the minister tweeted alongside a two-answer survey.