Turkish citizens seeking to buy more affordable smartphones or register their phones before the new year to take advantage before prices shoot up have been thronging Georgia.
While the number of domestic tourists passing through the Sarp Border Gate in November increased by 293 percent compared to last year and reached 94,047, experts expect the number of mobile phones brought by travelers to exceed 1.5 million this year.
This figure was only 23,927 last year, while an average of 60,000 domestic tourists visited the neighboring country even before the pandemic.
The reason behind this explosion in the last two months of the year is those who want to buy more affordable high-end smartphones from abroad and register them as soon as possible before the registration fee hike at the beginning of the year.
The fact that iPhones sold in Georgia are on average 15,000 Turkish Liras ($800) cheaper than in Turkiye due to the tax advantage and that the registration fees will increase by 122.9 percent from 2,723 liras ($145) to 6,091 liras ($325) as of Jan. 1, 2023,sent Turks to Georgia.
An iPhone 14 Pro Max with 128 GB capacity can be purchased for 28,302 ($1,500) liras in Georgia, while one has to pay 43,999 liras ($2,350) for the same phone in Turkiye.
In Turkiye, high-end smartphones have a tax burden of 81 percent in total, including 50 percent special consumption tax (ÖTV), 18 percent value-added tax (KDV), 12 percent banderol fee and 1 percent share of the Culture and Tourism Ministry. When operational and employee expenses are added to this, the gap between the prices of high-end phones in other countries widens.
“The primary method is to eliminate the price difference with abroad by making tax reductions,” suggested Mustafa Kemal Turnacı, the head of the Association for Mobile Communication Devices and Information Technologies Businessmen (MOBİSAD).
“In addition, the fees for devices brought from abroad should be regulated on the basis of tax rates as those with high income who buy expensive phones and those with low income preferring low segment phones pay the same fee in the current system,” he explained.