Tax Commission solicits public opinion on reform

In an unusual move, the government’s Tax Commission on Jan. 24 submitted a report asking the public for its opinion on the best taxation system for the nation.Rather than simply providing its own analysis, the commission wants to get people to voice opinions on its report through mail, fax and e-mail, members said. Afterward, they will further debate the tax system’s future, based on this feedback, they said.Among other items, the report, which is a substitute for the commission’s medium-term tax report published every three years, says the nation is about to experience a historical turning point as its economic energy is diverted toward the growing number of elderly in the population. Government forecasts predict that the number of people aged 65 or over will exceed that of children 15 or younger by the end of the year, and that by 2025 one in every four people will be 65 or older. “What sort of public services do we need and how will the public be burdened to finance them?” the report asks.The commission stressed that comprehensive government streamlining should precede any increase in the burden to taxpayers. “We believe that the public will no longer condone further tax hikes without having the government also share the burden through administrative reform,” commission Chairman Hiroshi Kato said.But the panel said the public at some point must choose whether it will pay more for a high level of public services or whether it will do without some services in return for lower taxes. The public must also decide whether that social burden should be shouldered through taxes or social security payments, the report says.