The consumption tax is driving a wedge between government officials. On one side sits Finance Minister Taro Aso, a vocal advocate for sticking to the plan to hike the levy next April, while on the other high-ranking officials pussyfoot, insisting it is the prime minister's decision to make — sometime in the future.

The latest chapter in the saga began Tuesday when Aso, addressing a news conference, said the announcement to hike the 5 percent tax to 8 percent next April should be made before Sept. 5, when leaders of the Group of 20 nations are scheduled to meet for two days in Russia.

In Aso's view, Japan should be prepared to demonstrate to its G-20 counterparts that it is serious about medium-term fiscal rehabilitation — of which a consumption tax hike is an integral part — to gain international trust.