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2012年10月20日 (土)

消費税と新聞 軽減税率の議論を再開したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 19, 2012)
Resume discussions on applying lower tax rate to newspapers
消費税と新聞 軽減税率の議論を再開したい(10月18日付・読売社説)

Newspapers are an important foundation of democracy and the culture of the printed word. When the consumption tax rate is increased, we think a reduced tax rate system should be introduced--and newspapers should be subject to this lower rate.

The Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association held its annual convention in Aomori this week. A resolution adopted at the event called for a reduced tax rate to be applied to newspapers because "imposing more taxes on knowledge--including newspapers--would undermine the maintenance and development of democracy."

The newspaper industry delivered a strong message after bills on integrated social security and tax system reform--of which increasing the consumption tax rate was a central pillar--were passed by the Diet in August.

During a discussion session at the convention, officials from national newspapers said a reduced tax rate should be applied to newspapers to maintain these publications, which are a basic lifeline for democracy and culture.

Representatives of some local newspapers also spoke of the high educational effect newspapers can provide, while others described the nation's high proportion of households that subscribe to newspapers as a "social asset."


Look at European examples

Newspapers, which can be picked up easily and cheaply in every corner of the nation, are de facto public property and part of the social infrastructure. We believe many readers recognize that newspapers are an important daily necessity on a par with rice and other food items.

If newspapers shut down due to worsening financial conditions following the tax hike, this nation would be stripped of some of its diversity of speech and opinions. There are fears such a situation would impair the ability of newspapers to be a watchdog ensuring government accountability, and citizens' interest in politics would fade. Eventually, the vitality of local communities could decline.

We should learn from European countries, which cherish the public nature of newspapers and their role in protecting the culture of the printed word.

The rates of value-added taxes in Europe, which are equivalent to Japan's consumption tax, are about 20 percent. However, much lower tax rates are applied to newspapers--just 2.1 percent in France, 4 percent in Spain and 7 percent in Germany. Belgium, Britain and Norway even impose no tax on such publications.

Under the enacted laws on integrated reform, the consumption tax rate will increase to 8 percent in April 2014 from the current 5 percent, and rise further to 10 percent in October the following year. They also stipulate that "comprehensive examination from various points of view" will be given to the possible introduction of a reduced tax system.


No time to waste

Nevertheless, it can be called problematic that the government has not started full-fledged discussions on this issue more than two months after the legislation was enacted.

Earlier this week, Yoshihisa Inoue, secretary general at New Komeito, submitted a petition signed by about 6 million people calling for the introduction of a reduced tax system to Finance Minister Koriki Jojima. Inoue urged that this system be introduced when the consumption tax rate is increased to 8 percent.

The submission should be used to get the wheels turning on the resumption of discussions on the issue.

Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe and Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba included the introduction of a reduced tax system among their pledges for the recent party presidential election in which they both ran.

The process of introducing a reduced tax system will involve several stages, such as determining what items should be subject to it. The government should waste no time in beefing up coordination with the LDP and Komeito.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 18, 2012)
(2012年10月18日01時20分  読売新聞)


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