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2012年10月10日 (水)

環境税導入 企業と家計の負担が重すぎる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 10, 2012)
Green tax a big burden on businesses, households
環境税導入 企業と家計の負担が重すぎる(10月9日付・読売社説)

An environment tax aimed at dealing with global warming was introduced this month amid a host of challenges posed by dramatic changes in the energy situation.

The tax was imposed in addition to the petroleum and coal tax levied on oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels.

The tax rates will be raised again in two phases--in April 2014 and April 2016--bringing a projected additional tax revenue of 260 billion yen. This revenue is said to be aimed at increasing the use of renewable energy sources and curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, measures to deal with global warming are necessary. However, introduction of the environment tax was studied before the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.

Originally, the government aimed to incorporate the environment tax in a tax system reform bill for fiscal 2011 but opposition from the Liberal Democratic Party prevented that. A bill calling for introduction of the tax in fiscal 2012 was passed by the Diet in March this year. However, we must question the propriety of introducing this tax as the bill is an unrevised version of the original one and fails to take into account changes in the situation.


End users will suffer

Electric power companies have sharply increased imports of fossil fuels for thermal power plant operations to make up for the suspension of nuclear power plant operations. This has forced the utilities to bear heavier tax burdens.

The environment tax is paid by businesses using fossil fuels. But they pass this on in the form of higher electricity and gas charges, so consumers and other end users inevitably shoulder the burden.

Except for Tokyo Electric Power Co., utilities plan for the time being to postpone hikes in rates following the introduction of the environment tax. But if their business performances deteriorate due to a rise in fuel costs, they will find it unavoidable to increase rates.

Because of fierce price competition, many gas stations have kept their prices unchanged as they cannot pass on the tax increase to their customers. The financial burden to be borne by the gas station industry is estimated to exceed 10 billion yen in the current fiscal year alone.

Unless something is done, oil, chemical and steel industries may suffer a drop in international competitiveness due to an increase in the burden they will have to shoulder. Industrial circles naturally are calling for cuts in their tax burdens.

An additional financial burden on households is also worrisome.


Inconsistent stance

The Environment Ministry estimates that the average family will face an additional financial burden of about 1,200 yen a year. But it must be noted that power rates have just been raised following full-fledged implementation of the feed-in tariff system in July.

The Democratic Party of Japan-led administrations have been inconsistent in their environment and energy policies. The government's policy to end reliance on nuclear power generation runs counter to its measures against global warming. It is impossible to achieve its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

Under such circumstances, introduction of the environment tax ahead of other options will not win public understanding.

The government has suggested various ways of using the tax revenue, including subsidizing local government energy-saving projects. But implementation of many of these projects is far from urgent or unlikely to be highly effective. The government must reconsider the environment tax, including the advisability of raising tax rates in the future.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 9, 2012)
(2012年10月9日01時27分  読売新聞)


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