エネルギー課税 暫定税率廃止分をどう補う

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 25, 2009)
エネルギー課税 暫定税率廃止分をどう補う(11月25日付・読売社説)
Energy tax needed to cover revenue shortfalls

Revision of the tax system for the next fiscal year is now focused on an environmental tax--an envisaged tax sought by the Environment Ministry to tackle global warming.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama plans to scrap provisional higher gasoline tax rates and other auto-related taxes in April, as stipulated in the Democratic Party of Japan's campaign manifesto. The measure stands to cost the central and local governments about 2.5 trillion yen in revenue.

To address this problem, it has been proposed that the government transform the current gasoline tax and the light oil delivery tax with provisionally higher tax rates into a new environmental tax, from which about 2 trillion yen of tax revenues could be generated.

Given the dire fiscal situation, we believe the government should withdraw the decision to abolish the provisional higher tax rates. But if the government does go along with the plan, it will need to take steps to make up for the expected revenue shortfalls, introducing some form of new tax on energy.

The new tax proposed by the Environment Ministry is designed to impose a small tax on a broad range of fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas. As for gasoline and light oil, the ministry plans to impose additional taxes on the stages of retail sale and shipment.

Apart from the tax rates, the envisaged tax has the same structure as that for the petroleum and coal tax, the gasoline tax and the light oil delivery tax.


Minimal end result

Once the provisional higher tax rates are abolished, gasoline prices will drop 25 yen per liter from the current price. But the Environment Ministry projects that the envisaged tax will raise the gasoline price by 20 yen per liter, with the end result of making the price of gasoline only 5 yen lower per liter than the current price.

With the exception of those in the United States, taxes in other major countries are markedly higher on gasoline compared with other fuels. In this regard, people may find it easy to accept the proposed plan.

However, the ministry's plan has its own problem--it sets tax rates for natural gas and coal at more than double the current rates.

Even accounting for lower gasoline prices, the average household is projected to shoulder about 1,100 yen more in energy costs each year.

The changes are expected to have an even greater impact on the steel and electric power industries. Given this, the government needs to be careful when it comes to imposing higher taxes on gas and coal.


Timing important

Some within the government are calling for a two-tier approach, initially abolishing the provisional higher tax rates in April and introducing a new energy tax about six months later.

This apparently is meant to begin with tax cuts times to suit the House of Councillors election scheduled for next summer. However, if the introduction of these measures is staggered, gasoline prices will significantly fluctuate each time.

In that case, confusion similar to that experienced in spring last year when the provisional higher tax rates were temporarily suspended will reemerge. We should avoid such a situation.

The Environment Ministry intends to have the revenues from the environmental tax allocated from the general fund mainly for environmental measures. The government will decide where specifically to spend expected tax revenues through discussion among government bodies.

We urge the government's Tax Commission to deepen discussions on what form the environmental tax system should take.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 25, 2009)
(2009年11月25日00時47分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-11-25 06:30 | 英字新聞

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