Japan considering imposing new tax on mobile phones
Ruling LDP setting up study group despite vehement opposition to plan on Facebook
Julian Ryall in Tokyo
The Japanese government is giving serious consideration to imposing a new tax on owners of mobile phones, with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party setting up a study group to consider the feasibility of the levy and how much it might rake in.
The project is being led by Yasuhide Nakayama, an LDP politician from Osaka, who has been besieged by criticism on his Facebook page since the plan was revealed earlier this month.
The tax is being considered because there is a need to introduce new security measures to cover cybercrimes and other illegal activities that utilise social media, Nakayama said.
Comments on the politician's Facebook page, however, suggest that the majority of voters do not agree with his plans.
"Kitchen knives can be used in a violent crime, so are you planning to put a new tax on knives?" one poster asked, adding that it was ironic that the public was going to be asked to pay yet another new tax at the same time the government debated reducing the tax rate for corporations below 30 per cent.
The poster also pointed out that religious groups in Japan benefited from zero taxation.
Another repeated complaint was that the new levy on mobile phones was being planned even though the government increased the consumption tax from 5 per cent to 8 per cent on April 1 and that a further increase, to 10 per cent, would be implemented next year.
Nakayama admitted the prospect of the new tax had caught the public by surprise but said the study group would "proceed while taking into consideration the opinions of a wide range of people".
"Nevertheless, we must start our investigation from the perspective of crime prevention and dealing with the diffusion of mobile phones among younger and younger users," he said.
The suggestion is that the new tax will take the form of a few hundred yen annually. While that might be a small figure individually, there are an estimated 108.2 million mobile phone users in Japan, which has 127 million people, and the number of mobile phone users is likely to grow.