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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 May 11 - 17  > Japanese firms and individuals cited in Panama Papers take so-what attitude toward their tax avoidance
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2016 May 11 - 17 TOP3 [ECONOMY]

Japanese firms and individuals cited in Panama Papers take so-what attitude toward their tax avoidance

May 11, 2016
Working on the Panama Papers, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on May 10 released online the names of major corporations and the wealthy using more than 210,000 shell companies established in tax havens like Panama and the British Virgin Islands. The names included at least 400 Japanese companies and individuals, such as Itochu Corporation, Marubeni Corporation, and Rakuten CEO Mikitani Hiroshi.

In response to an Akahata inquiry, Japan’s major trading houses, Itochu and Marubeni, separately admitted that they have invested in shell companies on the Virgin Islands. Itochu said to Akahata, “The investment is for business purposes, not tax avoidance.” Meanwhile, Marubeni President and CEO Kokubu Fumiyasu before the press indicated the possibility that his company would continue to use tax havens based on sound business judgement.

UCC Holdings, the leader of Japan’s coffee industry, in reply to Akahata declined to comment on the ICIJ publication and said, “UCC and its president are in compliance with taxation rules.”

Japan’s major telecommunications and internet corporation, Softbank said, “Our group company used to make investments in an offshore company on the Virgin Islands. It had no aim to minimize its tax burdens.” Japanese security company, Secom argued, “We are providing the required information to Japan’s taxation authority and understand that our tax practices are in compliance with the law.”

Among Japanese individuals on the Panama Papers is Mikitani Hiroshi, president and CEO of Rakuten, operator of Japan’s largest online shopping mall. Regarding this matter, Rakuten explained, “Before starting his business, Mikitani personally took an 800,000 yen stake in a firm established by a foreign individual on the Virgin Islands. He had no intention to evade taxes.”

“Japanese companies named in the Panama Papers should explain to the public what the purpose of their subsidiaries in tax havens is and what business they are exactly conducting,” said Aoyama Gakuin University President Miki Yoshikazu.

Miki, who is an expert in tax law, stated that the Panama Papers has shed light on the use of tax havens by major political figures and billionaires in European countries, which leads to an unfair situation.

The university president pointed out that a tax system is originally designed to narrow economic gaps through redistribution of wealth.

He stressed that if infrastructure development is funded by tax paid by less affluent people while wealthier people are allowed to dodge tax payments to further increase their fortunes, the tax system would be totally meaningless.

“If this problem is left unaddressed, everyone will try to avoid tax payments and the rules of democracy would collapse,” Miki said.

Past related articles:
> 99% of Japanese subsidiaries in Cayman Islands are shell companies: JCP Daimon [April 26, 2016]
> Panama Papers shed light on dark side of international economy [April 12, 2016]
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