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Issues and Prospects of Tax Education

Katsuhiko Sakai/Professor, Chuo Law School
Areas of Specialization: Tax Law and Tax Accounting


Tax education is education about the tax system in general, including the significance of taxes. It can be said that its essence is tax literacy education.

Tax education helps people become able to think about society through the lens of taxes; in other words, it allows people to develop into contributing members of society. In that respect, this is an extremely meaningful project, which should be positioned as an educational activity that possesses an affinity with the British concept of citizenship education[i], which puts importance on preparing students for active roles as citizens.

In June 2023, the Government Tax Commission published a report titled as "Current Status and Challenges of Japan's Tax System: Structural Changes and Forms of Taxes in the Reiwa Era". A statement with a title of "For a Deeper Understanding of Taxes" is given at the end of the report. The statement is as follows: "In order to progress toward the realization of an ideal tax system that appropriately responds to the trends of the new era, each of us must independently think about the form of taxes that support society. It is important to deepen national discussions regarding the forms of benefits and burdens. As work styles continue to diversify and opportunities for taxpayers to become involved in taxes increase, it has become essential to create an easy-to-understand tax system and promote a correct understanding of the system. We will further enhance tax education in school education, at home, and in social education settings so that children, who will be responsible for the future of society, learn about taxes from an early age and have opportunities to think about the significance and role of taxes. At the same time, the government needs to stimulate discussion through active communication so that diverse generations, including young people, can think for themselves about the state of taxes and participate in discussions."

As discussed in this report, the importance of tax education is now being reexamined. In this article, I would like to reaffirm the importance of tax education and briefly introduce new attempts related to tax education.

I. Importance of tax education

It is only recently that tax education has gained momentum. One reason for this is the discussion on the importance of tax education contained in the 2011 report published by the Government Tax Commission. In response, not only the National Tax Agency but also related private organizations such as the Japan Federation of Certified Public Tax Accountants' Associations have enriched tax classes in school education. Today, it is no exaggeration to say that tax education is considered one of the important roles of tax accountants.

Tax education is also education for democracy and education for developing a taxpayer as a sovereign. Tax education is educational content that belongs to subjects of civics and public in elementary, junior high, and high schools. It goes without saying that citizens must view taxes as something essential. It can be said that an understanding of the significance of taxes and the tax system is essential for participants in a democratic society, and a lack of understanding or indifference towards the significance of taxes or the tax system can also be seen as a lack of understanding or indifference towards the mechanisms of society.

II. Importance of tax literacy education for adults

On the other hand, tax literacy education for adults is also important from the following two aspects. First, as mentioned above, there is an aspect of fostering citizens who are proactive and interested in politics[ii]. Second, there is also the perspective of preventing damage resulting from being deceived by tax-saving product transactions[iii]. Many tax-saving product transactions are prevalent in society. Among these, there are cases in which business operators use the heavy burden of inheritance tax to incite people to build apartments on land with little demand, as well as cases in which people borrow large amounts of money from financial institutions to enter into life insurance contracts. In such cases, there are tax-saving product errors that result in large debts. There are countless cases like these in which people were deceived as a result of their ignorance of simple tax systems[iv].

When considering such cases, it is clear that tax education is important for both minors and adults.

III. Establishment of tax examination

Under these circumstances, the Japan Tax Examination Association (a general incorporated association) has launched a tax examination system. It is important for the maintenance and development of a democratic society that people from all walks of life learn the significance and role of tax and fiscal systems, as well as the underlying social mechanisms and trends, and think independently about the state of society. Up until now, tax education for the children and students who will lead the next generation has mainly consisted of two types of education: tax classes taught by outside lecturers at elementary school, junior high school, and high school classes, and tax essays written by junior high school and high school students. The tax examination provides an opportunity for children and students who have developed an interest in tax and society to continue learning on their own through tax classes and essays. It also aims to provide an opportunity for university students and adults to actively learn about taxes by giving them an opportunity to acquire and confirm correct knowledge.

The content learned through the tax examination covers a variety of areas deeply related to tax, including the role of government centered on finance and the importance of tax obligations, important modern values such as democracy and fairness, trends in modern society such as the low birthrate and aging population, the history of taxes, and the systems of other countries. In this way, the examination is designed to foster an understanding of our society from multiple perspectives.

Through such learning, people will become able to consider relationships with society and politics, duties and responsibilities, and other themes in relation to their own lives and futures, thereby contributing to the maintenance and further development of a democratic nation. As such, there is significant meaning in establishing a tax examination.

It can be said that the tax examination plays an important role in further developing tax education. It is also a new attempt to help as many people as possible acquire tax literacy through the examination.

Instead of a conclusion

This paper introduced the tax examination as a new approach to tax education.

Recently, the importance of financial literacy education has been recognized, and it has been included as a home economics subject in high schools since April 2023. Similarly, we must reconfirm the importance of tax literacy education. Although it is possible to consider tax literacy education as a part of financial literacy education, when considering the different orientation of the two subjects, it can be said that tax literacy education should be positioned in the context of civics education. In this sense, it is necessary to discuss the commonalities and differences between the two themes of education, and then collaboratively allocate educational opportunities.

[i] Regarding citizenship education in England, see Sugimoto, A., Takanori, H., and Mizuyama, M., The 3C Era of Education: Learning from England on Culture, Career, and Citizenship Education, (Sekaishisosha, 2008), Kitayama, Y., Education for Citizenship in England: The Challenges for Social Inclusion, (Waseda University Press, 2014) and Kodama, S., Educational Thought of Citizenship, (Hakutakusha, 2003).

[ii] Sakai, K., Tax Education as Citizenship Education, Taxation, Vol. 61, No. 4, p. 160 (2018).

[iii] Sakai, K., Tax Literacy Education as Consumer Education and Investor Education, Analysis of Tax Cases and Ruling, Vol. 54, No. 9, p. 49 (2022).

[iv] Sakai, K., The Necessity and Challenges of Tax Literacy Education for Adults: Tax Education as Consumer Protection, Tax Law, No. 589, p. 1 (2023).

Katsuhiko Sakai/Professor, Chuo Law School
Areas of Specialization: Tax Law and Tax Accounting

Katsuhiko Sakai was born in Tokyo in February 1963. He completed the Doctoral Program in the Graduate School of Law, Chuo University. He holds a Ph.D. in law. He served as Professor in the Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University before becoming a Professor in the Chuo Law School. He currently teaches tax laws and other subjects. He also teaches at institutions such as the Graduate School of Commerce, Chuo University and the National Tax College.

His main written works include Startup Tax Law (Fourth Edition), (Zaikei Shoho Sha, 2021), Research on Income Tax Disputes, (Zaikei Shoho Sha, 2011), Introductory Lecture on Interpreting Tax Law (Second Edition), (Koubundo, 2023), Looking from Trial Example: Tax Investigation, (Okura Zaimu Kyokai, 2020), Looking from Trial Example: Additional Tax, (Okura Zaimu Kyokai, 2022), Progressive Tax Accounting Theory I, II, III, IV, (Chuokeizai-Sha), and more.