Resignation of State Minister of Finance: Despicable for Lawmaker Not to Act in Accordance with Social Norms

A person who has repeatedly failed to pay taxes should not be able to serve as a state minister of finance — a position that involves crafting the nation’s budget, and planning and formulating the nation’s tax system. It was entirely natural for the individual in question to step down from the post.

State Minister of Finance Kenji Kanda submitted his resignation to Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki, taking responsibility for problems relating to his past tax arrears; his departure was approved at a round-robin Cabinet meeting. The move, however, is being seen as a de facto sacking.

Kanda’s tax arrears were reported last week by the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine.

In response, Kanda admitted to the House of Councillors’ Financial Affairs Committee that land and buildings owned by a company for which he serves as a representative director had been seized by the municipal tax office of Nagoya City — his hometown — on four separate occasions since 2013 due to property tax arrears.

Kanda has said that he “deeply regretted” the tax failings, but denied that he would resign.

Kanda is a certified tax accountant. It is appalling that Kanda, who is in a position to encourage people to properly meet their tax commitments, repeatedly failed to pay his own taxes.

His disregard for the obligation of all members of the public to pay taxes engenders doubts regarding his suitability to even serve as a Diet member.

Soon after reports of the issue, some from the ruling and opposition parties opined that Kanda’s resignation was inevitable. However, his ouster was delayed until this week. If the government believed there was no need to panic because there had been no ministerial misconduct, they lack awareness of the deep gravity of the situation.

When Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reshuffled his Cabinet in September, he emphasized that he was appointing the right people to the right positions. However, since the extraordinary Diet session began Oct. 20, Taro Yamada has resigned as parliamentary vice minister for education over an extramarital affair, and Mito Kakizawa has stepped down as state minister of justice over his involvement in an alleged violation of the Public Offices Election Law.

Before appointing personnel, the government conducts background checks to ensure candidates have not been involved in scandals, such as those relating to political funds or other matters. The background checks carried out on potential state ministers and parliamentary vice ministers seem to be less thorough than those conducted for possible cabinet ministers

Nevertheless, the fact that three lawmakers in state ministerial and parliamentary vice-ministerial positions were forced to resign in one month is abnormal.

The National Tax Agency must have known about Kanda’s case, given that it involved the repeated seizure of land and other property over tax arrears.

If the appointment of such a person to oversee national taxation was overlooked, and if the prime minister — who has the power to appoint such personnel — was not informed of the situation, it must be said to constitute a double or even triple failure.

Kishida needs to get a firmer grip on the government and his Liberal Democratic Party.

The only way for the prime minister to regain his cohesive power and stabilize the administration is to reflect frankly on his errors regarding personnel affairs, while working to regain the public’s trust.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 14, 2023)