Banks get tax cut and finally decide to pay up
On May 15 several major banks announced they would start paying corporate taxes. Mizuho Corporate Bank said it would start paying this year, while Mizuho Bank, Mitsui Sumitomo Bank and Resona Holdings will start next year. According to the Asahi Shimbun, it will be the first time in 15 years that Mitsui Sumitomo will pay any taxes. For Resona, a consolidation of Daiwa Bank, Kinki Osaka Bank, Nara Bank and, later, Asahi Bank, it’s the first time in 18 years.
The Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ financial group started paying corporate taxes last year. Despite the Lehman Brothers-triggered recession, all these banks have been in the black since at latest 2006. However, by law they can carry over cumulative losses from previous years on their books. All the banks suffered huge losses in the 1990s due to bad loans. At its worst point, Mizuho was in the hole by as much as ¥5 trillion; Mitsui Sumitomo ¥2.7 trillion. The three top banks’ total profits for fiscal 2012 is estimated to be ¥1.9 trillion, a 35 percent increase over 2011, even though they don’t lend money any more. All these banks received government bailouts and Resona was actually nationalized for a while. Of the total ¥3.1 trillion that was injected into the banking system by the government, ¥2.3 trillion has been paid back, and it’s assumed that the rest will be reimbursed earlier than originally planned.
Until the cut that went into effect April 1, Japanese companies always complained that corporate tax rates were higher here than in other countries, but 70 percent of them never pay any, including listed companies that pay dividends. More than 80 percent of companies listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange paid dividends last year. Moreover, before the Diet approved the 5 percent corporate tax reduction (from 40 to 35 percent for the biggest companies), the Japan Communist Party, which opposed any cuts to the corporate tax, revealed that “internal reserves” (naibu ryuho) of Japanese companies amounted to ¥266 trillion. At any rate, the special taxes enacted to pay for reconstruction have reduced the cut slightly, but companies still have a smaller rate than they did last year.