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'Sincere' Ehime Prefecture tops Japan with near 100% tax payment rate

Ehime Prefectural Government Headquarters (Mainichi/Maiko Umeda)

MATSUYAMA -- With a 99.27% payment rate in fiscal 2019, no one in Japan pays their prefectural taxes more reliably than the people of Ehime.

    The phenomenal figure was a 0.16-point gain on the previous year, and enough to beat out the 99.24% payment rate in Shimane Prefecture, which had held the top spot in prefectural tax collection success for 11 straight years. It also marked the first time the western Japan prefecture had ever topped the rankings.

    The rise coincided with the prefecture's "Majime Ehime" (sincere Ehime) public relations push, playing on the image of the region's residents. Gov. Tokihiro Nakamura commented, "The boost to people's awareness about paying their taxes was reflected in a big way in the increased payment rate. I think this shows exactly how honest and serious the people of our prefecture truly are."

    In fiscal 2003, Ehime's prefectural tax payment rate was 94.44%, placing it 42nd among Japan's 47 prefectures. The local authorities then came up with the "first year of tax delinquency" campaign, and poured their effort into improving the situation with a number of initiatives. In fiscal 2018, the prefecture began allowing people to pay their taxes by credit card. The following year, residents could do the same with a mobile payment app. By fiscal 2018, Ehime Prefecture's payment rate was at 99.11%, good for second in the country and just a hair shy of league-leading Shimane Prefecture.

    "Going forward, we will do our best to make sure the payment rate does not decline much," Ehime Prefecture's tax department stated. "If, as a result, we stay in first place, we'd be very happy."

    The Majime Ehime PR project began with the idea of using images of Ehime's seriousness, including showing hospitality to travelers on the Buddhist pilgrimage route and always wearing a helmet when cycling to work, in a nation-wide promotional campaign. A "Majime-ka (sincerity department)" was set up in the prefectural government, and Ehime's official mascot Mican was named its head. The department is currently collaborating with the popular manga series "Attack on Titan," among other projects.

    (Japanese original by Yuichi Nakagawa, Matsuyama Bureau)

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