Shoup in the “social laboratory”

W. Elliot Brownlee, Eisaku Ide

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In May 1949, Shoup’s mission arrived in Japan and began its investigation in what he later described as “a pressure cooker environment”. He recalled that “the seven of us worked, ate, and slept Japan and its tax problems”. When in Tokyo, residing in the Imperial Hotel, “we simply lived taxation at meal times and all through the day”. After two meetings with General Douglas MacArthur and a few days of discussions with Harold Moss and his Internal Revenue Division staff, Shoup was already entertaining strong views on the Japanese tax system. He seemed most preoccupied by tax evasion by the relatively wealthy. “We are learning of the enormous gap between the tax laws on paper and how taxes are actually assessed and collected,” he wrote privately to his family. “It’s more striking even than in France”. In addition, he asserted that “Japanese firms either keep no books at all, or several sets of books (one for creditors, one for the tax collector, one for management purposes, etc.)”. During the second week of his visit, Shoup and three of his colleagues became tax tourists. They took to the rails and visited the major cities of Osaka, Kyoto, and Nagoya as a central part of what Shoup described the “fact-finding” phase of their work. They had already read through the massive mountain of data that Moss and his staff had assembled, most of which came from the Ministry of Finance (MOF). Shoup and his colleagues had decided that they could not trust the data, however, and, in any case, needed their own first-hand impressions of how Japan’s tax system actually worked. On the investigatory journey, and those that followed, Moss and Finance Minister Ikeda Hayato ensured that Shoup had all the support he wanted.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Political Economy of Transnational Tax Reform
Subtitle of host publicationThe Shoup Mission to Japan in Historical Context
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781139519427
ISBN (Print)9781107033160
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Jan 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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