For Your Information

Japanese Income Tax Returns
by Cornelia [29 February 2000; updated 30 January 2013]

Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with. (re-worded version of one winner in the Washington Post modified word contest)

Tax season is upon us! For those of you who file your own Japanese tax return, you will get your package in the mail if you are already in the system. If you are not in the system, you can go to your closest tax office and get help after 15 February. The deadline for filing is: March 15 (Wednesday). (If you are due a refund, you can file much later without a penalty -- I let it go until July last year and I know of someone else who waited until August.) The place to file is at the tax office of your city. They also have people there to help you if you walk in with a bunch of questions and receipts in shoe boxes. But it is better to research a bit ahead of time. The key with filing taxes in your favor is to divulge as little information as possible.

Every year there are small changes, sometimes good, sometimes bad.
Example: Highlight for 1999 individual income tax returns: The dependent exemption was raised to 480,000 yen per person for 1999 only. Normally it is 380,000 yen. This deduction could be taken for each dependent child and also any dependent parent, grandma or grandpa!

A Japanese company prepares its employees' tax returns, but any employee can file his own version if he believes some important information was omitted by the company. Company accountants can only submit what they know, and some are better than others at collecting all relevant information (deductions, etc.). If you are self-employed and earning money from several sources or you are working for only one company as an independent contractor (another way of saying you are self-employed) then you must prepare your own return yourself or with the help of an accountant.

Do not treat this matter lightly. Your tax return is a serious document on which many other things depend such as the level of your National Health Insurance premiums, your public daycare payments and whether or not you qualify for financial assistance as a single parent or in emergencies. Naturally, it is wise to show the lowest income possible on your tax return unless you intend to try and qualify for a bank loan. However, in Japan, as a foreigner without a permanent residency you are pretty much shut out of the loan market, unless you have a Japanese spouse as the chief bread-winner, so trying to qualify for a loan is not something too many of us are concerned about.

Most Japanese are unaware that they can file their own tax return on top of the return filed by their employer, and this obviously goes for foreigners also. If you run a side business out of your apartment or get divorced (as a woman with children), and your employer doesn't know it, you are probably entitled to some deductions that you aren't taking, and therefor are paying too much money to the government. AND since your national health insurance premiums, government daycare fees and ward taxes are all based on that initial tax return, you might then be paying too much for all those services as well. Also if you are in the position to receive child assistance money, you may be missing the qualifying income level because you aren't taking all the deductions you could on your tax return.

Anyone who thinks they need to amend their previous year's return must do so by 15 May of the next year's return. Example: your 1998 tax return can be amended and an additional refund can be received if done by 15 May 2000. After 15 May 2000, if the government owes you money for 1998, you lose it, if you fail to notify them by filling out the revision request before 15 May. IF you do an amendment, especially if it is showing a lower income than originally reported then you should take on the responsibility of notifying the various desks at your local government office for National Health Insurance (hoken), ward/residence tax, and any other service payments affected.

Here are some hints on filling out your tax return forms - in triplicate! You will need carbon paper and your gaijin card number and visa status. Also make sure that you have all of your little white wage slips from all employers that deducted taxes from your pay. They are required to issue you the slip by 15 Feb (I think). If you complete your return at your designated tax office, they provide carbon paper, stapler and calculators. Be sure to bring your bank account or postal savings account information since you will need this in order to receive any refund due.

Some tax offices and their phone numbers:

Azabu Tax Office (Azabu Zeimusho) (03) 3403-0591
- Minato Tokyo Metropolitan Taxation Office: (03) 3453-3211
- Minato City Hall Taxation Section: (03) 3578-2111
Ichikawa Tax Office (Ichikawa Zeimusho) (047) 335-4101
Koishikawa Tax Office (Koishikawa Zeimusho) (03) 3811-1141
Shiba Tax Office (Shiba Zeimusho): (03) 3455-0551
Shibuya Tax Office (Shibuya Zeimusho) (03) 3463-9181
Yamato Tax Office (Yamato Zeimusho) (0462) 62-9411
Yokohama-Naka Tax Office (Yokohama-Naka Zeimusho) (045) 651-1321

If none of the above sounds like the closest one to you, then call:
Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau (Tokyo Kokuzei-kyoku) in Otemachi next to Immigration
Tel: (03) 3216-6811 ext. 2473 and 2474
They can even send you the current year's package which includes a line by line explanation booklet translated into English. Unfortunately the booklet is not definitive, and you may benefit from additional advice/translation.

NTT East has a toll free number where they might assist English speakers in finding their local tax office: 0120-364-463 open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. (On-line phone directories in English have been discontinuted but here are two Japanese ones: http://itp.ne.jp/ and http://townpage.goo.ne.jp/). The most contemporary method is to search the web site of your local city office.

Japanese Tax vocabulary: (Compiled: 10 Feb. 1999)

Zeikin - tax
Shotokuzei - income tax
Hikazei - tax exempt
Zeimusho - tax office
Zeiritsu - tax rate
Zeigakuhyou - tax table
Gensen choushuu shotokuzei - withholding income tax
Kokuzeichou - National Tax Administration Agency
Nouzei - payment of tax
Juuminzei - resident tax (sometimes translated as ward tax inside Tokyo)
Zatsu shotoku - miscellaneous income
Keihi - expenses
Kyuuyo shotoku - employment income
Koujo - deductions
Fuyou koujo - allowance for dependent (I know one Canadian who supported his mother in Canada with his income in Japan. He was allowed a dependent allowance/deduction for this)
Haiguusha koujo - allowance for spouse
Kiso koujo - basic allowance
Jigyou shotoku - business income
Houjinzei - corporation tax
Jigyouzei - enterprise tax
Inshizei - stamp tax
Kabushiki haitou - stock dividends
Iryouhi koujo - deduction for medical expenses
Seimei hoken koujo - deduction for life insurance premium (only national life insurance premiums I think)
Haiguu-sha tokubetsu koujo shinkoku sho - notification form for an additional exemption form for a spouse.


Related links:

Japanese Tax System IN ENGLISH provided by the Tax Bureau of the Ministry of Finance. This is a menu of about 7 links.
http://www.nta.go.jp/taxanswer/english/gaikoku301.htm

Most recently available English translation of "Comprehensive Handbook of Japanese Taxes 2010": http://www.mof.go.jp/english/tax_policy/publication/taxes2010e/index.htm

Your rights when you are audited by the tax office, published in The Japan Times : Bone up on your tax audit ninjutsu to fight back by Amy Chavez 2012 Sep 15

2012 Income Tax Guide for Foreigners (.pdf file): http://www.nta.go.jp/tetsuzuki/shinkoku/shotoku/tebiki2012/pdf/43.pdf

2013 Tax Reform Main Points in English was published on Jan 29(to be in place for tax year 2013) at: http://www.mof.go.jp/english/tax_policy/tax_reform/fy2013/tax2013a.pdf

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