Yay! It’s my favorite season.
I’m kidding, of course.
I just finished my Japanese taxes and I have to admit that it was so easy.
Right now, I have one income source and my company and my town have been good in providing the documents that I needed. This year was the second time I did my taxes online through the Japanese e-tax website. Everything was in Japanese, but it was really painless. If you can read the kanji, you just answer a few questions by clicking on the proper buttons. After that, you fill in your numbers and then the program generates your Tax Forms. All you do is print them out, attach the accompanying documents and mail them out.
Easy! Raku! 楽！As Japanese people might say.
Technically, the time for filing 2018 taxes started on February 16 and people have until March 15 for this year. I started a little early because I had the time and I just needed to get it done ASAP. So instead of mailing my forms, I took it down to our local municipal hall for them to “check” if I did it properly.
Luckily, my town also offers these free tax consultation days to its citizens. I guess a lot of our townspeople have complicated tax situations mostly because their incomes come from pensions and social security distributions. There are also a lot of medical costs and reimbursements that need to be factored in when doing taxes. These people ask for advice and some clarification from the town tax officials on some of the forms.
Fortunately, I was able to go on February 12. I went in the morning around 10 a.m. knowing that I was probably going to wait for a long time. This is not the first time I’ve done this, so I knew the procedure. Sure enough, there were already 60 people ahead of me. I’m guessing that some of them had been waiting even before the doors opened at 9:00 a.m. I came prepared with several downloaded podcast episodes. I listened to them as I waited.
When it came to my turn, I had everything ready and it took about 15 minutes. One person looked over my tax forms, made sure the proper documents were attached, and checked the calculations. After everything was okay, he then passed it on to another person. This guy then double checked everything, asked me to use my inkan* to stamp it and told me everything was okay.
Oh, and yes, I was getting my refund deposited into my bank account next month.
Woohoo! I have about ¥170,000 coming in, which is roughly $1500.
Ideally, I would like to not have that refund because that is money that I could have been using during the year. My company always withholds 10% of my income as per Japanese rules so I always expect a refund after the year. However, I am starting to doubt whether this is really true, though.
Like I said, I’ve been doing my own Japanese taxes for quite a while. The first year I came to Japan, my co-worker told me to just take all the forms I had, go into city hall, find the tax department and have them fill out the paperwork. I did just that for the first three years. On the third year, I started doing the filling out on my own. Once you figure out where the numbers go, it’s usually pretty easy to understand–even though it’s all in Japanese. Two years ago, I started using the e-tax online option, which made everything even easier.
Last year, though, after the tax accountants looked through my paperwork, he mentioned that my income was vague and difficult to understand its source. On my company forms, if you translate the Japanese kanji報酬 (houshuu), it means compensation or remuneration. He asked me what I did for my job and I told him I was an English teacher. He looked puzzled–which made me think that maybe my company isn’t being totally honest or following the rules. In the end, though, he said he would accept the forms as it were but he advised me to consult a tax accountant to see if I can have my tax withholding lowered.
I meant to do that last year, but I just never did.
This year, after I get my US taxes (Ugh!) settled up, as well, I will do so.
I really need to, anyway. Starting from this year, I am getting rental property income and I don’t know how that is going to affect my taxes. I need advise on what to do, so I am going to go for a free thirty-minute consult offered by the local CPA association here in Hokkaido. After that, I will probably continue to use them and have to pay for future sessions and advice.
I hope that after talking with them everything will be clearer.
*An inkan is a name seal that Japanese people use as way to make things official. It is like a person’s signature. Usually, most Japanese people have one for their family names. Since I never changed my name to my husband’s last name, I’ve been using the original one I’ve had with the kanji for my first name.