Jinkies! Japanese Municipal Taxes!!

-Mid June, 2011-
It was a pretty good day. I got home, checked my mail with a pleasant smile on my face. Junk mail and a light brown envelope…that’s all there was. It was an envelope with one of those cool clear plastic windows. On the bottom right corner there was the Tsukuba city emblem. My smile quickly turned south as I read the words next the Tsukuba Emblem. It read “City of Tsukuba Municipal Tax Division” in plain English. Now that I think about it actually, those envelopes with the plastic windows are just the opposite of cool. Do you know the ones I’m talking about? They use them in the U.S., too. Whenever I would see those, my heart would start thumpin’ because, more often than not, those cockamimi envelopes had some kind of bill or financial notice inside. Guess what? In Japan, it’s no different. When it’s some kind of official document ranging from bills to taxes, you often get that envelope with…yep, you guessed it…the clear window.

I just set the letter aside on my bookshelf, convincing myself that it must be pension stuff…fast forward about a week-and-a-half.

I ran into my co-worker Marisa, on my way home from work one day and she didn’t seem too pleased. We started talking and she asked me if I got my municipal tax letter in the mail and she told me about how much her payments were. My stomach sank. You know that sinking feeling where you realize there’s something important (something you forgot) that you have to do? The image of that brown envelope, with the Tsukuba seal, began to bore a hole in the worry part of my brain.

When I got home I rushed to open the letter to see what the damage was going to be, and I think the words damage are a little bit too small, this was more like…umm…catastrophic. I saw a pretty big number. The total tax amount was 154600!! ZOINKS!! To get a ballpark gauge* of what that would be in dollars, just take off two zeroes. I was proud of myself for not passing out, hitting my head, and knocking myself out. Marisa kind of prepared me for it. I scanned some more. There is a payment plan but it’s not exactly cheap:

*Because the yen is quite strong you’d have to take off two zeroes and add a bit.*

By the time I got the letter, and actually opened it, I realized that the first payment was due in several days…40,600 yen. I did what I had to do and scrounged up what I could to make my payment. That gives me a little bit of breathing room at least until the end of August when I have to pay the next installment.

While I was working for AEON, they would automatically take out the money to cover taxes, but I’m guessing that because of the job change, and because I’m still in Japan, I have to take care of my own municipal taxes. Aeon’s setup was so comfortable, the auto-payment every month was effortless…not to mention that my salary was a lot higher then than it is now. The municipal taxes can be paid at your local convenience store, the same way most bills can.

I got a letter from my local city hall, in English choc-full of useful information about municipal taxes in Japan:



Municipal Tax (*for individuals)

Municipal tax (shimin zei 市民税) is imposed on every person who has an address in Tsukuba City as of January 1st of each year. Those who are not registered to Tsukuba as a citizen, but have the livelihood in Tsukuba are also applicable to municipal tax.

Municipal tax is combined with prefectural tax (kenmin zei 県民税) in payment, and these two are called “residential tax (jumin zei じゅみんぜい)” as a set. The amount of residential tax is calculated by the sum of two quotas; per capita quota (kintou wari均等割り) and income-based quota (shotoku wari).

1. Per Capita Quota (kintou wari 均等割り)

The following are imposed on those whose income of the previous year is over the fixed amount.
-Municipal tax: 3,000 yen
-Prefectural tax: 2,000 yen
*Note: Total of 5,000 yen as “per capita quota” is charged on each taxpayer.

2. Income-Based Quota (shotoku wari 所得割り)

Income-based quota is calculated based on your total income during the previous year. Usulally the more you earn, the more you will be charged with the income-based quota. the following rates are applied by calculation:
- Municipal tax rate: 6%
- Prefectural tax rate: 4%
*Note: Total tax rate for “income-based quota” is 10%. This rate is applied to the total amount of your income after certain kinds of deductions.

3. Payment Method

You will receive a Tax Payment Notice from the city hall. Please take the notice to the banks, post offices or convenience stores to make the payment (See section 4. Venues for payment for details)

The payment is divided into 4 installments. The deadlines are as follows:
- 1st installment: Thursday, June 30th, 2011
- 2nd installment: Wednesday, August 31st, 2011
- 3rd installment: Monday, October 31st, 2011
- 4th installment” Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

4. Venues for Payment

Payment can be made at any of the following establishments. However, if the payment is overdue, the payment cannot be made at Yu-cho banks, post offices or convenience stores. Moreover, if (a) you want to pay for your annual tax amount in a lump sum within the deadline or (b) payment is more than 300,000 yen, you cannot make the payment at convenience stores.

- Tsukuba City Hall
- Customer service centers (former city hall branches)-*Sakura customer service center, *Toyosato customer service center, *Tsukuba customer service center, *Oho customer service center, *Yatabe customer service center

The Yatabe customer service center and the Branch counter at Yoshinuma Community Center are temporarily closed for service due to damages caused by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake.

Banks: Joyo Bank, Tsukuba Bank, Mitsui Sumitomo Bank, Ashikaga Bank, Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Bank, Higashi Nippon Bank, Mizuho Bank, Risona Bank, Saitama Risona Bank.

Credit Unions: Mito Shinyo Kinko, Chuo Roudou Kinko, Yuki Shinyo Kino, JA Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture Shinyo Kinko, JA Tsukuba Yatabe.

Yu-cho Bank and Post Offices
*Every prefecture of the Kanto Area and Yamanashi Prefecture.

Convenience Stores
Please check the back of the payment slip for the listing.

5. When the payment is overdue, you will be charged with…

1. Reminder Charge: Reminder notice slip is issued within 20 days after the due date. The reminder charge is 100 yen.
2. Delinquent Charge: Amount of the charge is calculated based on the delayed number of days after the due date and the overdue amount. The rate is set a 14.6% per year.

6. For Inquiries:

Address: Karima 2530-2 (Kenkyugakuen D32-2)
Phone: 029-883-1111 (main)

About taxation
Municipal/Residental Tax Division (shimin zei ka 市民税か), 2nd floor of Tsukuba City Hall, Desk 33

About payment
Tax Collection Division (nouzei ka 納税か), 2nd floor of Tsukuba City Hall, Desk 31
*Please note that there may be grammar mistakes in the letter above (not my doing) but it gives a clearer picture about those municipal taxes.

So the next time you get an envelope with one of those clear windows around May or June, please don’t assume you know what it is…like I did. Please open it up and see what the deal is. Even if it’s a huge number. Getting an idea of what you have to pay early on, may just give you crucial time that necessary to shift funds and create a plan for taking care of it.

All the best gang!

Donald Ash

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  • Sean Patton

    Yikes! That’s pretty steep. Would the US/Canadian equivalent to the municipal taxes be part of what gets taken out of our pay under income tax, or is this a Japan-specific type of tax in addition to income taxes?

    I’ve been fortunate enough that every year during tax filing time I’ve always received a credit. I’ve never been prepared to be faced with a large bill which is pretty poor planning on my part. Thanks for writing about this – it’s a head’s up that after I get to Japan I should set aside some yen for unexpected bills like these ones!

    If I received something like that out of the blue and had no savings set aside, I’d react by slowly nodding at the letter for the next 10 minutes and then taking a zombie-like walk in a random direction. :(

  • Noni

    I just arrived in Tsukuba last week. Nobody told me about this… Luckily thanks to you, I now have a year’s warning! ;) Thank you

    • I think you will avoid it for the first year because you don’t have any income in the previous year.

  • you get heart pupitations as well? I thought it was just me! Maybe if we can prove that tax is bad for our health with an empirical research study; maybe we can get tax outlawed?

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