Yay! It’s my favorite season.
I’m kidding, of course.
(TLDR: this post is meant for locals and not visitors. Feel free to skip this article.)
For long time residents, this is the time to file. Most local offices would have people available to help you with your taxes. It’s a lot easier than you’d think, but if the kanji on the forms defeat you, go get help. Usually, they’ll be happy to help you. Just go as soon as you can as things get crowded from here on out.
The Sapporo International Communication Plaza is holding a seminar this weekend, February 15 and 16 for its foreign residents. I highly recommend going if this is your first time doing taxes.
You have from February 16 until March 15 to get your filing finished.
Check the National Tax Website for more information.
If you work in Japan, your company should have provided you with last year’s income statement. Since my company doesn’t provide me with insurance my local city office provided me with the documents I needed. These documents show that you paid into the national insurance systems.
You can also do your taxes online through the Japanese e-tax website. Everything is in Japanese, but it’s 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.
Luckily, Kitahiroshima township 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.
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.
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.
*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.