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Simple Tax Guide for Americans in Japan

At TFX we have been preparing taxes for Americans in Japan since 1995.

We have a dedicated Tokyo line for our clients in Japan: 03-4520-9474

Taxes for US Expats Explained - Japan

Japan has been an Asian economic hub for many years. It is an attractive destination for expats trying to find business opportunities and a unique culture. But, it is vital to understand the impact that living in Japan has on your expat taxes in the United States, and the taxes you pay to Japan while you live there.

Expat Taxes - Japan

US citizens, as well as permanent residents, are required to file expatriate tax returns with the federal government every year no matter where they reside. Along with the typical tax return for income, many people are also required to submit a return disclosing assets which are held in bank accounts in foreign countries by using FinCEN Form 114 (FBAR).

The United States is among only a few governments who tax international income earned by their citizens, as well as permanent residents, residing overseas. There are, however, some provisions that help protect from possible double taxation situations. These include:

  • The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. This exclusion allows one to exclude USD 101,300 (this amount is for 2016 taxes) in earned income from foreign sources.
  • A tax credit allowing tax on remaining income to be reduced based on the taxes paid to foreign governments.
  • An exclusion on foreign housing that allows additional exclusions from their income for some amounts paid to cover household expenses due to living abroad.

Preparing a quality tax return following proper tax planning should allow one to use these, as well as other strategies, in minimizing or possibly eliminating tax liability. Note that in most cases the filing of a tax return is required, even if taxes are not owed.

Who Qualifies as a Resident of Japan?

Everyone in Japan pays taxes regardless of their residency status. How the tax is imposed is different depending on residency status. Japan has 3 residency categories:

  • A Permanent Resident - Japanese nationals along with expats who have had a domicile and home in Japan at least 5 of the previous 10 years.
  • A Non-Permanent Resident - Expats with a home and domicile in Japan a minimum of 1 year, but haven’t exceeded 5 of the last 10 years.
  • A Non-resident - People who are not in either category above. Usually, foreign employees are granted Non-Permanent Resident status after they organize the paperwork required to begin their employment.

Tax Rates for Japan

The tax rates in Japan are:

Tax Rate Income
5% On Under JPY 1,950,000
10% JPY 1,950,001 - JPY 3,300,000
20% JPY 3,300,001 - JPY 6,950,000
23% JPY 6,950,001 - JPY 9,000,000
33% JPY 9,000,001 - JPY 18,000,000
40% Over JPY 18,000,000

Expats also pay Inhabitants Tax. This tax is combined by the municipality and prefecture where the person lives. The rate is dependent on the particular municipality, but is often 10%.

Tax Treaty

An approved tax treaty between Japan and the United States is in place. It helps a taxpayer decided which country to pay taxes to, when the taxes are due, and helps prevent dual taxation. In most cases, residency status is what determines the country that receives the taxes. Tax treaties can be complex, so it is always advisable to consult a professional tax advisor.

When Are Japanese Taxes Due?

The tax year in Japan is identical to the US tax year - January 1 - December 31. There are not many other similarities between the two tax systems, though. Tax returns must be submitted to the Ministry of Finance no later than the 15th of March. There are not any provisions for extending this deadline. Remember that this deadline occurs before the US deadline.

There are two deadlines for tax pre-payments. These payments happen on July 31st and November 30th of each year after the year the taxpayer first arrives. In the case that there is still a balance due on the 15th of March, the remainder is due on that date.

Japanese Social Security

Usually, expats pay taxes into the Japanese Social Insurance system after they start employment with any Japanese company. This tax funds things like welfare, health insurance, workers compensation, unemployment insurance, and pension plans.

Expats on temporary assignments must pay into the US Social Security system too. The self-employed must pay their social security tax to the place where they spend the most time. It is Social Security that can sometimes lead to double taxation.

Does Japan Tax Foreign Income?

Whether or not an expat pays income taxes on earned income from foreign sources depends on the residency status they hold. Permanent residents must pay income tax, plus municipal and prefectural taxes, on all their income globally. Non-permanent residents only pay tax on Japanese sourced income, with an exception for foreign income paid in Japan or sent to Japan. Taxpayers who are classified as non-residents only pay taxes on income earned inside Japan. Additionally, they only pay the inhabitants tax if they are owners of property or Japanese companies.

Japanese Taxes

Along with income taxes, there are also other types of taxes in Japan that expats should be informed about. These taxes are similar to the taxes US citizens are familiar with back in the US, but understanding them is still a good idea.

All people who live in Japan pay the inhabitant tax to local municipalities and prefectures. The rate is generally 10% of income, but does vary by municipality.

Any compensation is taxable, including non-cash forms of compensation. Some items that are included are relocation expenses, housing stipends, club memberships, meal allowances, clothing allowances, education reimbursement, payments for home leave, and commuting costs. There are some exceptions, but most expats should be prepared to pay tax on any compensation in non-cash form.

Japan does tax capital gains, including sales of antiques, art, equipment and machinery by entrepreneurs, memberships, bonds, and patents. These taxes get filed separately, although capital losses (if any) can offset other income.

Foreign nationals pay estate taxes on the condition that they were a Japanese resident at the point in time of the donor’s death, and this tax is on all property - whether inside Japan or outside. If the estate beneficiary isn’t a Japanese resident, the tax is only on properties within Japan.

Japanese gift tax is similar to US gift taxes. The donee pays the applicable taxes on the gift. The donor is relieved of tax responsibility. Gift taxes are only levied on non-residents for property that was located within Japan.

Questions About Japanese Taxes?

With so many different taxes applied to expats who live or work in Japan, you should make sure to apply any available deductions, credits, and exclusions to your taxes in the United States. Understanding the taxes you must pay while in Japan is one key to enjoying the experience.

Contact us! We have an expert team to provide tax advice to expats, and give you all the information you need to know to file your United States expat tax return while living outside the country.