Taxing Day


Paperwork is the bane of my existence: I find myself constantly shocked by how much unneccessary shuffling of wasteful reams is worked into daily life. Schedules and lesson plans alone are becoming mountainous because I have taught at 15 schools, had countless private students, and led several seminars in the past two years. Photo society creates a lot of stacks, often on thick photo paper. Calligraphy classes generate piles of models to copy, instructional guidelines, history, and other supplies. Naturally, general Japanese study materials also appear with regular consistency.

Summer has presented me with several opportunities to attack my mess. Yesterday I spent most of the time between 1pm and 3am sorting. One difficulty with the sorting process is that any proper correspondence in Japan must be written in very polite language, making translation a chore: the most important documents are the hardest to read. Sometime around dinner break, I realized I had a lot of unpaid taxes that were accumulating penalties. Not wanting to suffer financially, and not wanting to try the government’s kindness in letting me stay in the country, I continued translating and sorting until I had a pretty good idea what was owed (but not necessarily why).

First stop this morning was to take photos for my new Alien Registration Card (外国人登録証明書), a piece of ID which we are required to carry at all times, and the source of racism claims in some circles. I prefer to make jokes about how I need the card to prove I’m a foreigner. It might be a silly thing, but it’s no yellow star. My card expired on my birthday – June 14th – and I don’t want to get deported, so after checking in at work I headed to the city offices. They were nothing but joviality the whole time, felt that I was overreacting about my transgression, and got me all set up.

My car taxes (車検) were overdue. I was certain that a year ago, I paid a two year portion of taxes. I initially mistook the bill for a kind of notice because it was exactly the same as the previous form. Fortunately, my cute little car, only runs about 20 yen per day in taxes. Being late with most taxes incurs something short of wrath on the part of the government. When they decide to send out a late notice, they charge an 80 yen fee based on the estimated cost to send out the notice. In America there would be a pain-inducing penalty and if it included an estimated admin cost that would have to be jacked up to include lawyer and accountant fees.

I planned to slowly reveal my sin to the tax man and ask for help and guidance. This bit of SiLLiNeSS on my part proved amusing. By the time I returned my car tax paperwork to my case, the helpful man had printed out my unpaid taxes and penalties and placed it in front of me. Taxmen may not be God, but they seem all-knowing. One new discovery for me was that I needed to be paying a National Tax (国民税金). For over three years I had been in situations where money was extracted from my pay to pay all the taxes without me knowing the breakdown. This all needed to be handled at an office across town and the results of that meeting could reduce my City Resident Taxes (市民税), so after a quick call, I hopped on my bike and rode over to meet the friendly voice on the other end.

National taxes are calculated based on the previous year’s tax return (確定申告) which doubled my tax burden from 2006 to 2007, based on a blip which has now been explained to me very clearly. Not filing a return in America will land you with horrendous fees, threatening letters, and extremely exaggerated estimates of taxes owed. Kind, gentle, harmonious Japan chooses a much different tack; the tax office, using their best judgment, makes a calculation for the resident. In the end, they did a wonderful job on my 2006 and 2007 estimates based on withholding tax forms (源泉徴収票). Also, the form is one page long and, having nothing special to claim, it is legal to file no return as long as the taxes are paid. Due to my foible, I had to pay about 6000 yen in penalties.

Also, I had a fair amount of non-reported income from cash-based transactions which I shared openly with the agent. I don’t want to imagine what kind of reaction an IRS agent would have to that, but this guy just asked probative questions, pondered deeply (reviewing tax tables in his head, I imagine) and replied that I was fine. Partly, I find that Japanese people are excited when you show up with an envelope full of crisp 10,000 yen bills and state your desire to set things straight immediately. They greatly appreciate not having to set up payment plans, so this may have teetered him off the fence.

Rushing back to the city tax office, I explained why I mistook the 2nd through 4th payments for 2007 as something not to be paid. (That’s a silly story of it’s own.) Here I found that being foolishly incompetent and able to explain that intelligibly is a valuable skill. All of the penalties were reversed except the three 80 yen postage fees. That bit of smooth-talking saved me over 12,000 yen. We chatted a lot about subtleties of the language and how I hope to get over them so I can continue living here. All of the people I met wanted to talk a lot about my living situation and seemed excited with my fluency. I also coughed up the first two payments for this year to keep me free of responsibility until the end of October.

Total drain on my bank account today: ~200,000 yen. Gladly paid, because it represents a lot of waived fees and a burden lifted. Tomorrow I may still have to pay some Social Insurance Tax (社会保険税金), but that remains to be seen.

Continuing the confluence of calamity – my passport is expiring at the end of October and I am was hoping to make an important overseas trip next month. I have always heard that you need a passport with at least six months of remaining validity to make a trip. My biggest fear lay here until I called the Osaka Consulate. First they said, “So long as your passport is not expired, you can travel.” Then they said that I was elligible to renew by mail… and the kicker… it takes two weeks. So I hope to have a new passport in hand soon.

My visa is a resident visa, but it only allows me to enter the country once. This requires an entry visa. In the past I purchased a multiple entry visa, so I could come and go relatively freely, but it has also expired. My plan of attack will be to wait for the new passport and then head to Yokkaichi to have the immigrations officers move my visa over and sell me a re-entry permit. Heading up early in the day and not the day after a three-day weekend pretty much guarantees a quick turn-around. Looks like that’s all coming together.

Fear of not being allowed to fly kept me from buying the inexpensive tickets I found a week ago. Some thoughts about how to react if I couldn’t get the same fare flashed across my brain. Knowledge dispels fear, so I dove into the NWA website and found the price $400 less. Yay!

I’ll stick my mug into Seattle from the morning of Sept 23rd to Sept 29th. See you there?


3 Responses to “Taxing Day”

  1. titus2woman Says:

    WOW~that is A LOT goin’ on! and FASCINATING as always~I never tire of reading about life in Japan! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  2. fightingwindmills Says:

    That was a huge burden lifted. What a productive trip to the city offices!

  3. びっくり Says:

    Wow! You both read through that long post. I feel honored. I’ll try to keep the interesting stuff coming, but I can’t promise anything. I was indeed happy with how things went down. I wish I had the energy to deal with things sooner, but it seemed like the timing worked out well.

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