Japan loves to tout it’s seasons. Cherry blossoms in spring, festivals in summer, leaves in fall, and Anna and Elsa in winter. There are even seasons here that some of us don’t have in our home countries, like rainy season or typhoon season. But you know what season everyone has, no matter how far you run or how hard you try to hide?
That’s right, it’s time to dust off your calculator and get to work filing taxes!
Of course, tax season looks different for every JET Program participant. Depending on your home country and length of stay in Japan, your tax situation will vary. As such, it’s important to research your own country’s tax information to get the most accurate information. However, there are a few things that all JETs should keep an eye on during this time.
Also, I see everyone else is doing it, so I’d better follow suit: The Ishikawa JET Blog is by no means an authority or expert on tax matters. (If you weren’t clued in by the Bugs Bunny picture above.) The information presented here is to be used as a rough guide, NOT as an authoritative source. Please do your own research when in doubt!
1. Know Your Home Country (A.K.A. Ask a Sempai)
As mentioned above, every situation is different. (If only there were an acronym to express such a thing…) If you don’t want to read through the troves of forms and databases on government websites while looking for the tax laws that apply specifically to you, a more popular strategy is to ask someone from your same home country who’s been in the program longer than you. For you first-year JETs, the ideal target is a 2nd-year, because usually tax proceedures change for 3rd, 4th, and 5th-year JETs.
You can ask them what forms they filled out last year, where to find information, and whether or not they’re wanted for tax evasion back home. Of course, the ultimate responsibility with getting your taxes done correctly lies with you and you alone. But, it can’t hurt to ask around in an effort to save you some time.
For American JETs like myself, I was given a tax guide back in 2012 that’s helped me every year since. I have added it under the “Downloads” tab above.
2. Don’t Throw Anything Away
This time of year, you’ll be getting a lot of forms and papers from your CO with lots of numbers and amounts on them. It’s best to play it safe when in doubt and not throw them away. The most important one is the statement which lists your total earnings from 2014 (For Americans, this is the equivalent of your Japanese W-2 form), and it looks a little something like this:
Keep this somewhere safe, as you’ll probably need it.
3. Don’t Procrastinate
Of course, none of us would ever think of doing this! Doing your taxes here isn’t nearly as complicated you think it is. In fact, the JET Program website even makes a point of saying how little paperwork is required on the Japanese side of things. Carve a bit of time out of an evening or weekend and see how much you can get done.
4. Save a Little Bit for Summer
The taxes we’re dealing with now are usually income taxes from our home countries. But, (and this again depends on where you’re from and where you currently live), you may have to pony up this summer and pay your Japanese residency tax. This can be really expensive, so it’s a good idea to start laying aside some money just in case.
For some perspective, I received a bill in the mail last June for about 120,000円! It was a great way to start off a Saturday morning, let me tell you. I took it in and handed it to my supervisor, who in turn took it to the school office. It turns out, they were footing the bill that time around. But, I got a note later that month saying that in 2015, it’ll be up to me to cover that cost, and that it could be a different amount (they conveniently forgot to say if it would be more or less…)
If you’re worried, this is another good time to use the “ask a sempai” technique, as that will give you a baseline number. However, the tax varies depending on where you live and how long you’ve lived there. And hey, if you save up and it turns out that you don’t have to pay the tax, you can use that money for something fun!
6. Links and Resources
As mentioned above, I’ve added a useful tax guide for American JETs under the “Downloads” tab above. In addition, here are some good resources:
Ishikawa JET Wiki (Scroll down to the “Taxes” heading)
JET Program website
Kumamoto JET Blog
Mie JET Blog (Ooh! This one talks about Canadians!)
In addition, your “General Information Handbook” has more information. Happy tax season, everyone!