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Hometown tax scheme seems to be taking off

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If paying taxes is one of life’s two iron-clad inevitabilities (the other being death), why not make a game of it? Paying taxes for fun and profit – that’s what an initiative known as "furusato nozei" (hometown tax) amounts to. It’s a boom, says Shukan Post (April 17).

“Furusato” (hometown) is actually a bit of a misnomer. The idea, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s first administration originally proposed it in 2007, was to stimulate languishing rural economies with contributions – tax-deductible – from all across the country. Pick any locality you like – it needn’t be your hometown – and remit a greater or lesser percentage of your resident's tax to it instead of to your actual place of residence, receiving in return – here’s where the fun and profit come in – a gift, usually a famous local product, as a token of thanks.

Off to a modest start in 2008, the program has since burgeoned. Local governments are vying ever more creatively with one another, offering ever more novel and original gifts, to draw contributors looking for something new in their tax lives.

Gifts started out predictable – local beef, sake, sea food products and so on – but predictability gets you only so far. A promotional idea in a world brimming with promotional ideas must startle if it’s to click. How about this: send us your tax money and we’ll send you paragliding over the sand dunes! Sand dunes? Only one locale in Japan boasts them – Tottori Prefecture, and the brainwave is Tottori City’s. Half a day’s paragliding over Tottori’s famous sand dunes – that’s the reward for a tax contribution of 10,000 yen or more. The sand is so soft it’s safe for anyone aged 3 to 80, though you do have to insure yourself, at a cost of 1,000 yen.

Or this: for a contribution of 40,000 yen or more, receive a tablet computer, worth 20,000 yen, made by local factories in a city bristling with them – Iiyama, Nagano Prefecture. That offer proved so popular when introduced in January that it had to be suspended. It is set to resume later this month.

Ninohe City in Iwate Prefecture is in the heart of apple country. Apples are nice, but ever so slightly unexciting, unless…. what about apple trees? Pay 100,000 yen in tax, become owner of a local apple tree. The average yield at the November harvest would be, depending to some extent on meteorological caprice of course, in the neighborhood of 36 kg.

There’s more, so much more it’s hard to know where to go from here – to Kurayoshi City in Tottori Prefecture, with its hand-carved Buddhist statues? To Hirado in Nagasaki Prefecture with its sea food? To Tendo City in Yamagata Prefecture with its soccer team? Hirado’s sea food gifts might seem to err on the side of caution, but civic leaders there know what they’re doing. Hirado, says Shukan Post, is number one nationwide in terms of "furusato nozei" income – 1.46 billion yen over the past six years. "Furusato nozei," in fact, nets Hirado more income than local tax revenue.

Hand-carved Buddhist statues take us into an intensifying competition for high-income, big-spending participants. Kurayoshi City is famous for religious sculptures carved by three local masters. For a contribution of 500,000 or more, one will be carved especially for you.

Yamagata Prefecture’s Tendo City is home to the J1 soccer club Montedio Yamagata, and you, yes you – for a tax payment of 1 million yen or more – can become team president for a day, not only spending time with the players in the locker room but actually issuing them instructions. You’re the president, after all.

Is this the modern face of tax-paying? Like all great ideas, this one makes you wonder why no one one ever thought of it before. Once the bane of existence, being taxed now looks as much fun as shopping – and is so regarded by more and more people, Shukan Post observes, who spread their shopping nets nationwide and forget altogether that it’s the same old curse – the government’s hand in the people’s pockets.

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

12 Comments
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“Furusato” (hometown) is actually a bit of a misnomer...Pick any locality you like – it needn’t be your hometown

Using the word "furusato" to describe this incentive scheme really isn't a 'misnomer'.

In the Japanese-Japanese dictionary that I use, the word is assigned five meanings. The first definition given is equivalent to hometown, but the second definition essentially notes its metaphoric use for a place that a person is fond of — a person's spiritual home.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Pick any locality you like – it needn’t be your hometown – and remit a greater or lesser percentage of your resident’s tax to it instead of to your actual place of residence

... How would Abe feel if we could do this with national income tax too? We could choose to not send it to national government to waste on bailing out the nuclear sector or buying weapons Japan doesn't need or paying politician's salaries, but instead devote it to local municipalities who need it to build daycare facilities, hospitals and other necessary services.

Oh, wait, he'd probably be really unhappy, because it would cut into HIS salary and HIS power.

This is nothing more than a transparent attempt to weaken the prefectures and centralise power, just like the Imperial Party did before WW2.

-3 ( +7 / -10 )

No matter how nice of an idea one has, there's always gonna be someone bitching about it....

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Would be nice if they told us how we can do it. Any help on that JT?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Just go online. You get to re-direct some of your local taxes where you like, I have a bunch of beer, shochu & fish on the way & just donated to a place & have a small BBQ on the way.

Its way better than seeing my local taxes wasted, if there wasn't a limit I would send ALL my local tax elsewhere.

Would LOVE if this applied to some of my income taxes!!

This is the closest I will get to being able to vote here LOL!!!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Silly question, maybe, but if everyone in Fukuoka decides they want an apple tree and sends their tax to Iwate, then how is the Fukuoka local government supposed to function?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Luca,

they LIMIT how much you can use sadly, ensuring taxes will continue to be wasted at their source!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I wonder if we could get this expanded to sending our tax money to projects we like rather than cities.

For example, if you're like PM Abe, you'd send your tax money to the military; others would send it to education or tourism or road construction. Maybe some people would even send it to survivors of the 3/11 disaster who are still living in temporary homes while they wait for the Olympics to be built.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

lucabrasiApr. 13, 2015 - 11:53AM JST Silly question, maybe, but if everyone in Fukuoka decides they want an apple tree and sends their tax to Iwate, then how is the Fukuoka local government supposed to function?

Not a silly question at all. Fukuoka government will be more dependent on central government, with strings attached.

And those apple trees are not free, so Iwate is spending money on apple trees and land to try and counter-balance the tax income they're losing to other prefectures.

The total picture is one of local government spending masses of money on "incentives" in order to compensate for their tax losses, and ending up worse off than they were before and increasingly reliant on central government, and unable to resist pressure to, for example, restart nuclear power plants or other unwanted central government initiatives.

Which is precisely the way Abe wants it. Anyone who can't see the big picture clearly has a very limited understanding of how regional government interacts with central government in Japan.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Since my city grossly overcharges I think I use this to redirect my tax money to the neighboring town whose tax rates are much more reasonable. Naturally I will tell the head of the tax office why I have done this and explain that I will cease and desist once local rates reach a reasonable level.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Fukuoka government will be more dependent on central government, with strings attached.

There is a limit to how much can be given.

Anyone who can't see the big picture clearly has a very limited understanding of how regional government interacts with central government in Japan.

Perhaps you had better have a better understanding of the scheme about which you are writing before suggesting limited, very or otherwise, on the part of others.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

and remit a greater or lesser percentage of your resident’s tax to it instead of to your actual place of residence

My understanding is a bit different. It's basically like a tax deductible donation. So if your taxable income was 3,000,000 yen and you sent 50,000 yen as part of this scheme, you would get an additional 50,000 yen knocked off your taxable income. (minus 2000 yen) So your taxable income would be 2,952,000. You would NOT get 50,000 yen off of what you owe in taxes. Correct me if I'm wrong, plz.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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