Starting this year, the town of Mamurogawa in Yamagata Prefecture is offering up their mayor’s office for those generous enough to hand over one million yen in furusato tax (hometown tax). It’s the latest move in an increasing trend of offering premiums for tax revenue in rural areas struggling with decreasing populations.
Offering something in exchange for taxes seems like an odd concept without knowing what furusato tax is, so let start with that. Don’t worry it’s simple.
■ Hometown Tax
In 2008, the federal government put furusato tax into effect. Basically it allows people to pay tax to towns that they don’t actually live in. This is really more of a charitable donation than a tax payment of course, but a percentage of that payment will be deducted from the donator’s own residency tax. The scheme was partially inspired by professional athletes who continued to own property in their rural hometowns without actually living there as a way to give back financially.
In the case of Mamurogawa, in 2008 when the scheme began they received 26 donations worth a total of 733,242 yen. However, in the years to follow the total amount failed to grow. Then, much like many other small municipalities in Japan, they began offering gifts in exchange for the donations such as cans of their locally produced canned nameko mushrooms.
From then on they received 1,430,000 yen through 42 donations in 2012. Last year they took in 1,730,000 yen from 75 donations. However, several areas have similar promotions creating a competitive market for donations. According to the Mamurogawa’s planning division, “Many local governments have introduced quid pro quo schemes and we hope to differentiate ourselves with our ‘Mayor for a Day’ campaign.”
■ Mayor for a Day
By making a furusato tax payment of over 1,000,000 yen, you will be the mayor of Mamurogawa for one day. As mayor you will be allowed to instruct the office staff, have a commemorative photo taken in the mayor’s office, tour the town on inspection, and more. In addition, mayors will receive up to 50,000 yen worth of regional goods such as steaks made from Mamurogawa beef, Jingoemon root soup kits, bottles of sake, and a platter of pickled foods.
Sources: Mamurogawa, Yomiuri Online
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