Paying taxes works a little differently in Japan. Often, large companies will simply deduct the required income tax from employees’ paychecks, and even file the necessary paperwork for them. On the other hand, workers have their earnings taxed twice, with residency taxes which are based on their income from the previous year and must be paid quarterly. Like most things in Japan, resident taxes can be paid with a fat wad of cash at the convenience store.
But perhaps the weirdest of all are government fees for public television in Japan. Not only do the bill collectors go door to door soliciting payment, but some administrators are looking to make people pay the fees whether they own a TV or not.
Public television in Japan is administered by the broadcasting organization NHK. The quirkiness of NHK fees doesn’t stop with the legion of elderly bill collectors it dispatches to knock on citizens’ doors to collect annual fees, which are 13,600 yen, or 24,090 yen for owners of satellite TVs. Despite their widespread unpopularity, though, the law states no penalties for non-payment.
Japan, like most prosperous nations, has seen TV viewership steadily drop as people turn increasingly to the Internet for their news and information. Many of the younger generation are finding they can make do without owning a television, and the easiest way to shoo away a fee collector for NHK is by simply saying, “Sorry, I don’t have a TV,” as you give a half bow and gently close the door.
However, since the bill collectors lack the jurisdiction to barge into homes to verify this, even people who have multiple 40-inch TVs hanging on their walls often claim not to own a set.
Nationwide, NHK’s says that only 73% of households pay the fees, with the lowest collection rates coming from urban centers such as Tokyo and Osaka, with a meager 60 percent.
NHK’s executive committee has floated a number of ideas on how to address this, including bringing legal action against households that have failed to pay. Recently leaked internal documents show another method the broadcaster is considering: petitioning to make payment of NHK fees mandatory even for households without a television set.
Although the proposed measure seems draconian at first, NHK isn’t entirely without justification. In recent years the organization has attempted to adapt to modern media trends by streaming more and more of its content on the Internet. NHK’s executive committee feels that differentiating between the fiscal responsibilities of those who watch its programs on a TV and those who watch on a PC would be both imprecise and impractical. Everyone equally sharing the burden, regardless of what sort of equipment they’re using, seems the fairest system to NHK.
Nevertheless, the plan isn’t sitting well with Internet commentators, with one angry individual asking NHK to at least give people the option of blocking the broadcaster’s signal before insisting that they pay for it.
At the moment, the idea of charging NHK fees to people without a TV is nothing more than that: an idea. NHK itself has declined to comment on the matter or the leaked internal document that brought it to the public’s attention.
Sources: Jin, Yahoo! Japan News
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