A woman walks in the departure terminal at Narita airport. Photo: REUTERS
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Japan eyes imposing departure tax ahead of 2020 Olympics

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Still some airlines and passenger ship companies, which would be responsible for collecting the tax from departing travelers, have expressed concerns the tax could reduce the momentum of the rise in visitors to Japan.

That's rich coming from the airlines. I really doubt people who are paying exorbitant $1,500 fees for flying there and back are going to care about a minute $10 tax on top. The airline companies should cut their fees in half before talking about the problems with a $10 tax..

3 ( +10 / -7 )

Still some airlines and passenger ship companies, which would be responsible for collecting the tax from departing travelers, have expressed concerns the tax could reduce the momentum of the rise in visitors to Japan.

absolutely. This is a very stupid idea. And what about the Japanese citizens and foreign residents? Do they have to pay it too? This is a bad idea

11 ( +17 / -6 )

Tax, tax tax more money gone to.......ops that money disappeared. The government needs more and more and more for, who the hell knows. Whaling, the famous roads to nowhere, count turtles, sea walls, R&D for Toyota, rockets, salaries for our esteemed politicians. How about cutting the government spending reducing our tax burden and letting people live. I'd like a new couch but I don't charge people when they leave my house.

24 ( +27 / -3 )

I have a better idea to reduce lines: Don't host corrupt events like the Olympics.

20 ( +26 / -6 )

Totally absurd idea. What are hey thinking?

8 ( +12 / -4 )

I think you are misinformed if you blame the airlines for high international ticket fees. Much of your ticket price goes to taxes and landing fees.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

I'm sure this is going to be a really unpopular opinion since alot of people who frequent this site are visitors to Japan, but I support this as someone who lives here.

The key question is whether tourism in Japan is running at peak capacity. In Tokyo, I think it probably is. If so, it makes sense to turn our attention to squeezing as much money out of each individual tourist, at least until capacity is increased. Raising the price of admission will ensure that airline seats are not being occupied by a lower quality tourist when a slightly wealthier tourist might have been willing to book the same seat. Many countries like Germany, the UK, Australia and Thailand already charge a similar tax. Of course, where the money goes and how wisely it will be spent is a different issue.

-11 ( +7 / -18 )

Greeeeeeed...

9 ( +12 / -3 )

With this departure tax, what the JTA is saying: we have already gouged you on the over-priced hotel rooms, food and domestic transport, but before you leave we want you to bend over and grab your ankles...

11 ( +15 / -4 )

Once again, more bonus money for the rich oyaji's.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

They charge money, I think where it goes is a valid question. And it's time to ask that question. Where does the monies go....? I dont freely give my money to anybody but the LDP is a black hole for money I give and it disappears. Leaving my children in debt my grandchildren in debt, no way in my house we don't burden our young with debts. But not being a historical rich child who has a well paying job due to birth makes me more concerned about expenses.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

milkin it for all its worth! and when no tourists ever come back because they have no more money you will know why

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

 Raising the price of admission will ensure that airline seats are not being occupied by a lower quality tourist when a slightly wealthier tourist might have been willing to book the same seat.

A person's slightly higher wealth is indicative of their "quality" as a person or "desirability" as a visitor? Since when? There are plenty of obnoxious wealthy and semi-wealthy people. Then there are those who may have saved a long time for the single trip of a lifetime.

That said, services for tourists who are being seduced to come here have to be paid for. The equivalent of 10 to 15 dollars give or take (depending on the sine wave of money markets) is not an unreasonable tax. However, it needs to be marketed in a favorable way so that people paying it understand that this tax benefits them. I'm not a marketing guru, but it has to be sincere and sexy to sell.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Fleece the sheep, but if you want bad karma, expect an earthquake.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

If it improves customs and isn't used for a new cute mascot, I am all for it.

The tax wouldn't be noticed if included in the other fees charged on the ticket prices. Airlines have nothing to contribute to this discussion. They are making plenty of money on travelers.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Abenomics. "Pay more and shut up".

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Tax,tax,tax

What next tax people for breathing oxygen and producing carbondioxide.

If i am not mistaken isn't there an agency with almost the same budget like envisaged for the departure tasked with promoting

Japan abroad.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Revenue from the departure tax will likely be used to enhance security, speed up passage through immigration and customs, and to pay for increased multilingual signage.

Yeah, likely! However, it's more likely to be used for something totally unrelated.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I said yesterday this was coming. It'll be added to the "fuel tax" that is decided months in advance of the "shortage" they claim is the reason later, and the gouging that comes constantly as well.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

So much for omotenashi or whatever that phrase was.....

4 ( +6 / -2 )

As usual... got no problem paying that tax as long as it is used properly. I trust a lot of European countries to properly use taxpayer money, but Japan, seeing that Japan's national debt is over $10 Trillion, and they still can't balance a budget, I have doubt.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The government ... wants to secure a steady revenue source to pay for measures to further increase the number of visitors to the country.

"How can we get more people to visit us? How about charging them more? ... Wait, how does this work again? In any case, we want your money."

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Nothing is absurd when it involves the Japanese govt or tourism board!

wouldnt surprise me if the decided to impose an air tax.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Spending more than you have, even richies can be done only limited time ( after buble)

Collecting is rather delicate?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Not so uncommon folks...https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Departure_tax

Do you guys really have to complain about every single small thing ?

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

40 billion yen divided by, say, an annual salary of 4 million yen per full-time employee would be 10,000 new immigration/customs officials. Yes, some of that money would be used for multi-lingual signage, but still, the tax revenue seems excessive and wasteful.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

So if I'm transiting through to get to another Asian country, the 2000 yen RT will serve what purpose? NRT is a major hub. Lose some of that transit traffic and capacity, then remaining base fares go up as well.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Small thing...? taking my money I work for, to do what? It's not small thing it's theft I want to know what are they doing with my money and the answer is not good enough.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

This is less than I had expected. At the end of the day, for all the monies that are paid out on a trip, it's the cost of what, two packs of cigarettes. If the tax is spent wisely, then it's far better for you than two packs of cigarettes. IF, the tax is spent wisely.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I remember when I first came to Japan in the 1980s, you had to pay an "Airport Tax" of around 3,000 yen when you left. It was always worth it!

1 ( +5 / -4 )

At least they aren't suggesting we have to visit a counter, pay in cash, get a ticket, take that to a different counter, get a receipt and a stamp on the visa like some other countries require. Usually, the other countries are trying to get USD.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

To really increase the tax take they should reduce the cost of visiting Japan, this would increase the overall throughflow of visitors who will spend money in country (which will be taxed), boosting the economy (business profits rise, which will be taxed), businesses expand and spend money (which is taxed) more jobs with income and families spending more (both of which is taxed). Basic economics, its called a virtuous spiral as opposed to slapping a punative tax on people which will only depress the number of travelers and tourism, reduce profits and jobs and so reduce the overall tax take by more than that raked in by the exit tax.

It's about time Japanese politicians learned a little basic economics.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Prooves that Japan is unfortunately inept to handle a growing tourism boom. If you inflict additional economic burdens on the tourists, forgetting how much money they've already spent at souvenirs and Ryokans! That's just rude and unqualified done!

You shouldn't demand additional compensation from tourists who just visited your country, and had a wonderful time! Tourism as we know it would be dead if everyone did like this. You should not pay just to be "recognized" leaving the country.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Raising the price of admission will ensure that airline seats are not being occupied by a lower quality tourist when a slightly wealthier tourist might have been willing to book the same seat. 

Please tell me you didn't write that.... good grief! That is the most overt piece of snobbery I have seen in a long time! I am one of those 'lower quality' tourists of which you speak - I have to save up for my Japanese holidays, so not one of the wealthy ones... I take up a seat from a more desirable passenger? Un-frigging-believable.

Also, as a British flyer I am subjected to UK airport departure taxes... and then again for the European connecting flight to Japan... and now if I travel in 2020 I will also be subjected to a departure tax from Japan?

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I, d have no problem paying 1000 departure tax but i do have a beef with the fact this being Japan that most of that money will be wasted on another LDP pork barel idea benefiting the amakudari cronies and their ilk. Thats what pisses me off about this place.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The problem is Japan is becoming a flyover nation this will only serve to shorten the time to it becoming a full fledge flyover nation and no ability to get any form of revenue

1 ( +4 / -3 )

It starts off at 1,000 yen but how long before they find an excuse to slap another 500/1000 yen to the tax. Then another reason for an increase, then another....

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I thought the Japanese were pleased to see foreigners leave, now they wish to make us pay for the privilege ?

And if you think, the Tax will go to improve efficiency for handling people coming into the Country...

5 ( +7 / -2 )

It seems like everyone has to pay for this unnecessary Olympics. 10 bucks do no harm, but where’s the omotenashi?!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

If I couldn't pay the tax to leave, would they let me stay indefinitely?  I would be ok with that.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

OK, JPY1,000 paid as you depart, gee I wonder how it would be spent??

Let me take a guess:

actual wastefulness

kick backs

amakudari

bribes

wining & dining

creation of NEEDLESS regulatory authorities which are highly over staffed

etc etc

How much would be left over to do something maybe useful?? I am guessing JPY200-300 of  a thousand yes TOPS!!

Bad idea Japan!!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

If I couldn't pay the tax to leave, would they let me stay indefinitely? I would be ok with that.

Interesting question; you're at the airport with a valid ticket but absolutely no cash to pay the departure tax. What happens next?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

My guess is that they would make you miss your flight, whilst repeatidly telling you that Rules are Rules... so pay up!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@Harry

Happened to me, long ago and far away. The airport staff let me go, reluctantly.

No other real option, I suppose.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

For the last few years, flights to and from the UK have incurred a large carbon tax. As a father of three and purchaser of five airline tickets at a time, I may have more to begrudge than most about this. I certainly do not believe for one second that the UK's current Tory government cares one iota about CO2 emissions. However, that in itself does not mean that the general principle of "polluter pays" is wrong, because it isn't. The money may end up being wasted, but I support the tax. I merely draw the line at idiots like Priti Patel giving it without accountability to the Israeli military.

Though much lower than the UK carbon tax, I can't say I'm against this departure tax either. Tourists to Japan can avoid the shouhizei on just 5000 yen of groceries, a six pack, some chips, and three bentos, and get free wifi all over the place, benefits not extended to cash-strapped locals who work some of the world's longest hours and have paid holidays on paper only. Visitors to Japan should just pay the 1,000 yen and move on, thankful that they are not working 60 hours plus of overtime and have decent wages and paid holidays that enable them to go on life-confirming trips to see other countries and their way of life. If we are going to bust out the violins, lets' do it for ordinary Japanese people whose lot is far worse.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Its a good idea . The Olympics costs the country so much money and the multinationals make a fortune ...why not the host country be able to recover some of the cost of hosting it . I hope very much that Japan gets to provide some of the food and not the big players like McDonalds . But maybe it should be a tafiff on the Olympic tickets rather than everyone ...many of whom will be there for other reasons ?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

As a frequent visitor to Japan from North America, I would oppose this tax and it truly would be a disincentive for me to continue to visit, during which I spend thousands of USD. I have experienced the departure tax in the Philippines, in a word......obnoxious!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Revenue from the departure tax will likely be used to enhance security, speed up passage through immigration and customs, and to pay for increased multilingual signage

Looking at the cost breakdown on my latest air ticket, there is a Y2090 international passenger service charge and a Y520 passenger security service charge. The recent increase in the number of passengers means they already have more revenue from these charges to spend on security and immigration, although there is no sign of any extra spending at Narita.

I think the "departure tax" revenue will actually be spent on employing retired bureaucrats in useless, but well paid, amakudari positions.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I seem to have touched a nerve with my comment. I can understand why nobody wants to pay a tax, but you need to undertand the situation here in Japan and some basics about economics and the tourism industry. Capacity is not limitless. We only have so many hotel rooms, so many airline seats, and so many tickets to Disneyland. Once we reach that capacity, we can start charging more to ensure that wealthier tourists get those limited seats and rooms. The free market does this on its own everday, this tax is just a tiny addition. It's no different than a cover charge at a nightclub. If you complain about the cover charge, you are precisely the person the club wants to exclude.

Yes, shock/horror, we prefer wealthier 'elite' tourists here in Japan. Not because they are better or nicer human beings (they aren't), but because they have more money to spend. The reason we built the hotel you're staying at, the airline you're flying on, the restaurant you're eating at is not to make your dreams of visiting Japan come true, but to get as much of your money as possible. We use that money to buy the things we really want. We appreciate that it's your dream to come to Japan and we find that heartwarming, but we are not a charity.

The tax is also morally justified. In an age of mass tourism, Japan is essentially a product. The people of Japan are the owners of that product and they bear the negative consequences of mass tourism. The government is like a trustee selling that product on behalf of all the owners. The trustee has no right to just give it away for free when there are millions of people prepared to pay the market price.

If you love Japan so much that you've saved up your entire life to come be here, why can't you pay the small amout of money we are asking for? It's your dream to come to Japan and it's our dream to stop being the country with the highest debt to GDP ratio. Let's work together to make both of our dreams come true.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

The tax should apply only to tourists and not Japanese citizens or residents of Japan. Japanese citizens and those of us living here already pay enough taxes.

Beyond that I really could care less

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Make it for those with tourist visas only. We who live in Japan already get through Immigrations and Customs quickly and don't require interpreters. If that's what they are truly earmarking the tax for.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

@M3M3M3. There is nothing complicated about this tax: it is fleecing a captive audience. The people in charge will blow through the money and be out of office before the inevitable economic collapse.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

It should be more than 1,000 as well, maybe 2,500 or so, 1,250 on arrival and then on departure. Those having difficulties paying are likely economic migrants and don’t need to be let in

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

"...we prefer wealthier 'elite' tourists here in Japan. Not because they are better or nicer human beings (they aren't), but because they have more money to spend. 

A Thai tourism official once told me young backpackers were the biggest spenders in his country. That's because they stay for weeks or months, instead of a few days. They also venture into rural, provincial areas and spend their money where it's needed: in local shops, as opposed to the international 5 stars.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@dcog9065, I agree it should probably be more and should go to general revenues. Just like Australia which now charges $60 (about $46USD). When I visit Australia, I'm happy to know that my visit is benefitting all Australians rather than just those directly involved in the tourism industry.

@Sam Watters, Unfortunately you're probably right that the money will be wasted. But is that an argument against having departure tax or an argument against wasting money? If there was some way to guarantee that the money would be well spent, would you still be against it in principle?

@JeffLee, I agree that backpakers can be elite tourists. Especially those who spend alot of money over a long period of time. Under this sort of program we could even incentives travel to rural areas by waiving the fee for those who can prove that they have travelled outside of major metropolitan areas. A quick google search shows that Thailand charges a departure tax of 700 baht (or about $22 USD).

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"Unfortunately you're probably right that the money will be wasted. But is that an argument against having departure tax or an argument against wasting money? If there was some way to guarantee that the money would be well spent, would you still be against it in principle?"

@M3M3M3.  Yes.  I am against any new taxes in principle.  Government has got to learn to live on less money like the rest of the population.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I think Japan security, immigration and customs services don't need any improvement. 40 billion yen per year for a sign? Who in the world believes that nonsense?

I think Japan should pay visitors to leave and levy a huge tax on the ones who stay.

/big grin

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Nothing new here. All countries have been doing it

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The reasons that governments come up with to impose taxation never fails to amaze. A ¥1000 departure tax is absurd! Why not proclaim an ‘existence fee’ whereby a government at any level can tax individuals for the privilege of being alive and breathing. The fee can be imposed at any point in time that a person is out in public and moving from one place to another. Surely such a tax would satiate the desires of politicians and bureaucrats to forever increase the growth of government and influence citizens to behave in a manner proscribed by their betters.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I recall Kansai Airport had some kind of airport tax in the past, maybe still. Some would arrive unawares without cash (maybe 2600 yen?). You would actually have to put the money in a machine and get some ticket.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japanese government logic:

Let's host an international sports event run by a corrupt organization and allow ourselves to be bullied by them left and right. And we'll hand the contracts out to various corrupt domestic organizations as well, so we can be on more equal footing with the level of corruption. Can we afford it? Nope! Where's the money going to come from? Hmm, let's increase taxes and tourism! Even though we are totally unprepared to deal with 20 million+ tourists per year but hey that's not our problem.

Also Japanese government logic:

Let's increase sales tax for people living in Japan even though salaries have stagnated and a large swath of young people are stuck in dead-end, unstable, low-pay contract jobs!

But let's allow tourists to shop tax-free.

Annnnnd also Japanese government logic:

Let's tax our own residents who dare leave the country on their hard-earned holiday even though we already raised sales taxes. Cuz we need that money for cough Olympics cough more tourism!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Does any Country really have an open ledger upon where your Tax really goes ?

I wish they would, as that, would really help define Democracy in future.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Norway is transparent with taxes.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

One thing I will say, no matter how much this tax will be, it cannot be as bad as the taxes travellers have to pay to use Heathrow.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

it cannot be as bad as the taxes travellers have to pay to use Heathrow.

75 quid in tax it costs for an economy class departure to Japan from the U.K. Absolute scoundrels! I didn't know that until today, from now on I'm swimming in from Calais.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Pukey

Not just Heathrow. Manchester’s the same.

In fact, it’s a UK-wide tax.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If you refuse to pay the tax, are you deported?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Looking at the cost breakdown on my latest air ticket, there is a Y2090 international passenger service charge and a Y520 passenger security service charge.

Those are charges which benefit the airport, which is a business organizations and operates to make profit while offering certain services. Those charges have nothing to do with the new tax which will flow into the coffers of the government.

I recall Kansai Airport had some kind of airport tax in the past, maybe still. Some would arrive unawares without cash (maybe 2600 yen?).

Not just Heathrow. Manchester’s the same. In fact, it’s a UK-wide tax.

An airport tax is imposed by every single airport in the world. The amount varies depending on the country and airport though. In most countries the passengers are unaware of it because it is part of their air ticket and most passengers simply do not check the breakdown of the ticket price.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There used to be a 2,000 JP Yen departure tax at Narita to ostensibly pay for the extra security required after the protests and riots against building of the New Tokyo International Airport. Although the tax has been abolished for a few years, the security gates are still there, and staff are still present, though no longer checking the foreigners' passports and boots/ trunks of the cars.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't mind paying this tax as long as they upgrade the airports. Narita desperately needs a facelift and the newly constructed terminal 3 is a step backwards.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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