Japan charges departure tax on international visitors

This week sees the launch of an international tourist tax in Japan, requiring visitors to pay a 1,000 yen (£7.20) levy when leaving the country by plane or ship, which is expected to raise 50bn yen in 2019

Cruise lines and airlines are required to collect the tax from individuals departing from Japan, for example by including the amount in their ticket prices. The collected payments are remitted to the Japanese government.

There are some exemptions, notably for children under the age of two, those leaving Japan on or after 7 January 2019 using an air ticket issued before that date, crew members, travellers who are in Japan for under 24 hours, and anyone who has to return to Japan after departure due to bad weather or other ‘unavoidable circumstances’.

The Japan Tourism Agency said the departure tax, which has been dubbed a ‘sayonara tax’ is designed to help build up the country’s tourism infrastructure ahead of an expected surge in visitors in 2020 for the Tokyo Olympics.

The government department said it had three aims:  to create a more comfortable, stress-free tourist environment; improve access to information about a wide variety of attractions of Japan; develop tourist resources taking advantage of the unique cultural and natural assets of respective regions.

Likely projects to be funded include facial recognition gates at air and seaports to speed up immigration procedures, and more multi-lingual information at cultural and other sites.

The legislation governing the tax was passed in April last year, with the Japanese government indicating it expects to raise around 6bn yen in revenue in for the period up to March 2019, and 50bn yen in the fiscal year 2019.

Several other tourist destinations have announced plans in the previous year to impose taxes on overseas visitors. In June 2018, New Zealand's government announced plans to collect a fee with visa applications and through a new electronic travel authority to pay for the country's straining infrastructure. In September, the local authority of Scottish capital city Edinburgh said that it planned to introduce an accommodation levy for similar reasons.

National Tax Agency information about international tourist tax is here

Report by Pat Sweet

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