Japan Departure Tax

By - April 17, 2018

Starting next year, travellers will be required to pay a ¥1,000 (about $9 USD) departure tax when they leave Japan by airplane or ship. The tax is designed to build the necessary infrastructure and improve services to accommodate an expected influx in visitor numbers in Japan leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics — and thereafter. The fee will apply to both Japanese and foreigners, and will be collected as part of the ticket cost.

It is the nation’s first new tax implemented since 1992, when a land value tax was established.

Exceptions to the tax include toddlers under the age of 2, as well as transit passengers leaving Japan within 24 hours of arrival. The tax is expected to raise ¥43 billion (or about $400 million USD) a year, and Japan hopes to attract 40 million visitors annually by 2020 and 60 million by 2030. The nation attracted a record 28.69 million tourists in 2017, up 19.3 percent from the previous year — which has been steadily increasing for six consecutive years.

The Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party voted against the legislation, saying a purpose-specific tax could lead to wasteful spending.

The Diet has already passed legislation limiting the use of departure tax revenue to tourism-related purposes. The tax will be used in part to fund the installation of airport gates equipped with facial recognition. Funds will also be used to prepare for a comfortable tourism environment, spreading information about Japan’s tourism attractions, and promoting a sense of fulfillment among travellers through improved tourism resources.

The government also plans to ask public transportation operators to expand free wireless internet services as well as electronic payment systems.

Japan is hardly the first to adopt these measures; similar levies have been implemented in other countries such as Australia, South Korea and the United States. Australia charges a $60 AUD departure tax, South Korea charges a ₩10,000 departure fee for air travellers and the United States charges $14 USD on international travellers from countries in its visa waiver programme.

Additionally, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Osaka Prefectural Government charge a lodging tax of ¥100 to ¥300 per person per night to finance tourism promotion and other measures.

The new departure tax, which has been dubbed the “sayonara tax,” is scheduled to officially go into effect Jan. 7, 2019.

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