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Let’s discuss the ‘hometown donation’ system

This week’s featured article

JIJI

More people are remitting cash to municipalities where they do not live, such as their childhood homes in the countryside, using the tax-deductible furusato nōzei (hometown donation) program. Spikes are seen whenever a natural disaster strikes, and the surge in giving has led some to say a culture of donations may now be taking root in Japan.

Introduced in fiscal 2008, furusato nōzei allows people to make donations to municipalities and prefectures of their choice — not necessarily their hometowns. In response, donors qualify for deductions on their income and residential taxes.

Many local governments thank the donors by sending gifts, such as baskets of vegetables or lottery tickets. In addition, many allow the donors to specify how their money should be used, such as for environmental projects or to help parents with young children.

The program has become widely known, due partly to competition among municipalities for donors by offering attractive gifts. There was a surge in donations following the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, which ravaged the coast of Tohoku.

In fiscal 2015, donations increased sharply to municipalities that were hit by disasters, such as the city of Joso in Ibaraki Prefecture. The city received only nine donations in the first five months of fiscal 2015, but this number soared to around 3,000 after the floods. In Joso’s case, the city was so busy focusing on recovery work it did not offer gifts of thanks.

To promote the furusato nōzei system further, the central government doubled the upper limit on the amount of tax deductions in January 2015. The ceiling depends on factors such as the donor’s annual income.

The government also introduced a system in April under which a wage earner is not required to file a tax return to claim deductions for donations to up to five local governments.

Noting that donations are now coming in more heavily, an internal affairs ministry official said it is hoped that a culture of giving will start to take root in Japan.

First published in The Japan Times on Jan. 18.

Warm up

One-minute chat about hometowns.

Game

Collect words related to “support,” e.g., charity concert, volunteer, neighborhood.

New words

1) deductible: able to be taken away, especially from taxable income; e.g., “Child-care vouchers will be deductible expenses.”

2) donation: the act of giving, especially to a charity; e.g., “She gave donations to the Red Cross.”

3) ravage: ruin or violently destroy; e.g., “The war has ravaged the country.”

Guess the headline

Hometown d_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ surge, especially after natural d_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Questions

1) Where do payments under the furusato nōzei system go?

2) Do towns have to give thank-you gifts to donors?

3) What happened to the furusato nōzei system in 2015?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Have you ever contributed under the furusato nōzei system?

2) If you have, how did you choose which town to donate to?

3) Do you think the program will do some good for Japanese society?

Reference

ふるさと納税制度が始まってから8年という時間が流れ、自分の現居住区でも生まれ育ったふるさとでもない地域と”納税”という仕組みを通して繋がることができるようになりました。過疎化が進む地区などでは活性化の起爆剤としての期待もできるでしょうし、それまでゆかりもなかった人に地域のことを知ってもらう宣伝効果も期待できるかもしれません。

しかし、特産物などのお礼を前面に、いかにその地域への納税が”お得”かをアピールすることで納税者を増やそうという現在の流れは、税金制度の ありかたと言うよりは市場でのビジネスのようにも見えます。

この先、私たちのおさめる税金はそれぞれの”ふるさと”をどのように良くしていくのでしょうか。

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