Predations on a livelihood

Kathleen Weller’s June 6 letter, “Collection of unpaid ward taxes,” refers to a different case of ward office brutality. The woman I wrote about earlier does not know Ms. Weller. The woman did partially pay her ward taxes over the last five years — ¥20,000 to ¥30,000 every few months. She was explicitly threatened with having everything she owns taken from her if she didn’t.

Her entire salary has been impounded three times — not in the last 12 months as I originally wrote — but in the last five months. There was no advance notice. She was left penniless each time.

In other countries, I understand that such predation on one’s personal bank account is forbidden by law. And to take away a person’s entire livelihood, as well as inflicting mental torture, in the name of meeting some bureaucratic quota is surely a crime against basic human rights.

joseph o’leary
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • wanderingpippin

    As Mr. O’Leary responded to the Reader Mail from Ms. Weller, but not to my online comment in response to his first letter, I suspect that he reads only the paper version and will not see this online comment. Nevertheless, I elect to write here.

    As with his original letter on this subject, I find this further explanation to still be long on emotion and short on detail. Income and resident taxes are not figured at the whim of officials, they are based on specific formulas applied to one’s amount of income. If these taxes are not taken out at the source by an employer, it is the duty of the taxpayer to save up the appropriate amount to pay at the specified time. Why was the women only partially paying her ward taxes for the last five years? Was there some catastrophic event that prevented her from paying? Could she have applied for a waiver or adjustment? Should she have declared bankruptcy? Was the amount of ward tax levied on her income particularly unusual or unreasonable? If so, why and to what extent? Also keep in mind that those who cannot pay are responsible for explaining and proving why they cannot pay.

    There are specific procedures that must be followed, but in the United States the Internal Revenue Service can and does legally seize money from wages, bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc. to settle unpaid tax. So it does not surprise me that the ward may have taken money either from her wages or bank account. Again the question is whether the ward tax levied is of the norm and whether proper procedures have been followed. Mr. O’Leary say there was no prior notice, but how does he know that? I would hope the woman will take advantage of consultation with lawyers or other advocates (who that would be will depend on where she lives etc., in many places free help is available) who will help her address the issues in a step-by-step fashion and eventually facilitate an alleviation of her situation, regardless of what the root cause was.