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On inheritance tax, net banking and retiring in Japan

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Special To The Japan Times

This week, Lifelines plays catch-up with some useful tips that have come in from readers over the past few months. However, we start off with a follow-up question from reader S.S. in response to last month’s column on recent changes in Japan’s inheritance tax laws (bit.ly/jtinheritax) It seems S.S. spends part of the year in Japan and the rest of the time abroad. He writes:

How many months in a year does one have to be in Japan to be considered as residing or living in Japan? Are there other factors besides length of stay that determine residency status? Also, regarding the 10-year residency calculation, is it 10 consecutive years or any 10-year period?

Let’s clarify the second question first. As noted in last month’s column, the new laws apply to people who hold a “table 2 visa” (such as spouse visa or permanent resident) and those who have lived in Japan for more than 10 years within the past 15 years (i.e., “long-term residents”).

“Regarding the 10-years residency calculation, it is not consecutive but the total in the last 15 years,” says Yuko Urushimatsu, the taxation expert who also helped with the previous column.

The answer to the reader’s first question isn’t so cut and dried. Like so many things regarding Japanese bureaucracy, the best explanation is probably “It depends.”

“One’s address or 住所 (jūshō) is defined just as his/her base of living, and is judged comprehensively based on the actual situation and conditions. It may be based on several objective factors such as period of stay in Japan, occupation, residence, the location of spouse and children, the location of assets, etc.,” notes Urushimatsu. “As with any taxation issues, if the reader is in a difficult situation, I recommend that he consult with a local tax office or a tax consultant directly on the specifics.”

Internet banking suggestion

In May, Lifelines featured a reader who was having international banking issues (bit.ly/jtbankrelocate) She and her Japanese spouse were returning to her home country for an extended period, but were still getting income from freelance contracts in Japan.

They were astounded to find that their respective banks, both major Japanese financial institutions, won’t allow nonresidents to use internet banking. Having permanent residence or Japanese nationality made no difference. Fortunately, they eventually found that Japan Post’s banking system had no such stipulations on residence.

In response to the column, reader C.C. wrote in with a recommendation.

“I have found TransferWise to solve all these problems at the best rate that banks cannot touch. I think I first heard about it in a commercial on CNN. I checked out their whole system and am now using it very successfully for moving money from any account in a bank around the world back and forth without any help from my banks.”

TransferWise can be found at www.transferwise.com/jp.

Growing old on these isles

Finally, here are two well-recommended resources that will be of interest to those staying long-term in Japan. For many of us, planning for retirement is probably up there with having a tooth pulled in terms of fun activities, so we tend to put it off, thinking we will eventually get round to it “someday.” The following website and book help make things easier.

Sendai-based teacher Ben Tanaka runs the very informative Retire Japan website (www.retirejapan.info). There is a wealth of information for the foreign community here. And American writer Wilhelmina Penn, who has lived in Japan for over 40 years, has recently published “The Expat’s Guide to Growing Old in Japan.” You can find a review on the Retire Japan website (www.retirejapan.info/blog/interview-wilhelmina-penn) and order the book from Amazon Japan.

Kiwi Louise George Kittaka has been based in Japan since she was 20. In the ensuing years she has survived PTA duty for three kids in the Japanese education system and singing live on national TV for the NHK “Nodo Jiman” show, among other things. Send all your questions and comments to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp.