If you're not a full-time regular company employee or a civil servant or a pensioner, then this month you will receive a notice from your local government informing you of how much local taxes (shiminzei, tominzei, kuminzei, kenminzei, etc.) you owe them. If you are a full-time regular company employee or a civil servant or a pensioner, then your local taxes, calculated from how much income you made last year, is divided by 12 and subtracted from your monthly pay for the next year. This fact of Japanese civic life often comes as a shock to new company workers, who don't pay any local tax their first year and then suddenly get socked with these taxes starting the second year of employment. Also, when full-time workers quit their companies they usually receive a notice in the mail telling them to immediately pay their local tax.

I can't find any statistics for how many of these people do pay immediately, but in the case of foreign workers, who may be going back to their home countries, I've heard local governments lose a lot of money because it's impossible to follow up on foreign scofflaws, unless they decide to return at a later date, at which point they may be waiting for them.

In some cases local taxes amount to more than income taxes. The lowest income tax bracket is 5 percent, but the average local tax is 10 percent (usually 4 percent prefectural plus 6 percent city, town, village or ward). I am self-employed and what with business expenses I usually pay at least twice as much local tax as I pay income tax, which means the notice that arrives in May can be quite a downer, especially since it comes at around the same time that the bill for my next year's national health insurance — also calculated based on my income tax return — arrives as well.