Japan’s departure tax gets final Diet approval

Kyodo

A day after a bill specifying how the government will use funds from a ¥1,000 departure tax passed through the Diet, the tax itself received final approval Wednesday in Tokyo.

Starting next year, travelers will be required to pay the levy when they leave Japan by airplane or ship.

The new tax, scheduled to be introduced Jan. 7, 2019, is designed to build necessary infrastructure and improve services to accommodate an expected increase in visitor numbers to Japan leading up to and beyond the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Under the law endorsed by the House of Councillors, toddlers under the age of 2 and transit passengers leaving Japan within 24 hours of arrival will be exempted.

The country has enjoyed a surge of inbound tourist numbers, who have helped lift the world’s third-largest economy in recent years. The government hopes to boost tourism using the departure tax — expected to raise ¥43 billion a year — as it seeks to attract 40 million visitors annually by 2020.

Between January and March next year, Tokyo estimates revenue from the new tax will reach ¥6 billion and plans to allocate part of it to the installation of gates equipped with facial recognition.

The Diet had already passed legislation limiting the use of departure tax revenue to tourism-related projects, countering criticism that it could be diverted for other purposes.

A new permanent tax will be adopted for the first time since 1992. Departure tax has already been introduced in such countries as Australia and South Korea.