National

Government eyeing rework of ‘hometown tax donation’ system to curb use of gifts

Kyodo

The government is considering reworking furusato nōzei (hometown tax donation), a system that allows taxpayers who typically live in urban areas to make donations to rural areas in exchange for tax credit, officials said Wednesday.

The system was implemented in 2008 as a way to redistribute tax income to cash-strapped municipalities. But it has led to fierce competition for donations and attempts to attract taxpayers with sometimes-extravagant gifts.

According to the officials, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications may exclude municipalities that offer expensive gifts from the system.

The ministry last year called on local governments to keep the value of gifts below 30 percent of donations, and this April further asked them to not offer gifts that are not locally produced. While most have complied, some have not, giving them an unfair advantage.

According to a government survey, about 80 municipalities collected more than ¥1 billion ($9 million) in donations in fiscal 2017. Of those, 12 municipalities have said they do not plan on changing their gift giving practices.

The ministry is in talks with these municipalities and is close to reaching a final decision on the issue, the officials said.

In addition to the gifts — often high-end meat or fruits — taxpayers are incentivized to participate in the system by being given a rebate on that year’s income tax and a deduction on the following fiscal year’s residence tax.