Off to file those Japanese taxes today!

I didn’t let the rain get in the way of my walk over to the Shibuya tax office. It was time to get those taxes in!

I know that the deadline for people who owe is sometime in March—March 15? But I was someone due a refund, and so I could have submitted this thing a while ago. Stupid me, I confuse what they say about filing up to February 15 if you are due a refund, with not filing until February 15! Usually, I don’t get a refund, that’s why.

Here’s what the Taxpayer Guide for Foreigners has to tell you (and God bless ’em that they put it in English, even if it is a little awkward): “When you can receive tax refund, you can file your final return before, February 15, 2010.”

For me, Japan has been feast or famine. Last year, it was famine. But my employer really did a bit of overwithholding before my ass was unceremoniously (and I maintain, illegally) sent out the door. So for 2009, I was due a refund.

So last night around 3 in the morning, I transferred the information I had put into my spreadsheet over to one of those colorful Japanese tax forms. I have to wonder whether the father of modern Japanese taxation, Columbia University professor Carl Shoup, was behind that one. The saying is that the Japanese “blue form” in corporate taxation is due to Shoup’s learning in the Occupation that Japanese admired the color blue, and so that was used for the form for companies to submit their taxes.

The individual form is multi-colored, which is, I would say, equally pleasing. But the most pleasing is when you get dough back!

But get this one: the form is in Japanese, of course. I studied it carefully a few years ago. But I guess at 3 am, not everything comes to mind. So the box where the “tax due” is supposed to go, got my “refund” number instead! Oh no! Because when I went to submit the thing this afternoon, the man at the counter was asking me how I wanted to pay the amount due!

No no! It’s a refund. “I can receive refund. Which is why I can file final return before February 15!” (No, I didn’t say that!)

Fortunately, I made myself clear that I had made a mistake, and the man at the counter was kind enough to fix my mistake for me. (It was my mistake after all, not his.)

And the form was submitted, to whatever end.

The things I worry about:

1) My old company withheld a ton of national tax. What happens if they pretend they didn’t? It’s a big international firm—the kind with “international” in the name. What if the one department doesn’t know what the other department did?

2) Because I had a great 2008, I paid a lot for health insurance the next year. No offense to the Ron Kesslerites of Japan, but I play by Japan’s rules. Which meant that I had a big social insurance bill for 2009, and not the kind of income I had had before. (I am starting to sound a bit like Debito on the income side, but, yeah, this is a country where you can have it and suddenly have less. Or incrementally have less. That’s what a deflationary environment does.)

What if the tax office wants to challenge the fact that I was paying 2009 premiums off a 2008 income?

3) What if there is some other “glitch” that I didn’t catch in the all-in-English taxpayer’s guide which is so kindly provided by the Japanese Tax Agency? I mean, American CPA and all, I religiously read through everything (except the boring parts) of booklets like that. How embarrassing if it turns out that I made a major mistake somewhere?

Well, fingers crossed, I did submit my document, with even side income. Not everyone does that.