Japanese authorities have begun referring to the national health insurance payment as a tax.

Another H/T to the Let’s Japan BBS.

Ibaraki Prefecture towns have begun referring to the health insurance premium as a tax, not a contribution.

For example, the town of Tone–the “town of radiant smiles”.

Some people feel that this is a noteworthy development, because previously the debate has been whether or not to pay something that really isn’t treated as a tax. Well, now, in some quarters of Japan, this payment is being referred to as a tax; and, as I have been saying for a couple years now, it is only inevitable that it begins to be collected as a tax.

One Wikia article writer suggests that you make sure to turn in your Alien Registration Card upon permanently leaving Japan–or leaving for a long-term–unless you don’t want to get stuck being billed while in absentia.

As I have been saying, when the Zairyuu card comes into force, there will probably still be way to dodge the health and pension systems in japan. But, it will be more obvious that that is what you’re doing. The risk will be present, that a more diligent Ward office will follow up with you or your employer about things that you are really supposed to be in, while in Japan.

[Update 10/9/11: I appreciate your various anecdotes, and if you want to comment, always feel free. When I write about this, you know, I am just guessing–because I’m not there. Knowing how “Japan” operates, though, you can best believe that if they start going for people who don’t pay, it won’t be through major announcement. It will be by catching a handful, and letting word get out. Things like what are going on in Ibaraki.

The point that you dodgers (if that’s you) have going for you is that business corruption is not unknown in Japan. A business like ALT Dispatch or an Eikaiwa will say, this “tax” WILL PUT BE OUT OF BUSINESS!!! BOO HOO!!! and the crony bureaucrat will back off. Expect to see this happen, still, going forward . . . ]

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9 comments

  1. Mumei · October 9, 2011

    > One Wikia article writer suggests that you make sure to turn in your Alien Registration Card upon permanently leaving Japan–or leaving for a long-term–unless you don’t want to get stuck being billed while in absentia.

    Speaking from experience, I think that that is unlikely.
    A previous Korean girlfriend needed to return home for a while. She had intented to come back to Japan so had kept her card, but due to various things ultimately was unable to return.
    She had listed my phone number as a secondary point of contact at the local kuyakusho.
    They called me two or three times trying to contact her due to missing payments.
    Even though I was willing to pay them, they told me that the bills were officially invalid until they positively reached her.
    And further, that after a fixed period of time (I do not recall the time frame) any unpaided bills would be canceled and could not later be collected.
    Needless to say, they do not call anymore.

    • hoofin · October 9, 2011

      I agree that enforcement has been lax. I am looking at anecdotes that go to whether there has now been an uptick in enforcement—especially with the new Zairyu Card coming in July.

      By the way, I find it funny that people always talk about the payment into the Japanese health insurance in terms of what they think they actually get, rather than at the fact that they are being covered for risks. They are “backstopped” for a whole lot of bills, in the event something goes wrong.

  2. Johnny T · October 9, 2011

    Looking through the brief of the scheme I’m on, part of the premiums I pay (or my company pays more accurately) basically are a subsidy to older people.

    The rights or wrongs of that aside, it effectively makes it a tax regardless of what you call it.

  3. SH · October 11, 2011

    Hi hoofin,

    Sorry for the slightly off-topic comment, but I need help and you seem to know an awful lot about the Japanese nenkin system.
    I am an American that was hired by a Japanese company in the U.S. and transferred temporarily (~2.5 years) to work in their head office in Tokyo. My stint is almost up and my (Japanese) wife and I have a decision to make.
    While I’ve been working here, ~1/3 of my salary has continued to be paid in USD into my US bank account, and my company has continued to deduct my U.S. social security tax from this payment. I have NOT been paying nenkin in Japan.
    My wife has about 5 years of work under her belt in both Japan and the U.S. (10 years total), but has not been working here in Japan for the past 2.5 years. She has also not been paying any nenkin.

    I read and hear about both kousei nenkin and kokumin nenkin. The US government’s website about the Totalization Agreement says:

    the agreement covers Social Security taxes (including the Japanese health insurance portion, in some cases) and Social Security retirement, disability and survivors benefits. It doesn’t cover the National Pension Fund and the Employees’ Pension Fund which are corporate pension funds under which participation and contributions are voluntary. The pension system for members of local assemblies, a supplemental pension system for local government workers, is also not covered by the agreement. The agreement also doesn’t apply to the Old-Age Welfare Pension or other Japanese non-contributory, means-tested allowances paid from general revenues.

    What exactly is covered and what is not? When my wife went to the local city office where her parents live to change her registered address in preparation for our move back to the U.S., they told her that she should pay the past two years worth of kousei nenkin in order to be able to receive full benefits. Suddenly paying the past two years worth of kousei nenkin would cost more than USD 3500, which is no small amount of cash. Should we pay or not?

    • SH · October 11, 2011

      Sorry. I just re-read my post and realized that I basically asked you to explain the whole nenkin system to me. I will try to focus my question better:

      By looking at the US Social Security website, it seems as though the credits by wife would earn by paying the USD 3500 worth of nenkin now would only help her to achieve the minimum number of working years necessary to qualify for social security (10 years), but does not actually affect the AMOUNT that she would be paid. Is this correct?

      If so, if we are fairly certain that my wife will continue her career once we return to the U.S. (and therefore have no problems meeting the minimum qualification), is there any reason to pay the $3500 worth of nenkin now?

      Thanks again!
      SH

      • hoofin · October 11, 2011

        You are correct—that must be the missing piece.

        If your wife had 5 years in America, and only 3 in Japan, she needs two more in Japan to make America’s “40 credits”. (Each year is approximately 4 credits, so you can obviously do that in as little as just over 8 years, depending on hire-and-leave dates).

        There is a bit of a twist to this, you know. In a plain vanilla analysis, you are absolutely right. If your wife can get 40 credits in America, without the help of totalization, she can collect social security. BUT she can also get 50% of your social security check, at her retirement, as long as you have been married 10 years. She can also collect your full check, as a survivor.

        If she relies on a totalization formula for her own benefit, you are right, that she only gets the fractional check. Whatever 5 years gives as a fraction of the 35-year check.

        If she pays into Japanese nenkin, and manages to get 25 years combined with America, she would get the nenkin check as well. I don’t think the survivor benefits are affected by that—but don’t hold me to the answer.

        The reason to pay the $3500 would be to build a possible annuity, if there were some chance of making 25 years between the two countries. A lot of the young kids working in Japan don’t realize that they will qualify for the nenkin once they get those years plus their American work to be 25 years—even if they only paid one month to Japan . . .

    • hoofin · October 11, 2011

      The ground rule, so to speak, is that your wife should be paying into kokumin nenkin simply as a resident of Japan. There isn’t any spousal exemption.

      The ward office rep, who most likely does not have your wife’s US social security record, may have been saying what the calculation would be to qualify for Japanese Nenkin (25 years). I don’t have enough facts to know. If the story were more, like, your wife saying she had 5 years in America’s social security, and the nenkin rep knew about totalization—and the fact that you only need 40 credits (10 years) in America—then maybe she was given a good answer. It’s hard to tell without knowing the other piece.

  4. mfgrape · April 4, 2012

    I’d happily join the Japanese Health Scheme if they’d simply cut the backpay. I was in Eikaiwa for my first few years in Japan and naively believed that my company was providing me with insurance that fulfilled the insurance requirements. Heck, coming from the states, I was thrilled to find a company that offered insurance. Though, after three years backpay scandals started to hit the fan and I realized that my company insurance was not actually what it was made out to be, unfortunately that would probably guarantee me a 2 million yen bill for back payments. Realistically, I think if the Japanese government dropped the backpay requirement for a certain length of time after the new immigration set up is up and running, a lot more people would go down to their ward offices and sign up. As the situation is now, they have many many foreigners not paying in, they must pay people to hunt down these foreigners one at a time and then hope they can get they to pay up willingly or they have to incur more costs just to pursue them. Clearly there is enough blame to go around from naive foreigners to greedy companies to incompetent government officials. But, getting everyone enrolled would be pretty simple to do if they opted to be a little flexible with the back payments.

    • hoofin · April 4, 2012

      I agree with you, as a generality, that the ward office ought to be flexible about the back payments, if they are enrolling someone who had already been in the country and “didn’t know” about the specific requirements. Whether this is a total premium holiday, or a generous payment plan, I guess, whatever works.

      It is a scandal that people are not put on the appropriate health and pension coverages when they arrive in Japan. I hope the new residence recording system fixes that, because I hate to think I have to pay extra taxes when these folks show up back in America years from now, and have to go on SSI.

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