Kanji Cheat Sheets

Kanji Cheat Sheet: Filing Taxes in Japan

Make filing taxes a little less of a headache.

Filing taxes in Japan can seem like a daunting prospect. However, with a few key terms, you will soon be filing like a professional accountant—no briefcase or perfectly pressed suit required.

We’ve all been there. Smiling in anticipation as we open our first payslip, but when we open the letter, the amount is a lot smaller than we expected. You try to work out why, but it’s full of complicated kanji like しょとくぜい (income tax) and しゃかいけん (social insurance).

Different types of taxes

The answer to your decreased wages is that most of us have deductions beyond income tax like social insurance and resident’s tax (じゅうみんぜい). For the most part, these are simply the expenses that come with living and working in Japan.

Here are some taxes that all of us need to get familiar with.

English Kanji Romaji
National tax 国税 koku-zei
Local tax 地方税 chihou-zei
Resident’s tax 住民税 jyuumin-zei
Income tax 所得税 sho-toku-zei
Consumption tax 消費税 sho-hi-zei
Property tax 固定資産税 kotei-shisan-zei
Automobile tax 自動車税 jidousha-zei

Filling out tax forms

At the end of the fiscal year, most people will head to their local tax office to file. It can be annoying, but a lot of the deductions from your paycheck are refundable. Take the time to fill out your tax forms properly, and you’ll be surprised by how much money you get back. Most of us will likely get some of our げんせんちょうしゅう (withholding tax) back, for example.

Of course, other taxes simply disappear into that bottomless void of bureaucracy. We’d like to think that ours was used for building a bridge or something.

Look out for these words on your tax forms.

English Kanji Romaji
The tax that is withheld from your salary every month form 源泉徴収 gensen-chou-shuu
Gross salary 支払金額 shi-harai-kingaku
Income after employment income deduction 給与所得後の金額 kyuuyo-shotoku-go no kingaku
Source of income 源泉所得税 gensen-shotoku-zei
Deduction 控除 koujyo
Life insurance 生命保険料 seimei-hoken-ryou
Social insurance premiums 社会保険料 shakai-hoken-ryou
Earthquake insurance 地震保険料 jishin-hoken-ryou
Special deduction for housing loans etc. 住宅借入金等特別控除 jyuutaku-kari’irekin-tou-tokubetsu-koujyo

Watch out for keigo

Filling out tax documents can be especially intimidating as a lot of words that learners are familiar with are changed for the official forms. For example, to refer to the person’s name, instead of the word まえ that most learners are familiar with, めい will sometimes be written on the official forms instead. Similarly, やくしょくめい is used for “job title” instead of the more common 事.ごと

This is a formal way of Japanese known as keigo (けい). It can seem completely different from “regular Japanese” thanks to its use of different verbs, nouns, and even grammar. One good thing about the formal language is that once you master its rules, it is relatively straightforward.

Watch out for these terms on your tax form and other official documents.

English Kanji Romaji
Name 氏名 shimei
Date of birth 受給者生年月日 jukyuusya-seinen-gappi
Employer 支払者 shiharai-sha
Spouse (Important for certain tax statuses) 配偶者 haiguusha
Dependent 扶養 fuyou
Dependents under the age of 16 16歳未満の扶養親族 jyuurokusaimiman no fuyoushinzoku

Hopefully, with these words at your disposal, you can walk into the tax office and dazzle them with your knowledge of the language. At the very least, you’ll get a little more money back than you expected.

Even if you don’t, the tax season is a great way to brush up on your kanji and polite Japanese. You’re going to be using these words every year when tax season comes.

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