If like many others who have lived and worked in Japan, you find yourself asking the question “how can I get a pension contribution refund in Japan” it may be prudent to familiarise yourself with the procedure for getting a contribution rebate. Firstly, if you live in Japan at this time then unfortunately you are currently unable to get a pension contribution refund. If you are currently in Japan, and leaving in the near future then you are in good stead to make the necessary preparations to ensure the procedure is painless. Similarly, if you have contributed for at least 6 months, left Japan not longer than 2 years ago, handed in your My Number, gaijin card and are no longer a Japan resident for tax purposes, then you may only be some tedious paperwork away from receiving up to 36 months of contribution money back.
The amount that you will receive back will depend upon your contributions and is case by case so a visit to the pensions office (the Nenkin Kikou) before leaving Japan will give you an objective picture of your currently accrued benefits, and potential withdrawal amount. You will probably have been contributing to the National Pension (kokumin nenkin) but may also have contributed to a Corporate/Employee Pension (kousei nenkin)- you are able to get a rebate from both.
It is important to be aware that Japan has a number of bilateral social security agreements which mean that your contributions to the Japanese National Pension System will contribute toward pension benefits in a member country. You lose these transferable benefits if you elect to take the lump sum withdrawal. As such, you should asses whether 36 months of contributions now is preferable to the accrued benefits that you would receive in your home country at retirement age (if your home country is an agreement holder– which should be checked).
Getting Money Back: The Procedure
1) If you want to make sure everything goes smoothly, visit the Pensions Office and confirm your current accrued balance, and estimated withdrawal eligibility. If you have lost your Pension Book, consider attaining a new one for posterity.
2) Pick up a Lump Sum Withdrawal Form from your City or Ward Office. Or download the pension rebate form from us here
3) Submit your application form, passport copy (the data page only; Visa pages etc are not required) and Japan Pension Book from your new country of residence (if you do not have your pension book, you need to at least know and include your pension number).
Send your documents to:
4) Approximately 4 months later your money will arrive in your specified bank account. It may be net of a 20% withholding tax. In certain circumstances you may be able to reclaim this deduction by employing a professional Japanese tax representative. Commonly, after having paid for this service the actual gain is nominal so look at the numbers first.
Ssimilarly, if you have already left Japan and you need somebody in Japan to do the groundwork on your behalf you should submit a Japanese Tax Representative Form which can be downloaded here so somebody else (perhaps a friend or coworker) can obtain your tax information on your behalf. The rebate process may seem convoluted but is relatively simple as long as you take the necessary measures before having left the country; meaning that you can file your own documents without requiring professional assistance.
If you have already left Japan your “tax representative” does not necessarily have to be a tax professional. They do however have to be willing to do some running around to municipal and tax offices on your behalf. As is often the case with financial planning, it pays to plan ahead.