Do You Have To Pay Inheritance Tax Twice On An Overseas Inheritance in Japan?

inheritance and estate tax on foreign assets in japan

Inheritance holds immense significance for individuals and families, giving increased financial stability and continuity to a family’s generational wealth. Unfortunately, as its many foreign residents may know, Japan’s high inheritance tax rates can threaten the value of overseas inheritances. But what about your home country’s taxes? Do these compound with Japanese inheritance tax to pose a risk of double taxation for an overseas inheritance when you live in Japan? 

Inheritance Law and Taxation in Japan

Japan has a comprehensive system in place for levying inheritance tax on the transfer of assets and wealth from one generation to the next. The inheritance tax laws in Japan govern the taxation of inherited assets, including financial assets, property, and personal belongings. 

Japan’s inheritance tax system stands out for its high tax rates and progressive structure. As inherited asset values increase, tax rates escalate accordingly. Larger inheritances are subject to higher tax brackets, potentially placing significant tax burdens on beneficiaries. Here’s a breakdown of how it works:

Inheritance Law and Taxation in Japan
  • -Japan’s Inheritance Tax Rate: The tax rate ranges from 10% to 55% and is calculated by deducting an exemption of ¥30 million plus ¥6 million per heir from the total estate. If the inheritance exceeds 600 million yen, the tax bracket of 55% applies. The tax rate depends on the relationship between the deceased and the inheritor, with the tax-free threshold varying accordingly.
  • -Tax On Worldwide Assets: The tax is imposed on worldwide assets if either the deceased or the inheritor has been a resident in Japan for 10 out of the last 15 years. This differs from many other countries that only tax assets within their own jurisdiction.
  • -Tax Liability For Multiple Heirs: The tax is divided among the heirs based on their respective shares of the inheritance. This means that each heir’s tax responsibility is calculated separately, taking into account the portion of the total assets they receive.

Overseas Inheritance – Benefits of Bilateral Tax Agreements Between Countries

Bilateral tax agreements help those living abroad avoid excess taxation on their inheritances. Given Japan’s high tax rates, this can make a significant difference in the amount of wealth that you can keep from your inheritance. Bilateral tax agreements allow for:

  • Avoidance of double taxation: Bilateral tax agreements help foreign individuals in Japan with overseas income or assets avoid being taxed on the same income or assets in both Japan and their home country.
  • Reduced tax burden: These agreements provide mechanisms such as tax credits, exemptions, or deductions, allowing foreign individuals in Japan to reduce their overall tax liabilities by offsetting taxes paid in their home country against taxes owed in Japan.
  • Fair and equitable taxation: Bilateral tax agreements ensure that foreign individuals in Japan are taxed fairly, taking into account their residency status, income sources, and specific provisions outlined in the agreement.
  • Increased tax certainty: These agreements provide clarity and certainty regarding tax obligations for foreign individuals in Japan, minimizing ambiguity and potential disputes between tax authorities of different countries.
  • Encouragement of foreign investment: Bilateral tax agreements create a favorable environment for foreign investment in Japan by providing tax relief, which promotes economic growth, encourages international business activities and strengthens bilateral relations.
  • Facilitated compliance: Clear rules and provisions outlined in bilateral tax agreements make it easier for foreign individuals in Japan to comply with tax regulations, reducing the risk of unintentional non-compliance and associated penalties.

How Do Bilateral Taxation Agreements Work In Japan?

How Do Bilateral Taxation Agreements Work In Japan?

Bilateral taxation agreements are essential frameworks established between two countries to address the issue of double taxation. These agreements provide rules and guidelines to ensure fair and equitable taxation for individuals and businesses with assets and income in both countries involved.

Bilateral tax treaties hold significant importance in mitigating the risk of double taxation. These treaties provide clarity and certainty by specifying how income and assets will be taxed when they are subject to taxation in both countries. These agreements promote cross-border trade, investment, and economic cooperation by eliminating or reducing the risk of unfair, or unfavorable tax outcomes.

Countries that have bilateral tax agreements in place often adopt a credit system to alleviate double taxation concerns. This credit system allows taxpayers to offset taxes paid in one country against their tax liability in the other. It ensures that taxpayers are not unfairly burdened with paying taxes twice on the same income or assets.

Here is an example using the bilateral tax agreement between the U.S. and Japan:

U.S. citizens are allowed a deduction of $12,920,000 (2023) from the estate tax calculated on all inheritable property. To ensure fairness, the deduction from the U.S. federal estate tax is calculated by multiplying $12.92 million by the ratio of the value of the U.S. property to the value of the worldwide estate. 

Thus, if a U.S. citizen inherited property valued at 100 million yen and the total estate worldwide (including the U.S. property) is valued at 1 billion yen, the tax deduction would be $11.4 million x (100 million yen / 1 billion yen) = $1.14 million. This calculation ensures that the deduction aligns appropriately with the proportion of U.S. property within the overall estate.

How Credit Systems Work In Bilateral Agreements

How Credit Systems Work In Bilateral Agreements Article 20-2 of the Japanese Estate Tax Law

Article 20-2 of the Japanese Estate Tax Law outlines provisions for avoiding double taxation. It states that if an individual acquires property outside Japan through inheritance or bequest and is taxed on that property in the country of acquisition, they are entitled to a tax credit in Japan. The credit is equal to the amount of tax paid on the property in the foreign jurisdiction, reducing the overall tax liability in Japan.

Credit for Estate Tax Paid in the U.S.

Specifically, when it comes to estate tax paid in the United States, Article 20-2 allows for a deduction of the amount paid from the estate tax payable in Japan. This credit provision does not exempt individuals from filing a tax return in the United States. Rather, it enables them to deduct the estate tax amount already paid in the U.S. from their Japanese tax liability, thereby avoiding double taxation on the same property.

By implementing the credit system and adhering to Article 20-2 of the Japanese Estate Tax Law, individuals can benefit from reduced tax liabilities and mitigate the potential for double taxation.

Are You At Risk Of Double Taxation On Your International Inheritance When Living In Japan?

Implications For Foreign People Expecting An Inheritance While Living In Japan

Double taxation refers to a situation in which a taxpayer must pay taxes on the same income or assets in two or more different jurisdictions. This occurs when two or more countries have the authority to tax the same income, resulting in potential overlapping tax liabilities.

In many cases, international tax treaties protect people living abroad from double taxation. In the case of Japan, these treaties – known as “bilateral tax agreements” operate on a credit system. For most people, this credit system will mean they do not have to pay inheritance tax twice.

Implications For Foreign People Expecting An Overseas Inheritance While Living In Japan

If you are living in Japan and anticipate being the beneficiary of an inheritance from overseas, you may have concerns about navigating the complexities of cross-border taxation. Understanding the bilateral agreement between your home country and Japan can help you prepare for your inheritance and reduce your tax liability. 

However, these tax laws alone will not protect your inheritance entirely. Preserving your inherited wealth requires proper planning. A financial adviser can help you create a complete strategy to maximize tax savings and invest your wealth so that it keeps growing.

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