How Do Foreign Tax Credits Work In Japan

does japan have double taxation?

Regardless of where you live, dealing with taxes can be confusing and frustrating. For those living in a foreign country, these issues only compound as you have to deal with taxes in multiple countries and the potential of double taxation. Fortunately, many countries have created bilateral tax agreements and tax credits that prevent double taxation to help ensure fairness for international residents. But how do these work in Japan, and how can you use them to your advantage as a foreign resident?

What Is Double Taxation And How Do Tax Treaties Prevent It?

For people living in Japan for over 5 years, permanent residents, and people who hold the “Spouse or dependent of a Japanese national” visa status Japan considers all income – whether domestically earned or foreign-earned – taxable. This means that foreign residents run the risk of having their income taxed twice – once by the country in which the income is produced and once by their country of residence. This is known as “double taxation” as the same unit of money will be taxed twice. Some people may try to mitigate this risk by less scrupulous means (i.e. tax evasion). 


Tax treaties, (also known as “double taxation treaties” or “bilateral tax agreements”), are agreements between countries designed to prevent double taxation as well as tax evasion efforts that could occur as a result. They do so by clarifying taxation laws for various types of income. For foreign residents in Japan, this can offer financial relief and clearer tax obligations.

Free financial review with an english speaking financial adviser Japan

Foreign Tax Credits: How To Avoid Double Taxation As A Resident In Japan

Bilateral tax agreements can take on different structures depending on the laws of the countries involved. Japan, specifically, offers a foreign tax credit system that allows for taxes paid abroad to be offset against local tax liabilities. If a resident in Japan pays foreign income tax (equivalent to Japanese income tax) in another country, they can credit this against their Japanese income tax. This credit system is based on a few key rules and terms:

    • Credit Limit for Income Tax: The amount one can claim as a credit is determined by multiplying the Japanese income tax for the year with the ratio of adjusted foreign income to the total income of the year.
    • Excess Credit: If the foreign income tax paid exceeds the credit limit, the excess can be credited against the “special income tax for reconstruction”. This is an extra tax imposed on top of the standard income tax in Japan. It is calculated at a rate of 2.1% of the base income tax amount, which typically refers to the income tax amount for a given year. There is, of course, a limit to the amount one can claim in excess credit, as there is with the primary credit.
    • What Is Double Taxation And How Do Tax Treaties Prevent It?
    • Defining Key Terms: These are terms you need to understand when applying the tax credit system. They include:
      • “Amount of income tax for the year”: This is the Japanese income tax after considering other credits and deductions.
      • “Total amount of income for the year”: This encompasses all income types, with some specifics around losses and deductions.
      • “Adjusted amount of foreign income for the year”: Essentially the foreign income, with stipulations for non-permanent residents and in cases where losses are claimed (i.e. the total amount of net income that would otherwise be subject to Japanese tax).
    • Special Provision for Moving Abroad: There’s a unique provision if you’re moving and will be taxed on asset transfers in your new country that were previously subject to Japan’s exit tax. If certain conditions are met, you can claim a foreign tax credit in Japan as if you had already paid that tax abroad.

By harnessing this system effectively, you can reduce your overall tax burden. Of course, given the complexity of taxation systems like this, that can be easier said than done. If you have a financial adviser experienced in international tax law, they can help you through this process. First, you’ll need to work with them to determine your eligibility.

What Income Tax Is Eligible For Claiming Foreign Tax Credits In Japan?

Naturally, the Japanese government wants to make sure they aren’t missing out on any taxable income. As such, there are rules dictating what income tax is eligible for claiming foreign tax credits. The tax credits should be claimed from income tax imposed by a foreign country or its local government. This must be based on the laws and regulations of that foreign country with individual income as the tax base (i.e. tax credits claimed must be based on foreign income tax or an equivalent system). There are specific exclusions, and the following types of taxes or situations are not eligible for the foreign tax credit:

  • What Income Tax Is Eligible For Claiming Foreign Tax Credits In Japan?
  • -Taxes that a person can voluntarily request to be refunded after payment.
  • -Taxes where the payer can arbitrarily decide the deferment period for payment.
  • -Taxes where the rate is determined from multiple options via an agreement with foreign authorities, especially if the chosen rate exceeds the lowest available rate.
  • -Incidental taxes, such as additional tax or delinquent tax.
  • -Levies on income from unnatural or non-standard transactions, like certain structured transactions in finance.
  • -Charges related to capital transactions, like refunds from capital contributions.
  • -Taxes on income earned during a period when one was not a resident, prior to the current year.
  • -Any tax categories specifically excluded from the foreign tax credit as per tax treaties.

If you meet the requirements to claim foreign tax credits on your Japanese income tax, you can file these claims during your regular filing period. The standard tax year in Japan extends from January 1 to December 31, with the filing deadline of March 15 of the following year. However, making the most of potential tax credits and other income tax deductions means preparing early. Working with your adviser to create a consistent strategy for tax planning throughout the year rather than waiting until “tax season” can help you maximize your tax strategy and minimize your tax burden.

Are There Any Limitations On The Foreign Tax Credit In Japan?

While foreign tax credits provide relief from double taxation, it’s vital to understand their confines – particularly the calculation constraints and the type of foreign taxes that qualify – to maximize benefits and maintain compliance. These are some of the limitations to consider:

  • Are There Any Limitations On The Foreign Tax Credit in Japan
  • Income Tax Deduction Limit: It’s given by the formula: Income Tax for the Year × (Overseas Income for the Year / Total Income for the Year).
    • If the foreign income tax is below this limit, the entire foreign tax amount can be credited.
    • If the foreign income tax exceeds this limit, the creditable amount is the sum of:
      • -The income tax deduction limit.
      • -The lesser of: 
        • i. The excess foreign income tax after deducting the income tax limit. 
        • ii. A calculated limit for the special reconstruction income tax, given by: Special Reconstruction Income Tax for the Year × (Overseas Income for the Year / Total Income for the Year).
  • Eligibility Restrictions: Only certain foreign income taxes qualify for the foreign tax credit. Moreover, it’s essential to calculate the limit based on the income tax amount for the relevant year.

Other Tax-Saving Strategies For Expats And Foreign People In Japan

Foreign residents in Japan face a complex tax environment, especially when juggling obligations both domestically and abroad. To minimize potential pitfalls and ensure one’s financial well-being, consider the following tax-saving strategies:

  • Tax-Saving Strategies For Expats And Foreign People In Japan
  • -Keeping Accurate Records: Given Japan’s meticulous approach to taxation, it is vital to maintain thorough records. This involves documenting all global incomes, taxes paid in other countries, and any transactions that could be subject to special provisions, like capital gains from moving abroad. Accurate documentation can streamline the tax filing process and ensure you’re receiving all entitled credits.
  • -Utilizing Tax-Advantaged Accounts: As an English language speaker you have access to international investment accounts that benefit from tax-deferral. By saving and investing using this type of account you reduce both your reporting and tax-paying obligations.
  • -Staying Updated on Tax Changes: Japan’s tax regulations, like the special income tax for reconstruction and other provisions, can change. Staying informed about these alterations means you can avoid unexpected tax liabilities. If you don’t want to regularly review official government releases, consider working with a financial adviser or planner that keeps up to date with the rules.

While living in Japan offers a myriad of experiences, it also brings unique tax implications. By adopting these strategies, you can not only comply with the law but also optimize your financial situation.

The Ultimate Tax-Saving Strategy: Consulting Your Financial Adviser

As you can see, the landscape of international taxation is fraught with intricate laws that can be difficult to navigate. If you don’t know how to navigate these laws, you could be losing a significant amount of your hard-earned income to excessive taxation. Rather than trying to manage all of the challenges of international tax laws by yourself, consider talking to a tax professional. An adviser who understands both Japanese tax law and the tax laws of your home country can guide you through the complexities, easing your financial burden and giving you peace of mind. 

Book A Free Introduction Call

Learn More About Working Together

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
free consultation with financial adviser in japan

Sources and Further Reading