Japan Import Tax: The Basics

If you live in Japan, it's probably likely you've ordered something from overseas at some point in time, whether it's clothes, shoes, or dry goods, among other things. If you've ordered anything expensive, or made from leather, then you've probably, most likely, had to pay import tax.

On the other hand, if you have your mom or your best friend or someone send you stuff (or in my case, have some things sent to mom to save on shipping by stuffing everything into a space bag to fit into a flat-rate box...), you may not have had to pay any import taxes at all.

Why is that? For obvious reasons, we know some things will inevitably attract the attention of customs officers (leather shoes ordered from somewhere, for example), while a box of your favorite snacks from your friend worth less than 10,000 yen will probably not be given much more than a glance.

If you're interested in understanding the very basics of the personal imports system (it's more complex than one article, of course), I covered it in last week's Lifelines column:

Import tax: a complex, seemingly arbitrary minefield (Japan Times, March 13, 2012)

One import tax "loophole" many of you may already know about and take advantage of is labeling the package as a "gift." As long as it's sent from an individual and worth less than 10,000 yen, you shouldn't have to pay any tariffs on it. If my mom or someone sends me things, I usually have them do this and make sure the amount listed is less than 10,000 yen (or in their case, $100 USD, not counting the exchange rate). So far so good.

Have you had to pay tariffs on anything you've received from overseas while living in Japan? If so, what type of items were they? Have you had to pay anything for "gifts"? Let us know below!

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