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Business with Japan - Possible Taxation of Imported E-Services

11 August 2014

The Ministry of Finance recently submitted a concrete proposal to the International Taxation Discussion Group of the Government Tax Commission on the possibility of levying Japanese Consumption Tax (JCT) on electronic supplies by foreign corporations. The new rules would affect supplies of electronic books, music, software, applications etc. and could take effect from 1 October 2015.

As a result of the proposal, from 1 October 2015 or later, the JCT Law may be amended to subject electronic supplies by foreign corporations to JCT.

Japan will begin collecting taxes on the sale of downloaded content such as music and eBooks from distributors such as Amazon as early as the fiscal year 2015. Japanese firms buying foreign e-content will have to pay the tax, while domestic firms will have to register with the local tax authority and pay the tax.

Japanese domestic firms will be at a disadvantage as they pay taxes levied on domestic servers while foreign companies currently don’t have to pay the tax. Companies like Microsoft, Apple and Amazon will be able to sell music and eBooks at the same price as domestic firms but avoid the tax.

In order to compete with foreign distributors, a few Japanese vendors have acquired overseas distributors, to avoid the consumption tax.

The government hopes to put the tax on foreign downloads into effect by October 2015 when the Japanese sales tax rises to 10%. Lawmakers initially tried to enact the change by the spring when the tax rose from 5% to 8%, but this was put on hold to sort out the details of the change. 

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