The Current Japan Gift Tax Law
Changes in the gift tax laws were proposed in December 2020 to encourage more foreigners and expatriates to migrate to Japan and promote the employment of highly skilled foreigners. They were reviewed by the Japanese parliament in early 2021 and became effective on April 1st, 2021.
With the new changes in the Japan gift tax law, any overseas asset received by expatriates, who reside overseas or in Japan temporarily, is excluded from the scope of taxable gift assets when the gift is given by a foreigner who resides in Japan, regardless of their residence period.
This updated law is with respect to the length of the period of residence in Japan and does not apply to the recipient of overseas assets. In fact, with this new law, if the expatriates (both the donor and the recipient) have a “table 2” visa, they will not be exempted from paying the gift tax.
The amendment to the gift tax law takes effect on two scenarios:
- Where the donor of the asset is an expatriate who resides in Japan
- Where the donor of the asset is an expatriate who offers the gift after leaving Japan.
In the first case, the recipient of the gifted asset will be exempted from the gift tax regardless of their residence period.
In the second case, the recipient of the gifted asset will also be exempted from the gift tax, regardless of their residence period, whether they reside in Japan or not before the gifting.
For instance, suppose an expatriate who does not have a permanent residency in Japan receives a gift that’s above the gift tax threshold from another expatriate or a non-Japanese national who resides in Japan or gives the gift before leaving Japan. In that case, the recipient will be exempted from paying the gift tax.
In contrast, if an expatriate’s child receives a gift (above the gift tax threshold) from his/her grandparents who live outside Japan, the child will need to file a gift tax return and pay the gift tax because he/she is classified to have a table 2 Visa.
Effects of Changes in The Gift Tax Laws on Expats in Japan
The changes in the gift tax laws have both positive and negative effects on expatriates living in Japan, depending on their residence periods.
Since foreigners with “Table 1” visas cannot stay permanently in Japan, these changes in the law will relieve short-term residents of the burden of being subject to the gift tax on overseas assets. In addition, these changes will reduce the concerns some expatriates might have about seeking and accepting assignments in Japan. It will also encourage more skilled personnel to seek employment in the country.
However, since these reviewed gift tax laws do not address those with “table 2” visas, it means that long-term foreigners will have their overseas assets exposed to the gift tax laws, even up to (five) 5 years after they depart Japan.