How can an Umbrella Company Help with Contracting in Japan?
Most freelance workers aren’t superheroes who successfully tackle these issues all on their own. Some companies specialise in helping workers make the most out of their contracts.
They’re called Umbrella Companies (or, contractor management companies).
Basically, an Umbrella Company acts as your full-time employer, even though you maintain your independence as a contractor. They collect and filter payments from your clients, filtering out the necessary social security and fees. You send them your timesheets, and they send you payments.
Because they act as your “employer,’ they can sponsor you and provide a single work permit for multiple contracts in Japan. Even better, most are experts in Japan and expat tax law, meaning they’ll also help you optimise your earnings in Japan.
Although the Umbrella Company is technically your “employer,” you’re essentially freeing yourself to work even more independently. You still dictate your contracts, your hours, and your schedule. The Umbrella Company simply filters out the time-consuming admin and immigration issues, allowing you to focus on your new contract.
Can I Organise My Taxes and Work Permit Myself?
Generally, you need to have an employer sponsor in order to secure the appropriate work permit and work visa for Japan. This is easy for a regular employee in Japan, but not so simple for contractors.
If you’re working independently, it can be difficult to find clients willing to sponsor you. Moreover, even if your client can do this, you’ll need a new sponsor each time you decide to take on a new contract. Of course, every new sponsor will mean more paperwork and time for approval.
This is where an umbrella company is invaluable, as they can sponsor your initial work permit as a legal entity. Then you are free to switch clients under that same work permit.
Now, let’s get into the next pain point for contractors: taxes.
A Contractor’s Guide to Taxes in Japan
Are you familiar with the intricacies of the tax system in Japan, as well as your own country’s laws on overseas earnings? If you’re like the rest of us, figuring out (much less reducing) your tax liability in Japan and your home country can seem like full-time work in itself.
One of the most consistently challenging aspects of contracting in Japan is complying with the country’s tax system. As well as paying tax in Japan, you might also still be eligible to pay some tax in your home country, and understanding the legislation behind this can be a challenge.
If you decide to take a DIY approach on taxes, here is what you can expect:
How do I calculate my taxable income in Japan
If you’re working in Japan under a permanent contract, many companies will handle your tax under a PAYE (pay-as-you-earn) system similar to that in the UK. This means that they calculate and process your taxes in Japan for you each month and then send you a net wage.
This is the easiest way to handle your income tax in Japan, but contractors may not be offered this service because of their short stay with each company.
Anybody who can’t pay their tax in Japan through PAYE is left with the prospect of doing everything themselves.
Do you know much about Japan’s tax law? Does Japan have a tax treaty with your home country? You will need to find out or find someone who can help! Income tax in Japan can range from 5 to 45 per cent, and you need to be sure you are placed in the correct tax brackets.
Tax Filing as a Contractor in Japan
|When Do You Need to Lodge Your Tax Return?||The calendar year ends on 31 December. The lodging of tax returns begins on 15 February. Note: refund returns (explained below) can be filed prior to 16 February so it is recommended that these returns be filed as early as possible.|
|Tax Filing Deadline||15 March|
|Can you file it online?||Yes, https://www.e-tax.nta.go.jp/|
How to File Taxes in Japan as a Contractor
In Japan, income tax is based on a self-assessment system. Generally, taxpayers must file tax returns to declare income and deductions and pay the tax due.
However, if you’re considered a resident for tax purposes, you may not be required to file taxes due to Japan’s Year-End Adjustment System. This means that wage earners have their tax withheld by the employer and receive an adjustment at year end to refund or pay the tax balance. You will be required to file a tax return if:
- You leave Japan before the year ends.
- Your annual salary exceeds 20 million yen.
- You have employment income paid outside of Japan.
- You have more than one employer.
- Your additional income exceeds 200,000 yen.
Even if an individual is not legally required to file a final return, they can file a refund return if they qualify for any deductions.
Filing taxes in Japan for foreign workers:
Step 1: Collect the required documents for filing a tax return. This includes:
- Individual number card
- Statements of income.
- Withholding statement obtained from employer (Gensen-choushu-hyou).
- Residence card or alien registration certificate.
- Receipts of payments for dependents, medical expenses, insurance contributions, life insurance, mortgage, earthquake insurance etc,)
- Proof of other earnings (e.g. dividends, real estate income, capital gains).
Step 2: Fill out the Confirmation of the Type of Resident Status form(link is external).
Step 3: Download the ‘Documents to Submit’ form available here(link is external).
Step 4: Enter e-tax(link is external) and fill out the form for a tax return. Print out the completed form.
Step 5: Send the forms from step 2-4 to the local branch of the National Tax Office.
Filing taxes for locals in Japan:
Step 1: Collect the required documents as outlined above.
Step 2: Tax filing can be done through the Final Return Filing Corner at the National Tax Agency’s website(link is external).
- Final returns can be generated here by following the instructions on screen.
- If the individual is self-employed, they will also fill out a blue final returns form.
Step 3: Print out the data generated and submit it through post, or using e-Tax.
Tax Figures in Japan
|Currency||Japanese Yen (JPY)|
|Tax-free Threshold in Japan||None|
Tax Residency in Japan
When do you become a tax resident in Japan
You become a tax resident in Japan when:
When do you become a tax resident in Japan?
You become a tax resident in Japan when:
For the purposes of taxation in Japan, taxpayers are classified into 3 categories:
- Permanent resident: A Japanese national or non-Japanese national who has been present in Japan for at least 5 years within the last 10 years.
- Non-permanent resident: Individual of a non-Japanese nationality who has not resided to maintained domicile in Japan for 5 years or more in the last 10 years.
- Non-resident: Individual who has lived in Japan for less than 1 year and does not have a primary base of living in Japan.
Does the 183 day rule apply in Japan
Am I taxed on my global income in Japan
Yes, if you are a permanent resident. Non-permanent residents are subject to tax on income earned in Japan plus potentially non-Japan source income that is paid in or remitted to Japan. Non-resident taxpayers are only taxed on their Japan sourced income.
Can you set up your own Limited Company in Japan?
|How long does it take to set up||13 days|
|How much does it cost||10,450 + [0.7% of the capital amount or JPY 60,000], whichever is higher.|
|Is it easy?||Starting a business rank: 106. This low ranking means that setting up a Limited Company in Japan is relatively difficult.|
Tax Calculator in Japan
If you are a contractor and want a calculation on your tax and net retention in Japan, we can supply it to you free of charge.
Using an Umbrella Company for Income Tax in Japan
After reviewing the process of calculating and paying taxes DIY, you might be more interested in how an umbrella company can help.
Contractors in Japan are faced with masses of paperwork and numerous wasted hours filing a tax return unless they find an alternative option. A Japan umbrella company can act as your employer during your stay in the country whilst still allowing you the freedom of a contractor.
The only difference is that you submit your timesheets to them; they’ll calculate and pay your taxes as you earn, and then you receive a net wage (as well as documentation for your records).
The companies are experts in Japanese taxation, and they’ll ensure that you keep the largest proportion of your earnings whilst complying with local laws. They can deal with any issues with the Japan tax office or tax department directly including processing your tax refund if you are eligible.
How We Can Help You with Tax in Japan
We work with numerous umbrella companies in Japan, many of whom are experts in tax and immigration laws. If you have any questions about tax in Japan, we’ll get the answers from them directly so you can rest assured you’ll be getting accurate information.
We have comprehensive knowledge of the different services they provide, and can help you find the right company to handle your income tax. We help oil and gas workers, software developers, IT project managers, testers, business analysts and telecommunications contractors get tax efficient payments and sponsorship for their Japanese work permit.
Our advice is 100 percent free, and comes with no obligations. You will be paying taxes in Japan but without the overhead of directly dealing with the Japanese tax authorities. Get in touch with us today for some reliable advice on tax in Japan!
A Contractor’s Guide to Work Permits in Japan
Immigration is one of the primary concerns for any contractor hoping to start working in Japan. Permanent employees will find it easy to get their Japan work permit because they’ll receive “sponsorship” for their entire stay from their prospective employer.
There are many statuses of residence and types of employment contracts in Japan for individuals, each allowing the holder to work in a specific field (e.g. professor, artists, religious activities, business manager, legal/accounting services, medical services, researcher, education, engineering, entertainment and skilled labour).
These various Japanese residence permits are dependent on this sponsorship because it confirms that you’ll be earning money during your stay in the country.
Contracting in Japan is difficult because the work visa is tied to one employer, so you have to change it to suit each new contract. Under the Japan 5 year rule, work permits are only good for five years if you have a contract of that length.
According to the Japan Labor Law contract renewal must be done prior to extending a work permit, up to three months before expiration.
Thankfully, umbrella companies provide a convenient and effective solution to this issue. But, if you still want to do it yourself, review the process below so you know what to expect.
Work Permit Processing Time
Can Work Permit be Processed in Country?
Certificate of Eligibility (COE) applications need to be done in Japan’s immigration office. After receipt of COE, applicants continue their visa applications from their country of origin.
Work Permit Application Process
A Japanese sponsor such as an employer, school or spouse makes the application on behalf of the individual wishing to work in Japan. They submit the application at their local immigration office in Japan. Once obtained, a Certificate of Eligibility is valid for three months, in which time the visa application should be made. Applications for a work visa should be made at a Japanese embassy or consulate in the applicant’s home country.
Visa applications must be accompanied by the following documents:
- Certificate of Eligibility (Original document and an additional copy)
- Completed visa application form
- Application fee
*Applicants may need additional documents, depending on their nationality.
Switch Business Visa to Work Permit?
No, as the applicant still needs to apply for the COE in Japan and bring the COE back to their country of origin to apply for the visa.
How Does an Umbrella Company Work?
Most people want to do their work, earn their money and enjoy their spare time without taking on loads of admin in a new country. That is why an umbrella company can help.
When you’re working through an Umbrella Company, you’ll essentially be outsourcing the admin and tax issues to specialists.
While the umbrella company will charge a fee, you’ll likely end up saving more money in the long run: you’ll be able to focus on your work, expertly reduce your tax liability, and comply with all laws and regulations in Japan (which means avoiding fees, fines, or even worse penalties).
How an umbrella company works for:
How an umbrella company works for
How Can We Help You?
There’s a huge variety of umbrella companies with different specialties and advantages in Japan. How do you find the right one for your circumstances?
We work closely with umbrella companies all throughout Japan and match contractors with the right company for them. If you’ve already secured a contract in Japan, we can help you find your best match (for free). Or, we can simply give you feedback on your situation (for free).
More Questions About Contracting In Japan
What are the different types of contractors in Japan?
Contractors in Japan may work as 1) employees of their client, 2) under an investor or business visa or 3) under a sole proprietor visa. All of these have pitfalls and steep requirements, which is why many contractors opt to work with an umbrella company.
With the umbrella company you are their de facto employee, but have the flexibility to add or change clients at any time.
What is a contract employee in Japan?
A contract employee in Japan works under a fixed time contract that must be renewed for continued employment. It can also refer to a haken contract, which is obtained through a temporary staffing agency or umbrella company.
How long is a contract in Japan?
A contract with your client can be any length that you agree to. But be aware that Japanese companies will often use contractors only for short term roles, and will favour the long term employee.
What is the maximum contract in Japan?
For a foreign contractor, the maximum work permit is five years, so that would likely be the maximum initial contract. It would then need to be renewed before expiration.
For how many years can you contract in Japan?
There is no limit on the number of years to work as a foreign contractor in Japan. But you must meet all of the immigration and labour laws in place to remain working in the country.
Is overtime paid in Japan?
Unless you become an employee of your client, as a contractor you will not be entitled to overtime or other employee benefits. However, you can put a higher hourly rate in your contract if you exceed a certain number of hours per week.
What’s one thing contractors should know before working abroad in Japan?
The most important thing to know is that Japanese business culture is very pro-employee, and many individuals will work their entire career for one company. This underscores loyalty as a core work value. So you will always be competing to hold your position against those who want to be employees.
This is changing with the growth of online remote work gigs, and Japanese people are discovering the benefits of contracting. This can often be with their former employer.
How can I learn more about umbrella companies in Japan?
Please contact us using the form below so we can give you specific instructions. We also have various articles listed here on contracting in Japan that you can refer to. We look forward to hearing from you!
Popular Questions About Japan
Living and Working in Japan as an Expat
How is the climate in Japan year-round?
Japan’s weather varies depending on the city and region. But to use Tokyo as an example, you can expect four seasons as in many northern countries. It is probably similar to temperatures in San Francisco in the US, where the best seasons are spring and fall, but even winter is mild with no snowfall.
However, it can be rainy in Tokyo from June to September (summer), so best to be prepared with an umbrella at all times!
Can I expect to find typical prescriptions in Japan, or should I bring a supply from home?
You can find most prescriptions in Japan, although the brand name may be different. You will have to get a valid prescription from a local doctor to buy from a pharmacy, as they wont recognize your home country.
To locate pharmacies in Japan, look for the “薬局” (yakkyoku) or “ドラッグストア” (doraggusutoa) signs, which indicate pharmacies or drugstores. The medication instructions will all be in Japanese, so be prepared to translate.
If you have a prescription from another country, it may not be directly valid in Japan. However, there is a process called “Yakkan Shoumei” that allows you to bring a limited supply of prescription medication for personal use into the country.
Do I need a local bank account to work in Japan?
You might need a local bank account for rental deposits and payments and utilities, so its best to have one for personal convenience and access to local currency. You can open an account with standard ID, a copy of your visa and confirmed address.
Your local client/employer will probably prefer to deposit your pay directly into a local account. This is true also if you use an umbrella company, although they will also make payment to foreign accounts.
What kind of recreation is available?
There is recreation that is unique to Japan and should be explored by expats wanting to experience Japanese culture. Those include:
- Onsen (hot spring) bathing is very popular with Japanese, and quite therapeutic.
- Outdoor activities in the national parks such as hiking and skiing
- Classes in traditional arts such as calligraphy and flower arrangement will be novel for expats
- Visiting the world famous flower gardens and parks, such as the Imperial Gardens in Tokyo
- Matsuri (festivals) are a large part of Japanese culture and always well attended
How much will I pay to rent an apartment in Japan? Do I need to sign a lease?
Once again using Tokyo as an example, you can find a one bedroom apartment for 80,000 to 150,000 yen. Tokyo is an expensive market and apartment sizes may be smaller than western workers are used to. Other areas in Japan may be less expensive.
Leases are commonly used, and will almost always be written in Japanese. You can expect to pay a two month security deposit.
How can I meet and socialise with other expats?
Aside from locating bars and cafes popular with expats you can also use Meetup.com where people organise activities. There are often expat communities as well and social media groups where members can plan to get together.
What is the work culture like in Japan for expats?
Japanese work culture is very distinct and here is what you can expect, but keep in mind that expat contractors will not be held to the same standard as a Japanese employee:
Punctuality and Dedication: Employees are generally expected to arrive on time and often work long hours. Being late or leaving before your superiors can be seen as disrespectful.
Hierarchy and Respect: Respect for authority and seniority is deeply ingrained, and decisions are typically made by consensus or through the chain of command.
Group Orientation: Japanese companies prioritise the collective over individual needs.
Long Working Hours: Japan has a reputation for long working hours, and it’s not uncommon for employees to work overtime. The culture of staying late in the office, known as “zangyo,” is prevalent, even if the extra hours may not always be productive.
Formality: Japanese business culture is often formal, and there are certain protocols to follow. Dressing appropriately, addressing people by their appropriate titles, and using polite language are considered important.
Do you need to speak Japanese if you work in Japan?
While its not a strict requirement for many roles, it will certainly smooth your day to day communications. Some specialised positions are often ‘English-only” and the same may be true for multinationals that have a global scope of operations.