Taxes, Health Insurance and Pensions
As a full-time employee of a Japanese company the local ward office and the federal government here really have my number. First, as a registered foreigner the government knows many details about me (as well as my family in Canada - information that I had to provide in the permanent resident visa application). Second, as a worker in the Japanese economy the government knows my (meager) salary, from which deductions for income tax, employees’ health insurance, unemployment insurance and Japanese social security (old age pension) fees are automatically deducted. The first situation takes a big bite out of my personal privacy - or, what I consider my personal privacy. The second, combined, take a big bite out of my income. Many foreigners in Japan - English language teachers come easily to mind - pay some but not all of these mandatory deductions, and sometimes none at all. That does little to foster a good reputation among Japanese people. It’s not always their fault, either. Sometimes it is. Sometimes foreigners deliberately ignore or decline to pay their share of the maintenance of society here. But other times it is the companies they work for who flout the law’s mandatory deductions and fiscal contributions - health insurance, old age pension, et al. So sometimes I toy with the notion of being proud that I do not shirk my fiscal obligations in this place where I live. But only sometimes. The notion gives me scant comfort.
Recently I was grated by the necessity to recommence (mandatory) payments into all these deductions - especially the pension and the health insurance - after being away form them due to a certain time of intense economic crisis in my personal life.
First, because if I must pay them then I prefer to receive the bills in the post and then pay them directly by myself rather than passively allow the company to make the deductions on my behalf. The former is more existentially authentic. Plus, I am an old-fashioned guy who prefers to deal in real cash passing between hands. Automatic deductions - almost surreptitious deductions - involve unseen money that is rightfully mine before it is the government’s.
Second, because I feel sick-and-tired of hearing Japanese employers describe to me how great it is that the government will make the social security pension deduction (the largest single deduction of all the ones that I am describing) on the grounds that if/when I leave JapanI can apply to have the money refunded to me. Or, if I pay into the system for a decade it allows me to be eligible for social security pension in Canadaaccording to the terms of a bilateral treaty on the matter of expatriate’s and their taxes. What I mean is that I am sick and tired of hearing boring, gray Japanese bosses tell me how great it is that my income will be reduced even more.
I am sick and tired or hearing people tell me how great it is that my income will be reduced even more.
Only by means of recent legislation am I allowed to apply to the Japanese government to have all my contributions to the pension refunded to me when I leave Japan. That sounds like good news, and it is good news to many because until recently, no refund was allowed and many foreigners lost small fortunes, not to mention a pension, by losing their employment just shy of completing the mandatory payment term and becoming eligible for a Japanese pension. But I look down on it because being cajoled into applying to the government to refund money that I think it had no right to deduct from my salary in the first place kind of legitimizes the deductions in the second place. Taxation is theft. Being asked or required or finagled into applying for a refund of taxed income is like being asked to sanction the robbery retroactively. And politicians make these laws with straight faces, and city officials try explaining them with straight faces. It makes me sick, and I balk at that idea and say to myself that I will never apply to the government to have the funds returned if/when I leave Japan. (But I am sure I will feel much differently on the matter if/when the time comes.)
In a related vein, I have never personally filed an Income Tax declaration in Japan. That does not mean that I have not paid any income taxes. Of course I have, because income taxes are always automatically deducted form all income sources. What I mean is that I personally have never handled the paperwork, because the accountants of my various employers have always done it, and I have been content with that. The purpose of filing Income Tax forms is for the government to accurately adjust their budgets - small refunds in the case of many like myself, and additional payments in the case of some - which they are required by law to do. I have always been a candidate for small refunds, which irks me because I feel that the government could save money and energy by accurately calculating my automatic salary deductions from the start. Additionally, the government ought to be obliged to do it accurately from the start.
But I balk at the idea of filing Income Tax statements. First, I feel not guilt with the suggestion because I am not evading my taxes. As I said, I pay automatically. Second, because the government is seeking to more accurately mine my life for data in order to keep its records - which it has given itself a legal mandate to do - and I feel that our lives are already measured and recorded excessively. Third, because I am not asking the government to refund money to me. To file an Income Tax declaration is to make an official request for a refund on the basis of the assumption of a Social Compact that I believe does not exist. I am excluded from society and no Social Compact exists between me and Japan, or me and Canada. In a sense, it is not necessary for a mutual agreement to exist. The only necessity is that I obey the laws. (Freedom of conscience still permits me to think anything I want, even if I am in total disagreement with everyone - my church, my family, my neighbors, my employer and my government.) My money is mine before it is the governments, and income taxation is a socially negotiated theft. So to ask me/require me/cajole me/finagle me and finally threaten me into filing income tax declarations seeking my small annual refund is asking me to sanction the theft retroactively and in the absence of a Social Compact. The assumption of a Social Compact is one of the polite fictions of our everyday lives in this world. Every person is isolated, excluded, and disenfranchised in some manner, to some degree. Maybe one of the differences between me and others is that I know it.
But, to get back to where I started, the sad, scary, hard facts are that I will never get an old age pension from any one. Not the Canadian government. Not the Japanese government. Not from any employer. I have to work until I die, because I can’t afford to retire.