Perhaps you may have heard of a certain coffee shop having a secret menu. A menu not everyone can order from but may have heard about. But have you heard of a tax system’s secret menu?
Japan’s Hometown Tax is a way for Japan to fund growth in its local regions. A fairly new tax incentive scheme, the Hometown Tax (ふるさと納税, Furusato Nouzei) helps to redirect funds from tax to smaller, less funded municipalities. This scheme lets taxpayers donate a certain proportion of their local tax to a city, prefecture, municipality, or cause of their choice. The fiscal year 2018 (January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2017) showed a a total donation of nearly 350 billion Japanese yen, according to the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications‘ data.
The general intentions for this tax scheme are for the benefit of the local areas. However, the return gift seems to be changing into something more than just a token of appreciation. Now, it has come to the attention of the public that a “secret menu” of return gifts was available to taxpayers. This menu is only, apparently, available only at certain times.
One case, sources say, is that the town of Minamitane in the Kagoshima Prefecture offers a travel voucher worth 50% of the donated amount. This travel voucher return gift is not advertised on the hometown tax website. Finally, only those who inquire over the telephone would be able to find out how to claim this return gift.
Another case of this supposed secret menu is Oyama, Shizuoka. This menu has an offering of Quo cards and Amazon gift cards worth 40% of the donated amount. This secret menu is available only for a certain period of time, often appearing on Saturdays. Ultimately, an elusive offer, this return gift has caught the attention of Twitter users.They have begun to call it a black-market version of the hometown tax. The secretive nature of this offers appears an obvious ploy to avoid government detection.