Section 6―Working with an Accountant

I’ve built a team supporting my business: lawyer, accountant, mentors, designer, etc. These are all people that make my life so much better, especially my accountant. Together we work on expenses, paying withholding taxes, and end-of-year personal and professional tax filings, as well as the paperwork needed to reapply for my visa. I needed an accountant within the first two months of opening the business to make sure I filed the tax paperwork in time. It’s good to get one sooner rather than later. 

With all the appropriate paperwork filled out, the actual incorporation process was super quick—maybe one week. My lawyers also ordered company inkans for me and the day I received those in the mail was a big celebration—there was a joyous shimmy when those inkans arrived!
I went around stamping everything I could. 

 
 Illustration by  Adrian Hogan

Illustration by Adrian Hogan

 

With the company officially incorporated, the next thing I needed to do was register for taxes. The initial paperwork must be submitted within two months of opening your business, so it’s something you want to take care of as soon as you can.

My lawyers recommended their friend, an accountant based in Saitama, to complete this step of the process. In the interest of time, I went ahead and asked them to connect their friend and take care of the initial filing. 

It cost 31,400 JPY.

My accountant just needed my phone number, address, and business information.

Beyond the initial filing, there are other reasons you would want to work with an accountant.

  • Health insurance and SS contributions change every six months in April and October, so it’s helpful to have an accountant that can keep track of all that for you.
  • It’s also useful to have someone that can review your expenses and be sure they are making deductions appropriately.
    • Remember to save all your receipts, categorize, create a system for yourself, and make sure you are asking for ryoshusho, a receipt that has an official stamp from the company with which you are spending money. I have a receipt folder I carry with me on all my trips. I’ve realized that sometimes I still need to write on the back of each receipt what it was for so I can remember a month later, when I finally sit down to go through my expenses, categorize, etc
  • If you are applying to renew your visa, your accountant will also help you prepare the tax paperwork needed for the visa application.

The tax payment schedule for business on the yearly calendar is:

July - Withholding tax due
December - Withholding tax due
February - Corporate taxes due
March - Personal taxes due

My Japanese accountant charges by how much money the company makes.

*Prices from February 2016, subject to change.

Another accountant I spoke with has a package for entrepreneurs, where for ¥40,000JPY a month you have unlimited access to the accountant team. This also includes the price for preparing your statements at the end of the year. It’s pricey, but his hope is that he can teach you about accounting during the process and prepare you to be more independent in your second or third year of business.

Accountants recommended by myself and other entrepreneurs:


Illustration by Adrian Hogan

Entrepreneur Spotlight

Name: Chris Palmieri

Country of Origin: United States

CompanyAQ is a design studio specializing in digital products, services and communication for business and culture.

Years in Japan: 15+

Chris’ tenure in Japan spans over 15 years, twelve of which he’s been running AQ, a design studio, alongside his wife, Eiko, and business partner Tomomi. 

Over the years, Chris and Eiko have built a solid team to support their business—individuals who have helped them navigate growth and expansion overseas. By team I mean lawyers, accountants, mentors, etc. Many of these people they met by means of introduction and can provide really useful insights into how to approach and maintain relationships made by introductions.

In Japan in general, individuals take a lot of responsibility, whether it be for getting a lost foreigner to the right train stop or sweeping up the stairs in front of their shops. They especially take responsibility for the outcome of an introduction. 

Chris has some advice if you are going to ask for an introduction: “Before asking for an introduction, weigh the responsibility they may feel against the likelihood that the introduction will lead to something. Be clear about why you are asking for the introduction, and make it clear that it's okay if they don't feel comfortable making it. Once you've met the person you've been introduced to, report back on how it went and show gratitude. If the introduction leads to a lasting relationship, continue to show appreciation to the person who made the introduction from time to time.”

One of the benefits Chris experienced by growing the company through introductions from close friends/family is that it made the company feel really intimate. Events like company holiday parties feel way more like family reunions than work engagements. And for Chris, Eiko, Tomomi and Paul, that is a feeling they find rewarding and hope to continue to cultivate as the company grows.