TOKYO -- Japanese stores exempting foreigners from the consumption tax are projected to number more than 10,000 next month, hitting a government target five years early.
The nation had 9,361 such stores as of last October, up about 60% over six months. With convenience stores and other retailers starting to offer tax-free shopping in hopes of drawing tourists, the tally is certain to reach five figures in April.
Japan has successfully courted tourists, with a record 13.41 million foreigners arriving in 2014. The October expansion of tax-exempt shopping to include food and cosmetics also added to the pace of store increases. The government's growth strategy targeted 10,000 tax-free shops in 2020.
Most of the stores are concentrated in Tokyo and Osaka Prefecture. Large cities have seen more department stores, electronics retailers and some convenience stores start exempting foreigners from the levy.
Relaxing of the rules next month will allow multiple stores to jointly set up a tax-free shop, making the field easier to enter. Malls and shopping districts could collectively commission a third party to handle tax exemption procedures.
Municipalities will be urged to use grants from Tokyo to subsidize the roughly 3 million yen ($24,800) in necessary costs for each store. The government will also call on shops to accept credit cards popular among foreigners.