TOKYO -- Businesses in Japan will be able to keep digital copies of receipts and contracts for tax purposes as early as next year, eliminating costs for transporting and storing paper documents.
The government began coordinating with the business community on the matter last month. Companies must now store original paper receipts and contracts for seven years for amounts of 30,000 yen ($261) or more. The proposed changes let businesses keep scanned files instead, regardless of the amount.
The Keidanren business lobby estimates that Japanese companies spend a combined 300 billion yen or so a year to store such tax-related documents as receipts and contracts. Going paperless is seen offering savings equivalent to a roughly 0.6 percentage point reduction in the effective corporate tax rate.
Most companies keep originals of documents for less than 30,000 yen because of the hassle of processing them separately from those with larger amounts.
In response to concerns that digital copies are easier to alter than paper documents, the Ministry of Finance plans to require businesses to introduce internal compliance mechanisms. It will likely obligate companies to scan documents promptly and to record the time and date of scanning. Digital copies will be kept for seven years.
Japan lags behind such countries as the U.S. and South Korea in going paperless. Large South Korean corporations are said to store one-fifth the amount of documents per employee as their Japanese counterparts.