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Politics

Japan approves $9 sayonara tax to fund tourism expenses

Departure levy begins next year, but exact use is still uncertain

Tourists in Japan will pay a departure tax when they buy air tickets starting next year.

TOKYO -- Japan will charge a departure tax of 1,000 yen ($9.37) per person beginning next year, with plans to use the anticipated 40 billion yen raised annually to bolster tourism.

Foreigners and Japanese alike leaving the country by air or sea will pay the tax when they buy tickets, much like they do with airport facility fees. Travelers younger than 2 are exempted from the levy, which debuts Jan. 7. The tax bill obtained Diet approval Wednesday at the plenary session of the upper house.

Airlines and travel companies will need to update their booking system to collect the tax. "We are trying to gauge how big of an update," said an official from All Nippon Airways, the flagship airline under ANA Holdings.

Hankyu Travel International, strong in package deals, plans to mark the tax as a separate item from package prices, as it does with airport facility fees.

With tourism-related spending by the government likely to mushroom, many legislators asked for specifics on how the new revenue could be used, citing the costs to secure enough workers for understaffed customs operations as well as spending to set up integrated resorts with casinos.

Minoru Kihara, vice minister of finance, said that how exactly the revenue will be used in fiscal 2019 and beyond has yet to be considered. Companies shouldering the collection process insist the money be used to benefit travelers. An official of a leading budget airline suggested support for efforts to accelerate customs processing through biometrics verification, as well as improving airport facilities and operations.

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