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Planned sales tax hike prompts many firms to take steps to avoid confusion at midnight


TOKYO -- Just days away from an Oct. 1 consumption tax hike from 8% to 10%, companies such as convenience stores and restaurant chains that operate overnight, as well as operators of trains and flights that depart on Sept. 30 and arrive at their destinations the next day, are taking various responses, so as not to confuse consumers.

Seven-Eleven Japan Co. and other convenience stores decided that all items can be bought at the current 8% tax rate even if the whole process spreads across two days if any one of the purchases is scanned at the register before midnight.

Because cash registers at Seven-Eleven Japan are set up to assess items at 10% from 12 a.m. on Oct. 1, the new tax rate will apply if all purchases are scanned after midnight, even for customers who had been waiting in line before the date change.

At some outlets of restaurant chain Gusto, operating hours will run past midnight and continue until 2 a.m. In such cases, payments up until 2 a.m. on Oct. 1 will be assessed at 8%, and the higher tax rate will kick in when the next business day starts at 7 a.m.

Meanwhile, customers dining at Gusto outlets that are open 24 hours will be asked by employees to pay for the food without the extra two points of tax once customers stop arriving after midnight. Of the 1,350 Gusto stores run by Skylark Holdings Co. across Japan, about 200 are open 24 hours.

In the case of McDonald's Japan stores that are open 24 hours, purchases are basically assessed at 8% until 5 a.m. when stores begin serving their breakfast menu. The company says each store will decide which tax rate to assess according to circumstances, if there are customers still dining past 5 a.m. It seems that employees will try to avoid trouble by encouraging customers to pay before the transition.

Japan Railway group companies will charge passengers 8% consumption tax until the last train on Oct. 1, and introduce the 10% tax rate from the first train in the morning.

Tickets for long distance train rides that spread across two days and arrive at their destinations on Oct. 1, as well as tickets, coupon tickets and commuter passes to be used after Oct. 1 can be bought at the current 8% tax rate until Sept. 30.

Airlines including Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. will also allow tickets for flights after Oct. 1 to be bought at the current tax rate until Sept. 30.

(Japanese original by Atsuko Motohashi, Kenji Shimizu and Munehisa Ishida, Business News Department)

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