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Japanese fashion tycoon makes huge 2 bil. yen 'hometown tax' donation to east Japan city

Yusaku Maezawa (Mainichi/Fumitaka Nakajima)

TATEYAMA, Chiba -- Residents and officials of this eastern Japan city were surprised and delighted after billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, founder and former president of online apparel giant Zozo Inc., donated 2 billion yen (about $18.257 million) to the municipal government under the so-called "hometown tax" system.

The municipal government is poised to put the money into a special fund and use it to promote local tourism while consulting with Maezawa.

Maezawa notified Tateyama Mayor Kenichi Kanamaru of his intention at the municipal government headquarters on Dec. 18 as the mayor thanked the businessman for extending 10 million yen in relief donations for those affected by a powerful typhoon that hit the city and other areas this past September.

Kanamaru had anticipated that Maezawa would donate several million yen. However, when he was informed that 2 billion yen was remitted to the municipal government via Maezawa's office, the mayor said that he "asked an official in charge if it was a mistake."

Maezawa also told the city that he would decline any gift in return for his hometown tax donation.

Under the system, people can donate money to municipalities, and in exchange receive income and residential tax credits. The municipalities then send local products to the donors as thank-you gifts.

The Tateyama Municipal Government's initial general account budget is worth 19.3 billion yen for the current fiscal year. Its tax revenue is approximately 5.6 billion yen annually while the city received 240 million yen in hometown tax donations in fiscal 2018.

The city's fiscal adjustment fund worth about 1 billion yen, which is aimed at making up for a shortage of taxpayers' money to finance its policy measures, was expected to certainly run out because a massive amount of money is needed to make up for losses caused by the typhoon.

"I'm truly grateful for the donation. We'd like to use it effectively for city residents," the mayor said.

(Japanese original by Fumitaka Nakajima, Tateyama Local Bureau)

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