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Japan will no longer allow foreign students to buy duty-free goods

People wearing protective masks walk around the famed Shibuya scramble crossing in a shopping and entertainment district Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japanese government and ruling parties have decided to abolish the system allowing foreign students and other long-term residents to make duty-free purchases in response to suspected cases of reselling and complaints of cumbersome eligibility checks, sources familiar with the plan said Sunday.

    Under the current system, which will be revised as part of tax reforms for fiscal 2022, foreign students staying long-term in Japan and not working part-time can make tax-free purchases within six months of entering the country.

    Criticism has arisen over the labor-intensive checks duty-free stores have to perform at the time of sale to confirm a student is not working, while others have complained it is unfair that stores with lax screening procedures end up attracting more customers.

    The National Tax Agency also discovered many suspicious "binge buying" cases by foreign students after introducing a system to digitize purchaser information in April last year.

    It believes they may be buying large quantities of duty-free goods to resell at higher prices, including a 10 percent consumption tax, to make a profit.

    As part of tax reforms, the government and the ruling coalition led by the Liberal Democratic Party plan to narrow the eligibility of duty-free purchases to tourists and those with a short-term visa of 90 days or less, instead of "non-residents" under the country's foreign exchange and foreign trade law, according to the sources.

    While it remains to be seen when Japan will reopen its borders to short-term visitors due to the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant, the government intends to ensure proper operation of the system as tourism demand recovers.

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