Japan to revise tax refunds for tourists

Japan to revise tax refunds for tourists

The Japanese government is looking for ways to get foreign tourists to spend more money while visiting the country. Tourists are not spending as much as they used to.

Government sources say officials are planning to simplify the program to refund the consumption tax to foreign tourists with changes to go into effect next April.

Japan levies a flat 8 percent sales tax. Currently, foreign visitors are exempt if they make purchases totaling 5,000 yen, or about 45 dollars in both of 2 designated categories.

One category is general items, such as electric appliances and clothing. The other is consumable goods, such as food and cosmetics. But there's been criticism that the system is difficult to understand.

The new system will do away with the categories, so visitors receive refunds on purchases totaling at least 5,000 yen.

The Japan Tourism Agency says consumption by foreign visitors hit a record high in 2015, thanks in part to the spending habits of Chinese travelers. But it declined in 2016, as they began to spend less.

Japan hopes to get foreign travelers to do more shopping when they are in the country.