Taxes, Laws and Regulations for eCommerce Businesses in Japan

It should not go unmentioned that complying with all of the laws and regulations when it comes to selling products online is absolutely mandatory. Depending on what those regulations are, being non-compliant can lead to steep fines and even criminal charges. It is important to understand the local laws and regulations as well as any taxes that apply prior to selling in Japan.

Depending on what a business is offering to the Japanese consumer, there are some national laws and regulations in Japan that are helpful to be aware of.


A non-exhaustive list from the Japanese External Trade Organization includes:

The Food Sanitation Act
The Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Act
The Household Goods Quality Labeling Act
The Consumer Product Safety Act
Technical Regulations Conformity Certification for Radio Equipment
The Pharmaceutical Affairs Act

Japan’s Customs and Tariffs Bureau also provides a list of import-related laws and regulations that apply on a national scale. Comprehensive resources like Lexology’s resource explores the current legal and regulatory framework of eCommerce in Japan; and Japan’s Manufactured Imports and Investment Promotion Organization or MIPRO, which is an organization that has spent the last fifty years acting as a resource to foster the growth of imports and investments in Japan. MIPRO has a Guide to Safety Assurance for Products Imported to Japan that covers a wide variety of commerce regulations.

Each locality in Japan might have different laws and regulations as well. Diligent research is key to ensure compliance. An important note: Only official translations of any laws or regulations are going to be legally binding. Keep this in mind and make sure that you are getting the most current and correct information.

It is also critical to understand that everything imported to Japan is required to arrive with proper documentation. The three main documents that you will be required to include are a Bill of Lading, a Packing List, and a Commercial Invoice. You can find a full explanation of these documents on the website for Japan’s Customs and Tariffs Bureau.

Taxes in Japan

Another thing to understand before selling in Japan is how taxes will work. If a company chooses to warehouse products in Japan for distribution, the company is responsible for hiring an importer to obtain all the necessary legal paperwork to have the products commercially imported to Japan and tax must be paid when inventory arrives in the country.

When a customer purchases products directly from overseas sellers shipping internationally, Import Tax may be charged when the items arrive in Japan depending on the order value.

Items shipped directly to the customers from an overseas warehouse each time they make a purchase are considered as personal imports; they are either exempt from duty and tax when the order is under ¥16,666 JPY ( $150 USD) or are subject to personal import tax each time something crosses the border into Japan and arrives in customs.

This cost falls on the consumers in Japan. When your customers receive your products, they will have to pay cash on delivery to cover this tax.

Import Duty is separate from the Consumption Tax but may be referred to by several other names like import tax, import tariff, customs duty, or just tariff. This amount can be up to 20% of the value of your goods; however, the average rate is just around 5% and can be even lower on some products. The customer is responsible for these fees.

For companies that choose to establish a Japanese entity to sell their products, these costs would become the organization’s responsibility. Most of those sellers build this cost into the price of their products. This is a common practice and it is almost to be expected by international shoppers; however, it should be kept in mind that lower prices are more competitive.

Related post: Japan's Largest Online Marketplace: Rakuten Explained

Best-selling product categories in Japan

The most popular and promising categories in Japanese eCommerce are the following:

Fashion & athleisure
Beauty & cosmetics
Sports & outdoor