Hundreds of small municipalities in Japan are encouraging urban residents to make tax-deductible donations to their hometowns where they no longer live by offering them gifts such as craft beer and balloon rides as part of a national effort to reinvigorate rural economies, Bloomberg News reported on Friday.
A program known as furusato nozei provides tax deductions for people who donate money to their hometowns, or any other place they have chosen to adopt. Among Japan’s 1,800 local authorities, half are pitching gifts to get donors, the report said. Others are also making emotional appeals for former residents to help their old towns.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is considering expanding the program as it seeks to revive countryside communities before local elections next year. Some 900 population centers will disappear within a generation as the nation ages, the news ageny said, citing a government-sponsored study.
“Stopping towns and villages from falling into decline is an increasing challenge,” said Takaaki Hoda, who teaches business at Showa Women’s University in Tokyo and diverts some of his tax to the northern island of Hokkaido. “Even 10 or 20 supporters can have a considerable impact on a small town.”
Hisako Yoshida, a Tokyo-based tax accountant, started donating last year to six municipalities including the town of Aya in Miyazaki prefecture, which sends donors five kilograms of Hyuganatsu citrus fruits for a tax-deductible payment of 10,000 yen (US$98).
The number of benefactors has more than tripled since the program was introduced in 2008, with the amount of donations reaching a record 65 billion yen in 2011 when taxpayers directed funds to areas of the northeast devastated by the earthquake and tsunami. Tokyo residents are the biggest contributors, the report said, citing government data.
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