How to Pick the Right Bilingual Accounting Office in Japan

How to Pick the Right Bilingual Accounting Office in Japan

Tax season in Japan has a special kind of pain for foreign business owners and working professionals. 

Aside from the usual dread associated with tax season in any country, filing taxes in a foreign language further complicates an already intricate process. 

Finding the right bilingual accounting firm in Japan can be the difference that will make your next tax filing season smoother and stress-free.  

But outside of pre-selecting for English fluency, what else should you be keeping in mind as you look for the accountancy that will meet your needs?  

We turned to arguably the best accounting firm in Tokyo in terms of bookkeeping quality and communication reliability (and price balance) to find that out for you. 

Here’s our interview with Ichiro Kawai of Accounting Intelligence on the 3 questions to ask to determine if an accounting firm is the right fit and more industry insights you’ll want to know.

Q: Please introduce yourself to our readers! 

Ichiro Kawai: My name is Ichiro Kawai, a Japanese CPA. I used to work in Deloitte and Citibank. After I passed the CPA exam, I started Accounting Intelligence in 2013. Luckily, the business grew, and now there are 14 of us, mainly focused on English-speaking clients, both individuals and corporations. 

We are experienced in structuring and handling taxes that come with cross-border operations. And, of course, individual tax matters, such as yearly income tax filings and inheritance tax and gift tax.  

Q: What questions should people ask to determine if an accounting firm is right for them or not? 

Three questions come to mind. The first, “Does this accountant understand my business?” It is vitally important that an accountant sits down with you and gets to know how your business works, what processes are in place, and who your customers and associates are. This needs to happen very early on so the accountant can start creating an effective plan for your company.

The second question, “Does this firm have enough resources?” And by that, I mean do they have a big enough workforce, enough systematic resources, and also enough knowledge and experience? One complaint that I hear from clients is that the last firm they used was not responsive enough and didn’t have the capacity to take on new clients.

Lastly, “Is this firm flexible?” There are lots of ways to record data now, and a lot of different accounting software. I think it is important for a firm to be able to take data from a client, from whichever software, and reappropriate it for their own use. We work with many different clients, using many different software, yet with macros and other such methods, we are able to import client data into our own software.

Q: What are some of the challenges facing foreign business owners in Japan with accounting and tax season, and how do you help? 

One thing that we always discuss with our clients is whether they should file as a consumption tax filer. Depending on your business model, and where your sales and purchases are coming from, it may be beneficial to file as a consumption tax filer, even if you meet the exemption requirements. In the right situation, filing as a consumption tax filer could mean a nice refund on potentially all of your domestic expenses!

Also, tax documents, even in your native language, can cause quite a headache. We have a team of multi-lingual, multi-national experienced tax professionals who support our clients every step of the way. We offer assistance in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean, with clients all over the world. We can further tailor your experience with specific accounting breakdowns or simplified reports.

Q: Specifically regarding tax season, what’s one of the most common issues foreign business owners face, and do you have any tips to share to make next tax season better than last year’s?

Simply put, it’s to be prepared for the end of the tax year and to have good communication with your accountant. 

Keeping good records on your accounts (or even having us do monthly accounting for you) will put you in good stead for when the year-end comes.  

Many companies put their tax obligations to the back of their minds, and then two months after the year-end, when the tax is due, they are too late, and will get hit with a penalty.

Q: Is there a service your accounting firm provides that most of your customers are surprised and happy to learn about? 

One big thing that we have in the works at the moment is our own online bilingual accounting software. It’s not quite ready yet, but watch this space!

Other than that, some of the other work we do is the setting-up of companies. This early involvement means we get to know your company straight from the outset, so we can provide specific assistance as your company grows. 

Additionally, another service we provide is registering start-ups for Angel Taxation, meaning their investors can reduce their gross taxable income by quite a sizable chunk.

To learn more about Accounting Intelligence, visit their website at

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