It is a national qualification (not a civil servant, just in case).
When certain qualified persons register at the Japan Federation of Certified Public Tax Accountants’ Association, they can name a “Zeirishi 税理士” (Article 3, 18, 53 of the Tax Accountant Act (hereinafter referred to as the “Act”)).
So what can you do when you become a tax accountant?
You can respond to taxpayers for taxation procedures, prepare tax documents such as tax returns and provide tax consultation (Article 2 of the Act).
Those other than tax accountants are prohibited doing so under the Act (Article 52).
It is an exclusive business that only tax accountants can do, so it is called “exclusive service”.
It is illegal that non-tax accountants are engaged in such exclusive service even if it is for free.
However, “Gyousei-shoshi 行政書士” (Administrative Scrivener）is allowed to prepare documents concerning certain taxes such as golf course usage tax, automobile tax, light motor vehicle tax, automobile acquisition tax, business occupancy tax etc. among tax documents (Article 51 (2) of the Act).
Accounting services such as in-sourcing of bookkeeping, consultation on bookkeeping are not regarded as the exclusive service but “related service”.
Tax accountants who undertake tax return preparation are likely to undertake accounting services as well expecting that they would be able to know deep inside of their clients’ business through accounting services and it would help tax return preparation work smoothly.
However anyone may provide such accounting services as they are not the exclusive service under the Act.
Payroll calculation is also one of the related services.
Although tax accountants may prepare documents concerning social insurance, this is originally “exclusive service” by “Shakai-hoken Roumu-shi 社会保険労務士” (Social Insurance and Labor Consultant). However, for those related to the calculation of income tax and inhabitant tax, a tax accountant is allowed doing so (SILC Act Article 27, SILC Act Enforcement Ordinance Article 2, Item 2).
There is a “Certified Public Accountant” as a national qualification relevant to accounting.
Exclusive service of a CPA is “audit or certification of financial documents” (Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Certified Public Accountants Act).
This is a task, as a third party, to check the financial statements prepared by the company whether they are properly following to accounting standards .
Companies who had either 500 million yen or more share capital or 20 billion or more liabilities are required to be audited by “Auditors” such as CPAs (Article 328, Article 2, Item 6 of the Company Code).
Companies that need to prepare “Yuka-shouken Houkoku-sho 有価証券報告書” (Securities Report) such as listed companies must also have CPAs audit their financial statements (Article 193-2 of the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act).
Tax accountants can not do such an audit or certification.
Even a CPA can not audit the financial statements of the companies if he/she had been involved in preparation of financial statements as such CPA can not be qualified as an independent third party.
In that way, even for services relevant to the same corporate accounting arena, involvement of tax accountants and CPAs are segregated by preparation and audit of financial statements.
As mentioned earlier, registration to the Tax Accountants’ Association is mandatory to obtain the tax accountant’s qualification (Article 18 of the Act).
Those who can be registered at the Tax Accountants’ Association shall be successful examinees in the Certified Public Tax Accountant Examination (including some exempted examinees, Article 3, Paragraph 1, Item 1 and 2 of the Act), lawyers (Item 3) and CPAs (Item 4) but excluding any person whose legal capacity is restricted such as minors or adult ward under guardianship (Article 4 of the Act).
CPAs can not register unless they complete the training program designated by the National Tax Council (Article 3, Paragraph 3 of the Act).
The exam consists of compulsory accounting subjects (bookkeeping theory, financial statement theory), elective compulsory tax subjects (Income Tax Law, Corporation Tax Law, Inheritance Tax Law) and elective tax subjects (either Consumption Tax Law or Liquor Tax Law, National Tax Collection Act, either inhabitant tax or enterprise tax, fixed asset tax) and pass or fail is judged for each subject.
A certificate is awarded after you had passed the cumulative total of 5 subjects through compulsory, elective compulsory and elective subjects (Article 11 of the Act).
Therefore you do not necessarily have to pass five subjects at once.
Those who passed less than five subjects are referred to as a “exam credit winner”.
By the way, those who have worked for more than 10 years in the affairs related to taxes in the examination subject at the government office are exempt from the tax subject.
Those who have engaged in affairs related to national taxes for more than 15 years (so-called ex-tax official) will be exempted from national tax law subjects of the examination subjects.
If you had obtained a Master’s degree or higher studying the tax law related to the examination subjects at the graduate school and passed one of the tax subject at least, the remaining tax law subjects are exempted.
If you had obtained a Master’s degree or higher studying accounting at the graduate school and passed one of the accounting subjects, the other accounting subject is exempted.
Each exemption is granted assuming that your experience and knowledge is far enough to pass the exam if you really take the exam.
I am opinion of that such assumption is both correct and incorrect (I will refrain from comment any more).
The exams are held in August every year.
When I took the exam, the site was the large but no air-conditioned classroom at an university.
It was really painful.
The result is announced in mid-December.
It was just before my first daughter was born that I got the notice of passing the last subject.
I remember that I was so relieved as I was released from taking the exam before parenting began.
Now she is already 21 years old … (I will refrain from comment any more).
There are various routes to be registered, but the route after registration is also various.
Some started career as a self-employed immediately, some become an associate accountant at other tax accountant’s firm.
Tax accountant firms are also various in terms of size from just oneself to hundreds of tax accountants.
In my case, I started as a junior associate at a big firm then became a in-house accountant at large financial institutions and finally a freelancer.
Have you ever heard of which route your tax advisor had gone through?
If you do, you may well understand his/her personality.
The exam of this year is held from August 7th through 9th.
Ladies and Gentlemen, just do it!