License to Import Wine
When importing alcohol into Japan for the purpose of reselling (retail or wholesale), the importer is required to obtain an alcohol importing license. Without this license, it is not possible to clear customs, thus the license must be obtained by the time the products arrive at the Japanese ports.
General Flow of Importing Alcohol Products into Japan
- Obtaining the Alcohol Import License
- Arranging for delivery to Japan and related paperwork (may be assisted by logistics companies)
- Products arrive at Japanese ports
- Clearing customs and paying alcohol-related duties and taxes* (may be assisted by logistics companies)
- Collecting products
- Distributing in Japan
- *Note: In the case of imported alcohol products, related taxes are paid when delivering the products into Japan.
- Please refer to the Japan Customs website for applicable duties, taxes and rates.
The specific type required will vary depending on the specific method of distribution in Japan:
- WHOLESALE: A wholesale license is required when selling imported alcohol products to licensed alcohol retail stores and licensed alcohol manufacturers in Japan. However, this license does not allow the holder to sell the products directly to general consumers or restaurants/bars etc.
- RETAIL: A retail license is required when selling imported alcohol products to general consumers and restaurants/bars etc. in Japan. However, this license does not allow the holder to sell the products to licensed alcohol retail stores or licensed alcohol manufacturers.
- If the applicant wishes to distribute imported alcohol products via both routes, it is possible for the same applicant to obtain both the wholesale and retail licenses.
- MAIL ORDERS AND ONLINE STORES: The above licenses generally are granted for each physical office/store based out of which the applicant wishes to operate. Therefore, if the applicant wishes to sell these products via mail orders or online stores (i.e. accepting orders from customers located in more than one prefecture), it is necessary to additionally obtain special approval allowing distribution through mail orders/online stores. In the case of retail, this is a separate application from the basic retail license. In the case of wholesale, this does not specifically require a separate application as the sales methods permitted for wholesale license holders are broader; however, it is important to keep the authorities informed of your intent to sell online from the very beginning.
<Service to be provided>
* General advising and consulting, preparation of documents, picking up necessary certificates by proxy, consultation and correspondence with tax office and submitting the application/receiving the result on the applicant’s behalf
* Attending on-site inspection by tax office if applicable (on-site inspection may be conducted based upon the tax officer’s discretion, although not for all cases) – subject to additional time charge
* Japanese translation of attachment written in foreign language if any
Approximately 2 months from application date to be approved, although it may take slightly longer in the case of an application by an applicant that is new to the industry.
<Core Requirements (for the wholesale license to deal in specific categories of alcohol, i.e. additional requirements exist for the wholesale license to distribute beer and/or all types of alcohol)>
- - The applicant must fulfill all items listed in Article 10, Item 1 through 11 of Alcohol Tax Law. A summary of the main listed items are as follows (more details available upon request):
- a) Applicant has never had an alcohol related license canceled
- b) The officers have not, during the past 3 years, been officers of a company whose alcohol related license was canceled
- c) Applicant has not been subject to disposition for failure to pay national or local taxes during the past 2 years
- d) Applicant and its officers have not been penalized for committed certain criminal offences during the past 3 years
- e)Office/store is not located within a restaurant, bar, hotel etc. (although it is possible to obtain the license under specific circumstances where there is a clear separation from the restaurant space, etc.)
- f) Applicant has not gone bankrupt, nor is financially unstable (i.e. applicant, its representative and main investor currently does not have any late unpaid taxes, applicant does not have losses carried over which exceed the shareholders’ equity amount, applicant has not recorded losses exceeding 20% of the shareholders’ equity during the past consecutive 3 fiscal years)
- g) Involvement of someone with experience in a relevant industry (in practice, is not implemented strictly)
- - When applying for the wholesale license, the applicant must submit a written letter of consent from potential suppliers and customers, indicating their interest in supplying to/purchasing from the applicant.
- - The applicant must obtain written consent from the owner/lessor of the office/store allowing operation of alcohol wholesale business.
- - The applicant must be someone with sufficient experience in dealing with alcohol, usually at least 3 years in the same field (can include experience dealing in retail sales of alcohol). As a variation of this requirement, applicants applying for a license for the wholesale of self-imported alcohol only shall likely clear this requirement if having at least 3 years of experience in the area of importing/exporting (does not necessarily have to be in the alcohol field).
- - The applicant must submit a detailed and reasonable business plan and financial forecast supporting financial ability to commence and maintain the alcohol selling business, along with supporting documents of funds, plus various documents relating to corporate officers and office/store space.
Approximately 2 months from application date to be approved, although it may take slightly longer in the case of an application by an applicant that is new to the industry. This will be shorter if the applicant already has a wholesale license at the time of application.
The core requirements for the retail license are generally very similar to the ones for wholesale. Key differences are:
- - For retail, the applicant does not need to submit a written letter of consent from potential suppliers and customers
- - For retail, the applicant must appoint an “Alcohol Sales Manager”. This should be either someone who has sufficient experience in the field, someone with business management experience who has taken the accredited training seminar (a half-day course which can be attended)
- - The applicant must be someone with sufficient business experience (if applying for the retail license with a company, at least one director should have at least 3 years of experience operating a business)
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