The trouble with banking & bookkeeping in Japan

There once was a time and place when making payments from your bank account also produced almost automatically a nice little booklet containing all the necessary information about such payments: date, payee, description and amount.  This was called the cheque book system which, interestingly, has never existed in Japan as far as I know.  As part of writing out the cheque, you also wrote out a cheque stub with all these details and ended up with little booklets of 25 to 50 cheque stubs which were a vital part of your bookkeeping records.  At the end of each financial year, you could present all your cheque stub booklets to your accountant and off he’d go and happily prepare your accounts.

These days, the cheque book system is being replaced in the west by online banking and, from memory, I believe there is a field in which to enter details about each payament.  But the trouble with banking in Japan, both with the furikomi system carried out at the bank and with online banking, is that it is quite easy to make payments without being able to make a note anywhere in the system about the payee and the description.

So when I look at client’s bank books or online statements, quite often I see a date and a payment amount but no payee and no description.  This makes subsequent bookkeeping very hard if not impossible; I have to look for any corresponding invoice, ask the client if he remembers or simply just make a good guess.

The only effective solution is to, for each payment, keep a copy of the supplier’s invoice, mark on it when and how it was paid and file it in chronological order.  You will then have a happy accountant and your accounting fees will be kept to a minimum.


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