English word of the day
An elaborate, complicated procedure
Currently working out the best method for obtaining a driver's license and paying US taxes.
If you are an American living in Japan, and you're one of the eikaiwa teachers, you should be aware of two things:
1. As long as you're making less than $70,000/year, you don't have to file taxes
2. Some English-teaching companies don't allow you to own a car
I'm serious. Due to insurance reasons and stipulations in your contract, you cannot concurrently own a car and work with certain eikaiwa. However, renting a car with your Japanese or international driver's license is still allowed.
If you're planning to stay in Japan for more than a year, you might as well go ahead and apply for a Japanese driver's license. The procedure is longer, requires school, additional fees, tests, etc... but it's the only license that will be legal after a year in Japan.
If you're taking the "one year in Japan" route and have a driver's license back home, you can apply for an International Driver's License relatively easily. Technically you can keep reapplying for this license, but if you are caught by police or government officials (they check the date of entry on your visa and compare it with your license), you could face heavy fines or jail. Nevertheless, the international license is preferable if you have minimal Japanese skills and don't plan to stay.
Japan Driver's License
As far as taxes are concerned, I'm still looking over the finer details for someone with "dual status" - living in America for six months in 2006 and Japan the rest of the year. The bottom line (I think) is... you've lived here for 330 days out of the year and earned less than 70,000, you either don't have to file or you can use the EZ forms. Japanese income taxes are all you're required to pay.
Tax Guide for US Citizens Abroad
Foreigner Earned Income Exclusion Rules