Everything You Need To Know About "My Number"

In January of 2016, local governments and various organizations across Japan will begin to use the new "My Number" system to quickly obtain social security and tax information about an individual via one collated source. But what is the "My Number" system?

Many (including the General Union) believe that is a wolf in sheep's clothing that will be used by the government to monitor people's tax, medical insurance, and pension payment history (or lack thereof) in order to harass them and demand back payments.

Others believe that while the system may provide convenience to individuals and government agencies, it also carries a steep operation cost and information theft risk that wholly outweighs any of the potential benefits.

Regardless of personal opinion, the Japanese government has pushed the "My Number" system out of the door and it will be coming to Japan in 2016, criticisms or not.

Because of this, the General Union has written its own Q&A to help members and non-members alike understand the basics of the system.

 
WHAT IS "MY NUMBER"?
"My Number" (MAI・NANBA) - also known as "Individual Number(s)" - is the Japanese "Social Security and Tax Number System" (SHAKAI HOSHŌ ZEI BANGŌ SEIDO) for individuals, which will start from January 1st, 2016.

Individuals will be notified of their unique twelve-digit number as of October, 2015, by the reception of a "Notification Card" at their home address. The use of individual numbers will start to be used on documents as needs arise from January 1st, 2016.

For example, if you receive your individual number card in January of 2015, you would need to provide it for your 2016 tax returns in February or March of 2017.

The physical individual number card should arrive sometime after January 1st, 2016. Once the card arrives, you will be required to return the "Notification Card" to your local government office.


WHAT IS "MY NUMBER" USED FOR?
Officially, "My Number" is used to "efficiently manage information by tying them to personal information they have on individuals in the areas of social security administration, taxation, and disaster response".

In addition, the "My Number" system will be used by government agencies to allow them to quickly share information about individuals without having to collect information from multiple sources.


TO WHOM DOES IT APPLY?
The "My Number" system applies to (a) native Japanese citizens, and (b) any foreign resident who has resided in Japan for more than three months, has a registered address in Japan, and fits one of the following criteria:Has been issued a residence card.

  1. Is a Special Permanent Resident.
  2. Has been granted landing permission for temporary refuge.
  3. Has been granted permission for provisional stay.
  4. Has overstayed due to childbirth.
  5. Has overstayed due to loss of Japanese nationality.

It does NOT apply to foreigners who have come to Japan for a short period (i.e. for tourism or business reasons) - only to foreigners who have a resident record.


AM I REQUIRED BY LAW TO OBTAIN AND USE A "MY NUMBER" CARD?
No. Individual "My Number" cards are issued by the mayor of your local municipality, not by the national government. Although the national government "hopes to see as many residents as possible obtain cards", it is - at the time of writing - entirely optional.


CAN "MY NUMBER" BE USED AS A FORM OF IDENTIFICATION?
Because your individual "My Number" card contains your name, address, date of birth, sex, plus an ID photograph, the "My Number" card MAY be used as a form of personal identification for a wide range of purposes.

However, you cannot give the "My Number" code to anyone, nor can the code itself be used as a form of identification.

In short, the CARD may be used as a form of identification, but the NUMBER cannot be used as a form of identification, or given to someone as part of your identification details.

Please keep in mind that while the "My Number" card can be used as a FORM of identification, it cannot be used to CONFIRM your identity, and therefore cannot be used in lieu of an approved ministry ordinance form of identification, such as a Residence Card or Driver's License.


WHO CAN USE "MY NUMBER"?
Your "My Number" information is intended to be used by:
- Central Government Organizations
- Local Governments
- Social Security Administrations
- Taxation Administrations
- Disaster Response Administrations

In some cases, your "My Number" information may also be used on your behalf by:

  • Business owners
  • Employment Institutions
  • Financial Institutions
  • Insurance Companies
  • Places of Employment
  • Securities Companies

As a result, you may be required to provide your individual number to an employer or another organization at some point, for reasons such as processing documents for things like national pension, unemployment insurance, medical insurance, public assistance, child allowances, welfare benefits, and tax procedures and returns, on your behalf.


WHOM SHOULD I TRUST MY "MY NUMBER" WITH?
You should only give your individual number to trusted individuals and groups. Treat it with the same reverence that you would give to your bank or credit card details.

Specific examples of organizations which may be trusted with your individual number include:

  • Tax Offices
  • Your Local Government
  • Your Place of Employment
  • Financial Institutions
  • Pension Organizations
  • Medical Insurers
  • Hello Work Offices

The Cabinet Office writes:

 Private businesses must also receive the Individual Numbers of their employees and their dependants, print them on certificates of income and withholding tax for employment income as well as notices of acquisition of insurance qualification for social insurance that they issue for the employees, and then submit those documents to the relevant administrative organs. Similarly, Individual Numbers must be printed on payment records prepared by insurance companies, records of payment of manuscript fees, etc. 



IS MY INFORMATION SAFE?
The Cabinet Secretariat of the Cabinet Office of the Government of Japan states that "strict identification mechanisms will be employed to prevent imposters from using other's Individual Numbers, and measures to protect personal information will be in place for information management and sharing among organizations that possess Individual Numbers."

In addition, the "electronic certificate issued by the Public Certification Service for Individuals is a means of personal identification that is used to prevent identity theft and data falsification when submitting online applications or notifications via the Internet."

Further, the Cabinet Office intends for companies and organization to treat a person's individual number with respect, stating that it "may not be used for any purpose that is outside the scope of procedures for social security administration, taxation, and disaster response that is established in laws and ordinances."


IS MY MEDICAL HISTORY AVAILABLE TO AN EMPLOYER VIA THE "MY NUMBER" SYSTEM?
When the "My Number" system begins in January of 2016, an individual's medical history WILL NOT be part of the information contained within the "My Number" database. However, the Cabinet Office is intending to "study this topic" for possible future inclusion.


WILL IDENTITY THEFT BE A PROBLEM (AS IN OTHER COUNTRIES)?
The Cabinet Office claims that they will not repeat the mistakes that they believe other counties (and other systems) have made. However, this confidence remains a point of contention among critics of the system.


IF I LEAVE JAPAN AND THEN RETURN AT A LATER DATE, WILL I NEED A NEW "MY NUMBER"?
No. If you leave Japan for an extended duration of time and then return at a later date, you will continue to use the same "My Number" that you had before you left Japan. "My Number" is a unique "lifetime" number, and is intended to only be issued once. However, if your individual number is stolen or has been used improperly by another individual or organization, you can request that the number be changed to a different one.


HOW LONG WILL A "MY NUMBER" CARD BE VALID FOR?
At the time writing this article, the Cabinet Office did not have an answer to this question. They stated:

 We are studying a plan that would make the cards valid for 10 years for people aged 20 years or older and 5 years for people aged less than 20 years. 



HOW WILL "MY NUMBER" BE USED IN THE FUTURE?
The Cabinet Office plans to study, "around three years after the Number Use Act comes into effect", the idea of allowing the private-sector to use the "My Number" system, although details of how they intend to allow that to happen are currently scarce.


WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS AND/OR CRITIQUES OF THE "MY NUMBER" SYSTEM?
There are several concerns regarding the "My Number" system that critics of the system have been vocal about. Here is a brief round-up of some of the issues:

  • The initial investment into the "My Number" system has cost the tax-payer around ¥270,000,000,000.
  • The Diet passed the "My Number" bill without fully discussing the potential problems that the system could create.
  • The risk of identity theft and misuse is seen to outweigh the benefit of potential taxation and social security efficiency.
  • The use of the system solely for taxation and social security purposes is intended to be expanded to other areas after three years.
  • The use of the system may be granted to the private-sector, greatly increasing the potential risk of information leaks and theft.
  • The system will allow the public-sector to monitor an individual's payments of income tax, resident tax, pension, medical insurance, and more.
  • The system is functionally identical to the social security systems that the United States and South Korea uses - weaknesses included.
  • The IT industry stands to gain a profit of around ¥40 billion a year in operation maintenance costs, costing the tax-paying public even more money.
  • Private interest groups (i.e. IT industry, private-sector) stand to gain more from the system than the public will.
  • Companies and organizations in Japan are not ready for the system.

You can read more about the concerns surrounding the "My Number" system at the links below:

Japan's National ID System Poses Risks And Advantages (Keio University)
http://kipis.sfc.keio.ac.jp/japans-national-id-system-poses-risks-advantages/

"My Number" Is Dangerous (Japan Times)
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2013/05/30/editorials/my-number-is-dangerous/

Ready For Your My Number ID? Many Japanese Firms Aren't (Japan Times)
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/01/07/national/ready-for-your-my-number-id-many-japanese-firms-arent/

Risks Of Using "My Number" (Japan Times)
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2013/03/25/commentary/japan-commentary/risks-of-using-my-number/


WHERE CAN I READ MORE ABOUT THE "MY NUMBER" SYSTEM?
The official English FAQ regarding the "My Number" system can be found at: http://www.cas.go.jp/jp/seisaku/bangoseido/english-faq.html


Are you concerned about the privacy and identity theft risks that the "My Number" system presents? Talk to the GENERAL UNION about it at:

union(@)generalunion.org



Do you have any further thoughts or opinions about the "My Number" system that you'd like to share? Start the discussion on our official Facebook page at:

http://www.facebook.com/GeneralUnionJapan


Additional information