Saturday, March 2, 2013
Bill Proposes '16 Start For ID Numbers
TOKYO (Nikkei)--After years of debate, Japan has moved closer to adopting individual identification numbers for paying taxes and receiving social welfare benefits.
The so-called My Number system would take effect in 2016. Proponents say it would make these processes simpler and fairer and accelerate the government's transition to the digital age.
The necessary legislation, sent to the Diet on Friday, is a reworked version of an earlier bill, with changes proposed by the ruling coalition and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan. While passage is likely in the current session, it may get pushed back by other priorities. A separate bill would establish a Cabinet Office post on information policy oversight -- essentially, a government chief information officer.
Each person would be issued a unique number. Notices would be sent out in 2015, to be exchanged for smart-chip-loaded photo identification cards.
The numbers will be phased in starting the following January. People will eventually use them when collecting pension benefits, filing tax returns and interacting with government in other ways, either in person or at home.
From January 2017, national agencies would use the numbers to share personal information. Local governments would follow suit in July of that year.
Identification numbers could help cut red tape. Applying for a child-rearing allowance, for instance, now entails gathering documents from various government offices. With identification numbers, determining whether someone qualifies for this aid will take a matter of moments.
Officials also say the My Number system can improve both tax collection and benefits payment, reducing double-dipping on both sides.
The legislation also includes steps to safeguard privacy, such as establishing a committee to oversee how government agencies use personal information.
The bill would limit the use of the identification numbers to government agencies. The issue of broadening their scope to the private sector would be considered after three years.
(The Nikkei, March 2 morning edition)