Using Japan’s My Number System

The My Number identification system is in place across Japan: employers and employees should understand what the system is, and how to use it…

Japan’s My Number system is a country-wide social security and tax identification system. First rolled out in January 2016, the system seeks to consolidate all personal information for Japan’s citizens, in theory making it easier to identify them for a variety of administrative purposes - and for the purposes of disaster response.

My Number is an evolving initiative so its applications have changed since its introduction - and will continue to change. In 2018, My Number is relevant in both social and professional contexts, so it’s important that employers get to grips with the finer details of the system. With that in mind, here is a list of frequently asked questions to help you manage your duties and responsibilities...

What is the ‘My Number’ System?

My Number is the public moniker for Japan’s Social Security and Tax Number System. The system assigns every resident of Japan (including foreign nationals) a unique 12-digit identification number, known as an ‘Individual Number’, which will be used to identify them for, amongst other things, tax and social security processes. The Individual Number is stored on a national database, which also includes certain personal information, including name, date of birth, gender, and photographic ID.

The government’s hope is that the My Number system will increase the efficiency of its various tax and social security applications, enhance procedural convenience for the public, and improve the fairness of the wider governmental system by combating fraud.

What is a My Number Card?

Every Japanese resident has received a My Number Notification Card which, as the name suggests, simply notifies them of their Individual Number (and its associated information). Once in possession of their Notification Card, residents can apply for their My Number Card.

The My Number Card is a plastic, wallet-size identification card which displays both a resident’s Individual Number, and associated information: name, address, date of birth, and gender. It also stores an ‘integrated circuit’ (IC) chip, which acts as an electronic certificate for certain tax and social security processes. The IC chip also offers access to the government’s Myna Portal platform, which allows cardholders to check on their tax and social security status, and receive official notifications. The My Number Card both certifies its holder’s Individual Number and serves as an official form of identification, like a passport or driver’s license. 

How do residents apply for a My Number Card?

To apply for a My Number Card, residents should complete the application form included with their Notification Card - and mail it to the Individual Number Card Acceptance Center (address details are included in the Notification Card package). Alternatively, residents can apply by computer or smartphone using the government’s My Number portal, or by using a designated public kiosk.

As previously mentioned, foreigners can also apply for a My Number Card - so long as they have been resident in Japan for at least three months, have a registered address and are authorised to be in the country (have Permanent Residency status, for example).

Who will use My Number information?

Since the government wants My Number to streamline a range of administrative processes, the Individual Numbers themselves will need to be used by certain public and private institutions. Employers, in particular, will need to obtain numbers when inducting employees into their payroll systems, processing pension and health insurance, and when completing certain tax forms. Similarly, Financial institutions may need to use Individual Numbers when opening accounts, or processing transactions.

How will My Number change?

The plan is that the My Number system will evolve to fulfil a wider set of administrative applications. In 2018, the My Number system was extended to financial institutions, which can now request Individual Numbers from account holders on a voluntary basis (although it’s likely this may become mandatory in the future). The welfare ministry recently announced that the My Number Card would replace health insurance cards - indicating that the system’s scope will continue to expand across the administrative landscape.

Is My Number secure?

Since sensitive personal information is contained in the My Number system, and given its application in payroll, tax, and banking contexts, concerns have been raised over potential data security risks, and vulnerabilities to hacking and cyber-crime.

To reassure residents, the Japanese government has stated that strict cyber-security mechanisms will be in place to protect data held on the My Number system and prevent imposters posing as others by using their Individual Numbers. Employers and other institutions, like banks, have also received data security instructions regarding use of the My Number system.

For more information on Japan’s tax, payroll and social security landscape, browse activpayroll’s Japan Global Insight Guide.