Nonprofit groups step closer to corporate status

A bill giving corporate status to volunteer and other citizens groups and recognizing them as official nonprofit organizations is expected to clear the Lower House Committee on the Cabinet June 5.

After long and heated debates, the bill, a revision of an earlier one, is expected to be backed by the Liberal Democratic Party, Social Democratic Party and Democratic Party of Japan. Shinshinto, the largest opposition party, has decided to vote against the bill, saying that a bill that does not include any tax relief measures for NPOs would not be of much use.

The bill was revised to widen the definition of nonprofit organizations by incorporating a proposal from the DPJ. The legislator-sponsored bill, which is expected to be approved at a plenary session of the Lower House on June 6, will be immediately sent to the Upper House.

However, it remains to be seen if the bill will be enacted within the current Diet session because little time is left for the House of Councilors to deliberate it before the session ends June 18. The legislation has been sought to facilitate NPO activities in the wake of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake.

It was widely recognized at that time that relief activities conducted by citizens groups considerably helped victims of the disaster. Now many people say that it is important for Japan to promote the growth of NPOs as a third sector of society, next to the public and private sectors.