Tax break urged to fill SDF reserve

JIJI, Staff Report

Companies that hire reserve members of the Self-Defense Forces could soon receive a tax break to help bolster the shorthanded force, informed sources say.

As debates on tax reform measures for fiscal 2015 deepen toward year-end, the Defense Ministry has proposed such a corporate tax break to the Finance Ministry, the sources said.

The Defense Ministry proposes that companies be allowed to deduct ¥100,000 from corporate tax payments for each SDF reserve member they hire. The ministry also wants no limit imposed on the number of reservists a company can hire to get the perk, the sources said.

The reserve comprises members who have already left the SDF. In ordinary times, they live as normal citizens but are obligated to engage in military training for at least five days a year.

The reserves got their first call-up since the SDF’s establishment in 1954 when the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake struck. Many of them joined the SDF’s search and rescue missions and gave medical assistance to survivors where needed.

The SDF reserve is supposed to have 47,900 members, but its population today stands at around 70 percent.

The job is not popular because reserve members employed by companies often find it extremely difficult to take time off from work to complete the mandatory five days of training each year. Many reserve members quit without training for the full five days over the three-year period as they are required to do.

In the latest National Defense Program Guidelines, released last December, the government made clear that it wants to boost the number of SDF reservists.

The Defense Ministry offers companies incentives to hire SDF reservists, such as preferential treatment in tenders for projects that the ministry orders, but the envisioned tax break will come on top of any existing incentives.

In recent years, given the falling number of eligible youths and the rapid graying of society as a whole, the SDF has been having difficulty recruiting new members.

In July, just after the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the controversial decision to alter the government’s interpretation of the Constitution to legalize the use of collective self-defense, the Defense Ministry launched a major SDF recruitment campaign, replete with TV commercials featuring a member of the all-girl idol group AKB48 and online videos soliciting applications.

Critics say that exercising the right, which allows japan to come to the defense of an ally under armed attack, might allow Japan to be dragged into a war — even when it is not being directly attacked.

Much the public is worried that if Japan takes part in any collective self-defense missions, it could be targeted by the countries or parties against which its actions are directed.