Bank remittance case suggests My Number may be tough to opt out of

My Number has now been officially launched. Similar to the Social Security card system in the United States, the main purpose of My Number is to streamline and unify administrative procedures among government agencies for things such as taxation and social security. Also known as the Social Security and Tax Number System, it is expected to help prevent tax evasion and welfare benefit fraud, too.

With the exception of tourists and those on short-term visas, all foreign nationals have been issued with their own 12-digit identification number, as has the local populace. Municipal offices sent out the notifications at the end of last year. If you so choose, you can then create a My Number card (photo optional), which can be used for ID purposes.

Currently, the official line is that participation in the My Number scheme is not compulsory, so although you have a number, you are not obliged to share it with anyone who asks. Many people have expressed concerns about the new system, including issues such as basic privacy and security of their personal information.

However, the reality of the situation is that it’s difficult to “opt out” for most of us. You may have already been asked by employers to furnish My Number, as well as those of any dependents, for tax purposes. Refusing to do so will also create hassles for poor souls in company accounting departments who, after all, are only following orders.

This week’s question come’s from reader J.M., who asks about the relationship between My Number and sending money abroad.

I have been using the Shinsei Bank GoRemit service to send money overseas on a regular basis. The other day I received notification from the bank, saying I had to provide them with My Number information if I wanted to continue using the service.

What’s up with this? I thought My Number wasn’t connected to bank account information, and why do they need it for an overseas transaction?”

GoRemit is a convenient way to send funds overseas that’s popular with foreign nationals. Users can send funds electronically to preregistered beneficiaries abroad in 12 major currencies via their local ATM or the Internet. So what does this have to do with My Number?

J.M. is correct that My Number hasn’t yet been linked to the domestic banking system. I contacted the Social Security Reform Section at the Cabinet Secretariat, which is responsible for disseminating information regarding My Number.

“The My Number system is slated to include deposits and savings accounts from 2018. However, this will not apply to overseas accounts. Furthermore, in the case of domestic accounts, inclusion in My Number is arbitrary, not compulsory,” said a staff member.

I then contacted Shinsei Bank to ask why a customer’s My Number was necessary for the GoRemit service. A representative from their PR Department responded: “Asking for My Number in this case has no connection with the customer’s bank account. It is in fact based on the Act on Submission of Statement of Overseas Wire Transfers for Purpose of Securing Proper Domestic Taxation.” (This law was recently modified in relation to the recording and reporting of overseas remittances and transfers of securities from Jan 1.)

“Specifically, when a customer wants to send money overseas, we are now obliged to ask for proof of their name, address and individual number (i.e., My Number), or a corporate number, to complete the transaction in line with Article 3 of the act,” the representative explained.

She added that any new applications for GoRemit services from Jan. 1 of this year must include My Number information, while customers who have been using GoRemit prior to Dec. 31 of last year, such as J.M., have been asked to furnish the extra information.

Just in case anyone is interested, more information on changes in the aforementioned law may be found here on the National Tax Agency’s website, but only in Japanese, as far I could see:

Send your comments and questions to Kiwi Louise George Kittaka has been based in Japan since she was 20. In the ensuing years she has survived PTA duty for three kids in the Japanese education system and singing live on national TV for the NHK “Nodo Jiman” show, among other things.

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