This week’s featured article


Experts have voiced concerns about the Finance Ministry’s plan to use the upcoming My Number identity system to provide consumers with refunds on certain items and thereby soften the blow when the consumption tax is hiked to 10 percent from 8 percent in April 2017.

My Number cards will be distributed to all residents in Japan from January upon application. They will carry a 12-digit number and will identify the holder by name, address and date of birth. The system is aimed at streamlining tax collection and the administration of social welfare benefits.

Shungo Koreeda, a researcher at the Daiwa Institute of Research, cautiously welcomes the government’s proposal to offer refunds, saying it is a better idea than introducing a selective reduced tax rate. However, he argues against using My Number for it.

“My Number cards carry very important personal information. Therefore it’s inappropriate to use them when making purchases.”

Under the ministry plan, customers would present their My Number cards when making purchases. The government would then collect and store purchase data to facilitate the refund.

Takanori Nahara, head of public affairs at the New Supermarket Association of Japan, warns of significant privacy issues, saying there is a high risk of loss of personal data at the point of sale.

Meanwhile, Kazuoki Ono, co-representative of the Consumers Union of Japan, said he is afraid the government will store and use people’s purchase records.

Ono fears the records would become “big data” and at some stage could be used to the benefit of businesses, such as for marketing.

Consumers will pay 10 percent consumption tax on all items, but would be eligible for refunds of the 2-percent rise on some products. A reduced tax rate of 8 percent would be applied to all food and beverages, except alcoholic drinks.

First published in The Japan Times on Sept. 10.

Warm up

One-minute chat about shopping.


Collect words related to shopping, e.g., purchase, tax, food.

New words

1) streamline: to make more efficient; e.g., “They decided to streamline the project.”

2) administration: how something is managed or given out; e.g., “I’m in charge of the administration of payments.”

3) cautiously: carefully, warily of danger; e.g., “She stepped inside cautiously.”

Guess the headline

Plan to use _ _ N_ _ _ _ _ for tax rebates is flawed, some experts say


1) What will be included on the My Number card?

2) How would the government’s planned refund procedure work?

3) Which items would the tax refund apply to?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Do you think the My Number card will improve the social welfare system?

2) Would you use your My Number card to get refunds on your shopping?

3) What do you think is needed to ensure a seamless and safe social welfare system?







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