My Number poses dilemma for bar hostesses, others moonlighting after work


Staff Writer

A dirty little secret of one Japanese “office lady” stereotype is that some women, dissatisfied with their clerical salaries, augment their earnings by moonlighting as bar hostesses.

The second job is not necessarily one they want revealed — carrying, as it does, images of ladies of the night in flashy dresses and makeup, entertaining salarymen with lascivious lights in their eyes.

But the upcoming introduction of the 12-digit My Number identification code assigned to all residents in Japan threatens to expose their nocturnal identity. Tax professionals say it may force some to consider abandoning their second job, often the more lucrative.

My Number will “first of all make incomes transparent for the tax authorities,” said Manabu Kondo, a tax accountant and author based in Kizugawa, Kyoto Prefecture. “Until now, the government may have been able to identify names of bar operators (for tax purposes), but it has had difficulty identifying individuals working for them.”

Tax professionals think many of the moonlighting hostesses evade taxes on their secondary earnings, often because they are unaware they are required to file tax returns for their second job.

Tax offices would not bother to track these individuals because of the difficulty of identifying hostesses who use false names, and employers who pay them in cash and employ other tricks to hide transactions, the professionals point out.

In the case of someone working for three employers, My Number can help authorities track all three income sources, Kondo said.

Overcoming years of resistance, the government this month will start sending out a tsuchi kaado (notification card) bearing the personal identification number to all individuals on the residency registry, officially kicking off a project to unify hitherto separate identities in governmental services, including social security, taxation and national health insurance.

The initial phase of the project, from January, will start seeing the numbers used in tax administration as well as social security and disaster relief benefits. This is expected to greatly enhance the efficiency of administration.

With the My Number launch three months away, hostesses should prepare to start filing tax returns because tax inspectors can easily go after them.

But there is a danger the individual should be aware of: After receiving tax returns describing their true incomes, the tax office may relay that information to the municipal government, which would then send a document detailing the total local levies to the daytime employer — because that employer is typically responsible for deducting the amount from wages. The employer might spot discrepancies between the tax sum and the presumably low salary a female clerk, say, might be earning.

Hostesses fear this scenario may lead to their daytime employers, and potentially their colleagues, finding out about their second identity.

And a similar fear is shared by salaried workers who have a second job they do not want their main employer to know about, in a country where devotion to the firm is the norm.

National Tax Agency statistics show that the average annual income of salaried workers peaked at ¥4.67 million in 1997 and shrank thereafter to ¥4.14 million in 2013, likely prompting many workers to look for additional income sources.

But employers remain reluctant to see their staff working elsewhere, with only 3.8 percent of 4,513 companies nationwide saying they explicitly allow their staff to take up a second job, according to a survey conducted by Recruit Career Co. from last November to February this year.

Zenya Ozawa, an author and certified public accountant based in Tokyo’s Ginza district, said one way to avoid a secret second job from becoming known is not to give one’s assigned My Number to the second employer — albeit not a recommended strategy.

“Do it at your own risk. At least for now, there’s no penalty for not providing your My Number to your employer,” Ozawa said. “I think that’s what hostesses probably will do.”

Ozawa pointed to the NTA website, where a “frequently asked questions” section explicitly says there is no penalty prescribed in tax laws for failure to include My Number on submissions to the tax office because the government assumes there will still be people who may not have received their assigned numbers. But it also notes that to enter the number is an “obligation dictated by law” and urges taxpayers to “enter (it) correctly and submit.”

Tax accountant Kondo said dual-earners can choose to pay taxes under the self-employed category instead of becoming “employed” by the second employer, which ensures that the local tax amount will not be sent to the daytime employer.

  • KietaZou

    I don’t object to something like this in principle, but the guv’min’ here has NO principles, save protecting and boosting the interests of the powerful and paternally crushing the rights and hopes and dreams of the ordinary humans beneath its heel.

    The police have no restrictions on using My Number information as they wish. Expect this system to be included on your ID soon, and for it to be abused at will.

    Abe’s ream seems to be for a police state such as existed during the war, but this time a “benevolent” one. And “they” will tell us what the word really means.

    • Jonathan Fields

      That’s exactly what he’s aiming for. In his mind, and the minds of many others in his party, WWII was a golden age for Japan.

  • thedudeabidez

    To describe OLs who moonlight as hostesses as “dissatisfied” with their salaries is a bit of an understatement.

    Ezample: I have a good friend who recently gave up on living in Tokyo and moved back to her hometown. She had been hired as an office worker by a university; it was a job with responsibility, and certainly required someone with professional skills to do it. She was a woman, however, so she was paid just ¥900 per hour. Held to a strict 40 hour work week (at least in payment), that comes to under ¥130,000 monthly after taxes. Add in local (ku) taxes and pension/health insurance premiums, rent on a small six-mat apartment, utilities, and a cell phone, and you wind up with about ¥30,000 per month left to live on. And that has to cover transportation as well, which means less than ¥1,000 a day. Have a Starbucks cofee and you may as well skip a meal.

    In this sort of economy, moonlighting is not due to “dissatisfaction”– it is a necessity. My friend simply could not make ends meet while working a full-time job. Thus, she turned to hostessing several nights a week as well. That took care of the money side of things but the result was that she was exhausted all the time, and had almost no free time. As someone who wanted to start a family, she saw this as a dead end, so she eventually moved out of Tokyo and back in with her parents.

    Abenomics has consisted of asking more and more from the people on the bottom — in the form of increased regressive taxes, increased social insurance costs, and an increase on notional taxes to bail out TEPCO — while also raising the cost of living by weakening the yen considerably. Big export zaibatsu businesses and the stockmarkets almost exclusively have benefited from his policices, and now Abe is promising corporate tax cuts as well, at the same time he intends to “unavoidably” raise the consumption tax again.

    None of this has resulted in higher wages, so is it any surprise consumption is down and the economy won’t recover? Is it any wonder people find they lack the time/resources/physical space to embark on raising a family? In truth, it seems the driving concept behind Abenomics is not to improve the economy, as most economists blithely assume, but instead to simply funnel more wealth from the bottom to the top. It has been extremely successful in doing that, and it’s about time that the people recognize it for what it is.