The Diet enacted a law last month that enables the government to utilize money kept in dormant bank accounts to financially support nonprofit organizations engaged in such activities as promoting welfare and revitalizing communities. Since the law can make vast amounts of funds — estimated at tens of billions of yen a year — available for use by these organizations, it is imperative to work out a transparent scheme to make sure the money will be distributed and spent in a fair and appropriate manner.

A main idea behind the legislation, which was proposed by lawmakers in both the ruling and opposition camps, is to help private-sector organizations that serve the public interest but otherwise find it difficult to get official government funding. Distribution of money to these organization can start as early as 2019.

Customarily, banks designate accounts by their customers that have been left unused for 10 years or longer as dormant. From fiscal 2010 through 2013, an average of about 11.5 million bank accounts worth ¥105 billion in total became dormant each year. Under the new law, money remaining in such accounts — after the banks have repaid deposits and interest on claims to depositors and people who have inherited the assets of deceased depositors — will be utilized by the government in the form of grants or loans to NPOs and community associations. Until now, banks have entered such remaining deposits — which amount to ¥50 billion to ¥60 billion — as revenue in their books.