1. Introduction

    The Individual Number System, which was introduced in October 2015, began later issuing the Individual Number Cards starting January the following year. In the span of four years since then, however, no more than 15% of Japan’s population has been issued their Individual Number Cards (as of November 2019 according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications). This means only one out of seven people is actually part of the Individual Number System. On the other hand, the Japanese government aims to have practically every Japanese citizen issued their own Individual Number Card by the end of March 2023, with plans to expand the use of the Individual Number Card (such as a functioning as a health insurance card) and provide more benefits to owning one from March 2021, so as to encourage more people to apply for their Individual Number Card. Let us take a closer look at the Individual Number Card, starting with what it actually is, it’s current situation, and further developments of the Card.

  2. About the Individual Number Card

    The Individual Number Card is a plastic card showing the card owner’s name, address, date of birth, sex, and individual number, and photo. With an embedded IC chip, this card must be applied for to be issued.

    In addition to be a valid proof of identity, it can be used to avail of various government services, and electronic services such as e-Tax, as a kind of electronic certificate. We summarize the uses of the two types of electronic certificates, the (1) electronic certificate for the bearer’s signature, and the (2) electronic certificate for user identification, which has two sub-types.

    Electronic Certificates

    Usage What it certifies Handling for those aged below 15 years old
    Electronic certificate for the bearer’s signature Filing electronic applications, such as e-Tax, and other similar electronic documents Validates that “the electronic document bearing the certificate is genuine, and was created/submitted by the certificate holder” As it is equivalent to one’s jitsu-in (registered seal), like the residential basic book card, this cannot be issued in principle
    Electronic certificate for user identification Logging in to the My Number web portal, Convenience Store Issuance services, etc. Validates “the identity of the person logging in as your own” Issued as long as a legal representative will set a password

    The validity period of the individual number card itself is until the 10th birthday from the date of issuance. The validity of the electronic certificates is until the 5th birthday following card issuance. However, for those aged below 20 years old, individual number cards are only valid until the owner’s 5th birthday from issuance, due to the prominent and constant changes in one’s appearance during this period.

  3. The Individual Number Card Now

    As we’ve mentioned above, the Individual Number Card has a variety of functions, ranging from electronic certificates which are often used in government applications and services such as filing e-Tax, and obtaining copies of one’s public documents such as resident cards and seal registration certificates. Despite these benefits, it’s necessity in daily life remains rather negligible, resulting in the low number of issuances despite being in effect for over four years. Currently, one can say that having an individual number card mostly benefits the government rather than the citizens or card owners themselves.

  4. Future Developments

    Moving forward, to increase the Card’s usefulness and merits of owning one, as well as promote its multifunctionality, the Japanese government is working on the following measures:

    Plan for the Dissemination and Utilization of Individual Number Cards

    Item Major Content
    1 Promotion of digital Hello Work services Access to Hello Work’s online services portal, which allow viewing of training and employment history by 2021;
    Functions as a Hello Work Card that promotes electronic applications for training and educational benefits, and simplifies other application documents by 2022
    2 Promotion of digital campuses Functions as an employee or student ID for universities;
    Increases paperwork efficiency;
    Provides better method of managing teaching credentials
    3 Promoting the digitalization of tax payment procedures Batch acquisition of data needed for year-end adjustments and tax return filing;
    Automated input of information and attachments for different tax returns
    4 Linking with the Construction Career Up System Use of the Individual Number Card in the Construction Career Up System;
    Automated input, etc. of registration information;
    Linking with the Construction Career Up System portal
    5 Promotion of digitalization through integration with various cards, books, etc. In addition to the use of health insurance cards, it will be integrated with medication records, Hello Work Cards, Job Cards, teacher’s licenses, etc., as well as be a valid ID when used for private services (similar to employee IDs and medical examination cards)
    6 Increasing use in more public services Confirmation and settlement of public transport services for the elderly;
    Identity verification with a service that allows viewing of maternal and child health information such as screening results and vaccination information;
    Identification of volunteers at large-scale music and sports events, etc.;
    Omission of family register information in applications for passport issuance, etc.
    7 Expansion of smartphones that can read the Individual Number Card By working with telecommunications carriers and device manufacturers, we can establish an environment where smartphones can be used for public personal authentication services anytime and anywhere

    Source: Plan for the Dissemination and Utilization of Individual Number Cards


  5. The Digitalization of Tax Payment Procedures

    Let’s find out a little more about the third item (“Promoting the digitalization of tax payment procedures”) above. While there may already be card holders who are using their Individual Number Cards for electronic filing, these additional measures that government is looking to adapt is aimed at increasing the efficiency of filing procedures.

    Promoting the Digitalization of Tax Payment Procedures

    Expanding automatic entry of data into e-Tax, etc. Various information necessary for year-end tax adjustments and tax filing (such as insurance certificates, housing loan balance certificates, medical expenses, certificates of donation receipts, and other income-related information) can be pulled directly via a portal and into a system for automatically inputting documents. Starting in October 2020, the information that can be inputted via this platform will be gradually expanded.
    A more aggressive use of the notification function of the portal regarding final tax returns etc. Information on final tax returns, briefing events, etc. can be viewed via the My Number portal.
    Expanding use of electronic tax payment certificates With the Individual Number Card, card holders can prepare their own tax payment certificates from home, etc., as well as allow the use of electronic tax payment certificates at financial institutions

    Source: Plan for the Dissemination and Utilization of Individual Number Cards


  6. Conclusion

    This time we looked at how far the Individual Number Card has progressed since its introduction, as well as what the government’s plans are to further expand its use among citizens. We can expect rapid developments in the digitalization of government services and processes within the next few years. The My Number Point system (a measure in encouraging consumption) was also established in September 2019. The Individual Number Card that remains “unnecessary” in the eyes of Japanese citizens may soon transform from just “something that’s advantageous to have”, to “something disadvantageous not to have”, and finally into an “essential item” . On the other hand, personal information the Card is expected to have access to will grow. This, in turn, also increases the responsibility of individuals to securely manage their personal information. Finally, with the introduction of IT, various systems and procedures are expected to change at any time, so it is always necessary to pay attention to gathering information and staying updated. We hope that you can use this article as a reference for understanding the system and it has helped you become more aware of the Individual Number Card.