18 tax offices in 4 central Japan prefectures kept files on foreigners

Eighteen tax offices in four central Japan prefectures kept files on foreign residents, including their nationalities and alien registration numbers, the Mainichi learned on June 24.

The Nagoya Regional Taxation Bureau says the 18 tax offices in Aichi, Shizuoka, Gifu and Mie prefectures compiled the files to avoid duplicate income tax return applications and to determine the identity of each foreign taxpayer. Foreign taxpayers, however, are not required to mention their nationalities and alien registration numbers in their income tax returns.

The Japanese law on the protection of personal information held by administrative agencies only approves the holding of data necessary to conduct official business, and experts say the tax offices’ actions may constitute a violation of that law.

According to the taxation bureau, the tax offices started compiling files on foreign taxpayers in electronic format in fiscal 2001, listing 10 items for each individual including name, date of birth, place of residence, tax manager (taxpayer’s proxy), and reference number, along with a space for notes.

Informed sources say there are many foreign workers at automobile factories and other plants in the region. The tax offices kept files on foreigners of Japanese ancestry and Westerners, but did not do so on Chinese and others with names in Chinese kanji characters.

The tax offices prepared the data based on information gleaned from income tax returns, and logged alien registration numbers only when foreign taxpayers used alien registration cards to identify themselves.

The files were sent to the internal affairs and communications minister under the law, and account ledgers mentioning things like the purpose of collecting the information can be seen via the Internet.

Each of the tax offices are thought to have kept such files on more than 1,000 foreign taxpayers, but the number of those identified by nationality or alien registration number is not known.

“The tax offices kept files as a matter of convenience, probably because the names of foreigners are confusing. The files were not meant for tax probes,” a Nagoya Regional Taxation Bureau representative said, adding that the files were destroyed at the end of March this year due to a switch to a nationwide tax data monitoring system.

Meanwhile, a National Tax Agency official told the Mainichi, “Other tax offices are not keeping such files. The agency has never issued such an order.”

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry’s personal information protection office says it is up to each administrative entity concerned to determine if such individual information is necessary or not.