Varieties of Japanese Incorporated Associations: Focus on the differences between public interest incorporated associations and approved specified non-profit activities corporations

Author Name OKAMOTO Masahiro (Kwansei Gakuin University)
Creation Date/NO. May 2018 18-J-018
Research Project Research on the Liberalist Reforms of the Public-Private Relationship and the Establishment of the Third Sector in Japan
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Associations are the base of our society. This is true not only in the Tocqueville-ridden United States, but also in contemporary Japan. The characteristics of the structure of associations speak much about the society.

This study explores the structure of nonprofit incorporated associations in Japan. Particularly, we focus on differences between Public Interest Incorporated Associations (PIIA) and Approved Specified Non-profit Activities Corporations (ASNPAC), both of which are the two major general forms of legal entities entertaining preferential tax treatment, similar to the 501(c)(3) public charities in the United States.

In 1998, the Act on Promotion of Specified Non-profit Activities was enacted. This reform was followed in 2008 by three laws called the Public Interest Corporation Reform Acts. These reforms changed the traditional legal corporation structure originated in 1896. Thus, this was the true great emancipation reform, even though not much attention was paid to it. We examine the results of these reforms by using the Fourth Survey on the Third Sector (2017) and the white paper on public interest corporations (2017), and come up with five legal entities: General Incorporated Associations (normal type), General Incorporated Associations (non-profit type), Specified Non-profit Activities Corporations, ASNPAC, and PIIA.

Although all of these entities, which were created by the reforms, are included in "non-profit organizations beyond the competent government agency system" (Ushiro and Sakamoto 2017), significant differences are found among these five types of legal entities. PIIAs are mostly corporations transformed from the former system and have retained many of the old type characteristics. For example, one-fourth of PIIA is the Silver Human Resources Centers, which is under the rigid control of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. In some ways, there are discrepancies between the old entities and the new legal system. Some adjustments or changes may be required. Since the revision of the Act on Promotion of Specified Nonprofit Activities in 2012, the number of ASNPACs has increased, but the growth of new PIIAs after institutional reform has been very slow. However, the rapid growth of General Incorporated Associations, the increase of ASNPACs in recent years, and the entry of new PIIA, of which even the number is small, can be described as suggesting that this field of associations in Japan has been undergoing major structural changes.