Last Tuesday, representatives from four entertainment industry lobby groups held a press conference to express their opposition to Japan’s controversial new invoice system. Manga artist Reon Yutaka revealed worrying statistics based on a manga industry survey: 98% of respondents were sole proprietors, and among them 20.6％ reported that they fear that the invoice system will force them to go out of business.
The “STOP! Invoice” advocacy group is streaming the press conference in full:
Under the new system, which will take effect in October 2023, freelancers and sole proprietors will lose their tax-exempt status because invoices will be subject to consumption tax. Yutaka explained that manga artists face a difficult situation because royalties are unstable, while manuscript fees have flatlined due to the long-term stagnation of the Japanese economy and the recession in the publishing industry. She argued that if artists need to hire accountants and pay tax on their invoices, then they will be forced out of business.
According to the manga industry survey, which was conducted from November 3 to 10, only 17 out of 1,275 respondents were in favor of the invoice system. The majority of respondents indicated a general understanding of the system, but did not understand who or what the system is for.
The impact will also severely impact manga assistants. 31% of assistants currently make between 1-2 million yen (about US$7,213-14,425) per year, and 30% make less than 1 million yen (US$7,213), for a total of 60% making less than 2 million yen (US$14,425). More than half cannot make a living unless they work a side job. Yutaka said she fears that the invoice system will worsen this situation, and fewer people will become manga artists. In that scenario, the Japanese manga industry could be swallowed by foreign countries such as South Korea and China, leaving only the most well-known publishers and artists intact.
The system is also controversial for compromising individual privacy. Invoices can only be considered “verified” if individuals file them using their real names, and the names will be accessible to the public via a national database. This poses problems to workers who wish to keep their real names private, such as manga artists and Virtual YouTubers.
Masuo Ueda, former Sunrise producer and representative director of Skyfall, cited similar survey results among freelancers in the anime industry. 60% are concerned about the impact, while one in four said they are in danger of going out of business altogether.
Ueda remarked: “People call the anime industry a black industry. However, in recent years, the industry as a whole has been working to improve the working environment and ensure employee status for animators. However, the reality is that not everyone can be made an employee, and the importance of supporting freelancers will remain unchanged in the future. Forcing freelancers, especially animators, to close their businesses will mean that young people will no longer be able to enter the industry. I fear that the anime industry will be devastated in a few years’ time.”
Maya Okamoto, voice actress and co-chairperson of the voice actor advocacy group Voiction cited the results of two surveys from September to October conducted through the group’s website. 76% of voice actors self-reported an income of less than 3 million yen (about US$21,638). 27% responded that they might go out of business due to the invoice system. 80% said they have not yet been briefed by their agency or clients about the introduction of the invoice system, as of the end of October.
Among the 20% who said they had been briefed, some reported that they had been told that they could not be promised future contracts unless they were registered, or that their pay would be reduced if they did not operate a taxable business. Okamoto remarked that even if voice actors are not directly told this, they may be quietly turned down for roles without ever knowing the real reason.
After the press conference, the speakers went to the Houses of Representatives to participate in a caucus on re-evaluating the invoice system. Representative Yoshinori Suematsu said that nearly 5 million people in Japan will be affected negatively by the system and expressed his opposition to the system. The meeting had 55 members, mostly in agreement with Suematsu. House of Representatives member Takayuki Ochiai streamed the meeting on his YouTube channel:
Despite the system’s unpopularity, the number of registered users is increasing. According to Tetsushi Shimono, who manages the invoice system at the National Tax Agency, the system has 1.43 million registered users as of the end of October, up 228,000 from the end of September. Around 200,000 new registrations are filed per month. Because the number of taxable businesses is estimated to be 3 million, just under half have already been registered.
Hiroshi Someya, director of planning for the taxation bureau, argued that the invoice system is necessary to properly calculate taxes under the multiple brackets. He nevertheless stated the government also considers it important to support Cool Japan, and suggested that specific concerns could be resolved through a separately drafted policy.
Other key figures at the conference were Masahiko Otsuka, representative director of Studio Trigger, and actors Satoshi Maruo and Aya Hirose. The Professional Motion Picture Workers Association Japan filed an official request on Thursday to members of the Japanese government to postpone and improve the invoice system.
Source: Comic Natalie