Japan Said to Plan Tax-Free Investing Program for Kids

Japan plans to create a version of its tax-free investment program for children by January 2016 in an effort to shift household wealth into the nation’s stock market, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The Financial Services Agency will this week request the expansion of the Nippon Individual Savings Account program, which started this year and is currently only available to people 20 or older, said the person, who asked not to be named because the plans are private. The FSA will also seek to increase the annual investment cap to 1.2 million yen from 1 million yen, the person said. The Finance Ministry is expected to decide on the requests by year-end.

Japan’s government, facing an aging population and a sovereign debt burden that’s already the world’s heaviest, is encouraging citizens to shift money out of bank deposits and into riskier investments that may provide higher returns. The tax breaks are struggling to attract younger investors, with people in their 20s and 30s accounting for less than 9 percent of the 1 trillion yen ($9.7 billion) in NISA accounts through March, according to a survey by the FSA.

The so-called junior NISA will allow families to buy shares on behalf of their children aged 19 and younger with yearly limit of 800,000 yen, the person said.

The Topix index of Japanese equities slumped 13 percent this year through an April 14 low, the worst performance among developed markets tracked by Bloomberg, before rallying to pare its 2014 drop to 1.3 percent as of the end of last week. The measure handed investors an average annual return of 4 percent in the decade through 2013, including reinvested dividends.

NISA currently allows a person aged 20 or older to buy as much as 5 million yen of stocks and investment trusts without paying levies on dividends or profits, subject to the 1 million yen annual cap.

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