A permanent account number (PAN) is a ten-character alphanumeric identifier, issued in the form of a laminated “PAN card”, by the Indian Income Tax Department, to any “person” who applies for it or to whom the department allots the number without an application.
A PAN is a unique identifier issued to all judicial entities identifiable under the Indian Income Tax Act, 1961. The income tax PAN and its linked card are issued under Section 139A of the Income Tax Act. It is issued by the Indian Income Tax Department under the supervision of the Central Board for Direct Taxes (CBDT) and it also serves as an important proof of identification.
It is also issued to foreign nationals (such as investors) subject to a valid visa, and hence a PAN card is not acceptable as proof of Indian citizenship. A PAN is necessary for filing income tax returns.
Structure of PAN
The PAN (or PAN number) is a ten-character long alpha-numeric unique identifier.
The PAN structure is as follows: AAAPL1234C:
The first five characters are letters (in uppercase by default), followed by four numerals, and the last (tenth) character is a letter.
The first three characters of the code are three letters forming a sequence of alphabets letters from AAA to ZZZ
The fourth character identifies the type of holder of the card. Each holder type is uniquely defined by a letter from the list below:
A — Association of persons (AOP)
B — Body of individuals (BOI)
C — Company
F — Firm
G — Government
H — HUF (Hindu undivided family)
L — Local authority
J — Artificial juridical person
P — Individual (proprietor)
T — Trust (AOP)
E – LLP (limited liability partnership)
The fifth character of the PAN is the first character of either:
~of the surname or last name of the person, in the case of a “personal” PAN card, where the fourth character is “P” or
~of the name of the entity, trust, society, or organization in the case of a company/HUF/Firm/AOP/trust/BOI/local authority/artificial judicial person/government, where the fourth character is “C”, “H”, “F”, “A”, “T”, “B”, “L”, “J”, “G”.
The last (tenth) character is an alphabetic digit used as a check-sum to verify the validity of that current code.
Uses of PAN
The primary purpose of the PAN is to bring a universal identification to all financial transactions and to prevent tax evasion by keeping track of monetary transactions, especially those of high-net-worth individuals who can impact the economy.
Quoting the PAN is mandatory when filing income tax returns, tax deduction at source, or any other communication with the Income Tax Department. PAN is also steadily becoming a mandatory document for opening a new bank account, a new landline telephone connection / a mobile phone connection, purchase of foreign currency, bank deposits above ₹50,000, purchase and sale of immovable properties, vehicles, etc.
Obtaining a PAN
Obtaining a PAN may be optional or voluntary like a passport, driving license, Aadhaar, etc. However, its use is mandatory at required places, like PAN for high-value financial transactions, driving license for motor driving, passport for foreign travel, etc..
One can apply for PAN by submitting the prescribed PAN application to the authorized PAN agency of the district or through online submission to NSDL Website, UTI along with 2 recent passport size color photographs, proof of ID, Address and Date of Birth and fee. In case of reprint (re-issue), a photocopy of the old PAN is also required. It takes about 10–15 days to receive the card.
A user with an Aadhaar card can also submit e-KYC.
Prescribed PAN application forms
There are two types of PAN applications:
- Application for allotment of PAN: This application should be used when the applicant has never applied for a PAN or does not have PAN allotted to him.
FORM 49AA: – To be filled by foreign citizens.
- Application for new PAN Card or/and Changes or Corrections in PAN Data: – Those who have already obtained the PAN and wish to obtain the new PAN card or want to make some changes/corrections in their PAN data, are required to submit their applications in the following form prescribed by ITD:
‘REQUEST FOR NEW PAN CARD OR/AND CHANGES OR CORRECTION IN PAN DATA’: – The same form(49A/49AA) can be used by Indian as well as foreign citizens. A new PAN card bearing the same PAN but updated information is issued to the applicant, in such a case.
- Pan allotment based on Aadhar is free of cost. pan pdf will be generated and issued to the applicant. This is an easy and paperless process. Get pan within 10 minutes. Holds the same value as a Physical pan card.
Pan card allocated date can be checked from official website of UTI.
The issuance of PAN, verification, delivery, and maintenance works on public-private partnership (PPP) model like Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) for reasons of economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. The reputed entities like NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure Limited (formerly National Securities Depository Limited) and UTI Infrastructure Technology Services Limited (UTIITSL) have been entrusted by Income Tax Department as managed service providers for the processing of applications, collecting, handling and verifying personal documents like proof of ID, age and address, clarification with the applicants, printing the card and the letter and then mailing it. The processing agencies obtain the new PAN number online from the server of the income tax department after the successful processing of the application documents. Some critics in India may call the handling, processing, and delivery of personal ID and financial documents by private contractors as a violation of privacy.
NSDL e-Gov centers can be located at TIN website. It is now very easy to apply online using Aadhaar based eSignature at NSDL e-Gov’s website. One can register first at NSDL e-Gov’s website. After registration, the applicant receives a token number. One can continue with filling form. The applicant can save the details and complete the form at his convenience by logging using his/her registered details. One can upload photo/signature and supporting documents and finally eSign the application using Aadhaar and OTP. After successful eSign one can download and keep a copy of the signed form for his reference. An acknowledgment receipt and form are also received through e-mail at registered email ID.
UTIITSL centres can be located at its website.
PAN for foreign citizens
PAN is an important document for foreign citizens also, who wish to undertake business in India or wish to invest in India. The procedure to obtain PAN is the same as applicable for Indian citizens. However, the application is required to be filed using Form 49AA meant for foreign citizens and submitted at any of the authorized PAN Service Centre through the authorized representative in India. List of documents applicable to foreign citizens are given below:
Individuals and HUF
Documents accepted as proof of identity
- Copy of passport, or Voter’s ID card
- Copy of Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card issued by Government of India,
- Copy of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card issued by Government of India,
- Copy of other national or citizenship Identification Number or Taxpayer Identification Number duly attested by “Apostille” (in respect of countries which are signatories to the Hague Convention of 1961) or by the Indian Embassy or High Commission or Consulate in the country where the applicant is located or authorized officials of overseas branches of Scheduled Banks registered in India (in prescribed format).
Documents accepted as proof of address
- Proof of identity documents mentioned above bearing the address of the applicant or
- Copy of bank account statement in the country of residence, or
- Copy of non-resident external (NRE) bank account statement in India, or
- Copy of certificate of residence in India or residence permit issued by the state police authorities, or
- Copy of registration certificate issued by the Foreigner’s Registration Office showing Indian address, or
- Copy of visa granted and copy of appointment letter or contract from an Indian company and certificate (in original) of Indian address issued by the employer.
For other than individuals and HUF (including those having no office of their own in India)
Documents accepted as proof of identity and proof of address
- Copy of certificate of registration issued in the country where the applicant is located, duly attested by “Apostille” (in respect of the countries which are signatories to the Hague Convention of 1961) or by the Indian Embassy or High Commission or Consulate in the country where the applicant is located or authorized officials of overseas branches of Scheduled Banks registered in India (in prescribed format); or
- Copy of registration certificate issued in India or of approval granted to set up an office in India by Indian Authorities.
At present, PAN Service Centres are located in India only. However, foreign citizens may find the online mode of application more convenient when the clunky web user interface is working. The online facility allows payment of fees using credit card option for foreign citizens (but only if they have India based credit card as international credit cards are not always accepted by the third party fee collectors.) Unlike most countries, India charges a fee to issue a TIN (PAN ID). The fees charges are ₹107 if the PAN card is to be received in India and ₹989 if the PAN Card is to be received at a foreign location. Note that the online application only eliminates data entry errors. One still needs to mail the application with photographs to India-based centers. The application requires two photographs. One on the top right requires signature within the box below it. The other one on the top left requires signature across the photograph (such that part of the signature is on the photograph and part on the form). There is anywhere from 2 to 20 days lag between your documents reaching the center and the initial processing/verification which only takes a day. The actual issue of PAN number by the tax department is within 48 hours. The actual PAN card is sent to the overseas address by the registered/certified mail and may take additional 2 weeks after the issue of the PAN number which is initially conveyed by email.
Fake PAN cards
Although there are only 30 million income taxpayers in India, yet there are 170 million genuine PANs issued as of 2014. While the alphanumeric PAN number is unique, individuals and corporate entities have been able to obtain multiple PAN cards fraudulently. It is illegal to obtain multiple PANs and there is a penalty of ₹10,000 (US$140) when caught. In addition, there are fake PAN cards due to ubiquitous plastic card printers. Additionally, illegal immigrants have also got PAN cards issued to them; most have used the services of PAN card agents.
One should take due care to refrain from using services of tout agents who claim to provide hand delivery of PAN cards and charge extra. Also, there are certain sites that have proliferated on the web that provide online PAN service at additional charge. However, there are only two authorized entities who are also authorized to host online PAN application services on behalf of ITD, i.e. NSDL e-Governance & UTIITSL.