PAN to be linked with Unique Id Number

Written by Surabhi Rastogi | Surabhi | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 7 2009, 07:20am hrs
Banking heavily on the use of biometrics, the ten-digit Permanent Account Number (PAN) and the 16-digit Unique Identification (UID) Number are set to be linked up. The government has decided to link the plan for biometric PAN cards with the UID project. The finance ministry has already begun talking to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in this regard. We are having discussions with the finance ministry. Both projects will be using biometrics, so it is a good choice, UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani told FE.

The move comes at a time when both the income tax department and the UIDAI propose to use biometrics to verify the identity of citizens and avoid duplication of cards. More importantly, it would help the UIDAI get easy access to the nearly 70 million PAN cardholders.

Under the proposal, the PAN card infrastructure will be used by the UIDAI for data collection and enrollment of citizens. Further, the UID number will be embedded in new PAN cards, while earlier PAN cardholders will be sent a letter with their UID number.

For the Biometric Permanent Account Number (PAN) cards, tax authorities were planning to capture the fin-gerprints of four fingers of an individualtwo from each hand; along with the face (with the eyes fully visible), the UIDAI is expected to use only fingerprints.

While the Central Board of Direct Taxes has been planning to launch biometric PAN cards for over three years, it was just this year that it actually floated a tender for it.

Seven firms including Infosys, HCL, Tata Consultancy Services and its subsidiary CMC and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd, ITI and Bharat Electronics were shortlisted for the project.

In the initial years, the department plans to issue biometric PAN cards to new applicants and those seeking a re-issue. It would be extended to existing cardholders later. Nilekani has said that once all new applicants move to the UID-backed platform, existing PAN card holders can be given a specific timeframe of say, two years, to migrate.

But the cost of the card remains an issue and the department officials are staying silent about for now. At present, PAN cards come at a fee of Rs 67. The biometric cards are likely to cost about Rs 200 to Rs 300. Sources said the fee was likely to be hiked marginally, while the tax department too would chip in and bear part of the costs. However, higher fees could pose as a detriment to new applicants.