Security concerns and duplication of the PAN cards are reasons which have prompted the government to look at introducing biometric PAN cards. The government is worried that terrorists can easily get a PAN card and open bank accounts or get a mobile connection to finance their activities.
According to official data about 13,10,127 persons are suspected to have duplicate PANs through out the country till August last year. The finance ministry has given the go ahead for the new cards and the project is now at the tendering stage.
Sources said the tenders would be out in the next few months and the PAN cards would be introduced during the course of the year.
"Initially, the biometric PAN cards would be issued only to new applicants. We will look at phasing out the older cards and providing biometric PAN cards to older users at a later date," an official source said.
Hence, over 4.6 lakh existing PAN holders and another 95 lakh applicants this fiscal can breathe easy for a while. The cost of the cards however remains an issue. While the 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 is likely to be hiked marginally, while the tax department too would chip in and bear part of the costs.
A very high fee for the card would only end discouraging people from applying for the cards, the official pointed out. The department however hopes to sort this out during the tendering process, he added.