The NATGRID, a network aimed at sharing information about terrorists among security agencies, will now be getting access to the Income Tax Department’s PAN records and individual taxpayers’ data. The ambitious project conceived by the then Home Minister P Chidambaram during UPA II rule will soon be getting new powers to access taxpayers’ information after it signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Income Tax department. According to an order issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes, the department will share ‘bulk information’, starting from the Permanent Account Number (PAN) to the taxpayer’s name and all the individual data that it captures like father’s name, gender, date of birth, photograph and signature or thumb impression.
The department will also share with the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) all information available in the department’s database regarding residential and office addresses, addresses for communication, email addresses and phone and mobile numbers of all the taxpayers. The MoU with the NATGRID that functions under the Union home ministry will also include confidentially clause so that transfer of personal data is safe. As per data, while there are over 25 crore PAN holders in the country, the actual number of taxpayers is about 5 crore. The NATGRID, which is still in nascent stage, in different phases, will connect data providing organisations and users besides developing a legal structure through which information can be accessed by the law enforcement agencies.
In the first phase, 10 user agencies and 21 service providers will be connected. Later, about 1,950 additional organisations will be linked in the subsequent phases. These data sources include records related to immigration entry and exit, banking and financial transactions and telecommunications. The agencies include the Intelligence Bureau, local police and revenue and customs departments. While the clearance for the Rs 3,400 crore project from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) came in 2011, its execution slowed down after the exit of Chidambaram in July 2012. There is around 70 personnel, drawn from both the government and private sectors, are working in the NATGRID.