The importance of Permanent Account Number (PAN) card has grown over the years, and it is today an essential part of our lives. The most important purpose of allotting PAN to an entity is for the purpose of identification and to track all the related monetary information of that entity. Initially, the significance of PAN was for filing income tax returns. Over time, PAN was used in dealings with the stock markets, banks and purchase of real estate and vehicles. Today, PAN has started finding use in unconventional areas as well, as follows:
Bank Fixed Deposits: If you open a fixed deposit with your bank for an amount exceeding Rs 50,000, a copy of PAN card needs to be given. In absence of PAN, the bank will deduct TDS of 20 per cent or at the prevailing rate, whichever is higher (instead of the normal 10 per cent). Further, the bank will not issue TDS certificate. Form 15G/15H and other exemption certificates will be invalid in this case.
Payment in hotels and restaurants: You may asked to submit a copy of your PAN if you pay cash in hotels or restaurants against bills for an amount exceeding Rs 25,000
Payment to travel agents: Cash payment more than Rs 25,000 for travel to any foreign country (fare or purchase of foreign currency) in a single payment requires you to produce your PAN copy.
Rent agreements: Nowadays, landlords demand a copy of the PAN card of tenants, as the primary ID proof while letting out their property.
Jewellery shops: High-value purchase of jewellery in cash should be accompanied by a copy of the PAN card of the buyer, mainly as a means to curb black money usage. Other usages of PAN include: Payment in second hand car dealings, installation of telephone and visa facilitation centres.
It is seen that quoting or producing a copy of your PAN card is compulsory in practically every money transaction, and not restricted to income tax dealings. The significance of PAN cannot be questioned as this has become the primary document sought in all important legitimate dealings.
Do NRIs require PAN?
As PAN is required for any financial transaction in India, an NRI will need to have a PAN card if he has an income in India. He also has to file returns if he wishes to invest in India, when he carries out banking transactions, if he purchases real estate or for any transaction mentioned above.
The increasing importance of PAN has increased the likeliness of PAN card identity theft. The safeguarding of the physical copy of the PAN card no longer assures that your card is not being misused. As a majority of transactions demand a photocopy of your PAN card, or simply quoting the Permanent Account Number, it is very easy for your information to be misused for high-ticket purchases or benami property transactions. A copy of your PAN card or simply its number can be quoted in transactions, which you are not even a part of.
Example of how your information can be misused: Recently, a consumer activist group revealed that the PAN card copy used in Railway ticket tatkal bookings were misused by several jewellers. When an individual produces his PAN to book the Tatkal tickets, this information is fed in the Indian Railways system and also displayed on the ticket, reservation chart and train coaches. Unscrupulous jewellers steal this information from such public displays and use it to furnish tax collected details while they sell jewellery of very high value to high-net worth individuals who do not wish to produce their PAN.
If this happens to you?
When your PAN card is illegally used, you may not even be aware of this for atleast six months after the wrong transaction. You can check for such benami transactions by going through your Form 26AS, which is a consolidated statement of tax deducted, along with other details. If you are a non-tax paying PAN card holder, you may not even be able to check this form. The Income Tax department will require the PAN card holder to prove that the transaction was not carried out by him, and also give details on his source of funds. This becomes very difficult and time-consuming. As a PAN card holder, you should take care while disclosing your PAN details to anyone. You must hand over only signed photocopies and try to reduce using PAN in all casual transactions as ID proof.
Phonetic PAN (PPAN)
The phonetic PAN (PPAN) is a new concept introduced to prevent a single PAN being allotted to more than one assessee with same or similar names. When PAN is allotted, the PPAN of the assessee is compared with the PPANs of all the assessees to whom PAN has been allotted in the country. A warning is sounded off if a matching PPAN is detected. A duplicate PPAN report is then generated. A new PAN can be allotted only if the Assessing Officer overrides this duplicate PPAN detection.
Thus, the PAN is a key document today and even takes predominance over your name as far as the tax authorities are concerned.
The author is CEO of Bankbazaar.com