Biometric PAN cards put on hold

The government does not want a duplication of effort as biometric details will be captured by the Unique Identity Authority of India

The Income-Tax department’s proposal to issue biometric PAN cards has been put on hold so as to avoid duplication with the UID numbers to be issued by the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI).

The biometric Permanent Account Number (PAN) card was proposed by then finance minister P Chidambaram in 2006 to counter the problem of duplicate PAN cards which were uncovered during I-T searches and raids by police and other enforcement agencies.

The proposed biometric PAN cards would have carried the income-tax payer’s fingerprints (two from each hand) and the face.

Such a card, it was hoped, would be difficult to duplicate or manipulate.

But after the UIDAI was set up last year, the Authority decided to create a database of similar biometric information for all residents of the country.

To avoid duplication of effort, a senior finance ministry official said, “The biometric PAN card project of the department has been kept in abeyance till the UID is rolled out. In the meantime, the suspension will allow the I-T department to understand and analyse whether after a biometric UID, a PAN with similar features would be necessary or not.”

The UID number, expected to roll out by the middle of next year, will capture the fingerprints of all ten fingers, the face and iris of an individual.

The UID Authority is preparing to roll out biometric numbers and hence it would not be appropriate for the I-T department to run a similar project in parallel, the official said.

The entire effort to have biometric PAN cards was to avoid duplication and stop fraudulent practices by tax-evaders and anti-nationals. The UID would achieve the same purpose, the official added.

Once the UID numbers start rolling out, a decision would be taken on whether the database could help the I-T department in stopping the misuse of PAN cards or whether the biometric PAN cards would be necessary, the official added.

The I-T department, in a number of cases, has uncovered several individuals possessing multiple PAN cards or forging the details.

While PAN is a 10-digit alphanumeric number allotted by the I-T department to taxpayers, biometrics is a biological method to identify physical features of an individual.

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