Tens of thousands of people may not be able to file income tax returns for the coming financial year as they are unable to link their Aadhaar to their PANs, for no fault of theirs.
Since a person’s identity is authenticated biometrically, Aadhaar can allow initials in the name. On the other hand, PAN is based on an old system that will not accept initials even if they are entered. A large number of people, especially in south India, are not being able to link the two because of the name mismatch, officials of the Income Tax Department told
“This is a problem we have encountered a number of times since the linkage process started,” an official said. “In Aadhaar and passport, a person’s identity is tied to their biometrics, so their name on the document can have initials. The PAN software is at least 30 years old, and even if we enter initials, it will not accept them.”
“This is a problem that has come up because the two separate software systems are at different levels of sophistication,” he said. “The number of people affected is at least in tens of thousands, and the problem is even more in south India where the names are very long, and abbreviated in many cases.”
The government has mandated that PAN and Aadhaar be linked for filing income tax returns from the next fiscal, a decision the Supreme Court has upheld.
“This has been a major pain for me..., ” B. Rangarajan, a lawyer in Bangaluru, said. “It is affecting my entire family, and I have heard the same problem from many of my friends. My name in my Aadhaar and passport is with the first name abbreviated. In the PAN, the full name is given. Every time I try to link the two, it gives me an error message, saying it cannot be done because of a name mismatch,” he said.
Income tax officials have said the changes will have to be made in the other identity documents.
“There are no plans as yet to upgrade our systems to allow abbreviations,” the official said. “It is a sensitive issue since a person’s PAN records are extremely important for us to track him over time. The only way is for people to change their names on Aadhaar to reflect what is in PAN. They will have no problems linking them then.”
Those facing the problem have said this is a sub-optimal solution because it will lead to a name mismatch in key identity documents such as Aadhaar and passport. “My PAN is provided only once a year to the government, but passport is used much more regularly since I have to travel for work,” S.T. Sundarashekharan, a doctor in Chennai, said. “What sense does it make for me to change the name on the more frequently used documents than the one I barely use? What use is all this digital push and what not if I must still do manual changes?”