NEW DELHI : Although separate identity documents, PAN and Aadhaar cards now have at least two things in common. In the last few months, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the finance ministry have made changes in the use of both PAN (Permanent Account Number) and Aadhaar, making the two id cards similar in two ways.

While PAN is a 10-digit alphanumeric code issued by the income tax department, Aadhaar is a 13-digit unique identity number randomly assigned to applicants by UIDAI after collecting biometric data.

Interchangeability of PAN and Aadhaar cards:

Having made it mandatory to interlink the two, the government has now made PAN and Aadhaar cards interchangeable but only for filing of income tax returns (ITR). Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced in this year's budget that those who do not have PAN can file income tax returns by simply quoting their Aadhaar number.

Taxpayers can use Aadhaar number wherever they are required to quote PAN. However, it doesn't mean that you do not require to link PAN with Aadhaar.

Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) chairman Pramod Chandra Mody has already clarified that in cases where Aadhaar is being quoted and PAN is not linked to it, the income tax department might allot a fresh PAN to the person filing ITR.

In this way, the two will be linked automatically. The finance ministry has extended the cut-off date for linking PAN with Aadhaar to September 30.

UIDAI has issued over 120 Aadhaar numbers while the income tax department has issued 41 crore PAN cards so far. Only about have been

Out of these, 22 crore PANs are linked with Aadhaar.

e-Aadhaar, e-PAN:

Signed digitally and issued in a PDF format, both e-Aadhaar and e-PAN are as good as their physical copies.

According to the Aadhaar Act, Aadhaar numbers, whether issued in physical or electronic format, can be accepted as proof of identity of the Aadhaar card holder.

The downloaded Aadhaar (e-Aadhaar) card is a digitally-signed document by UIDAI as per IT Act, 2000, which provides for legal recognition of electronic records with digital signatures.

According to a UIDAI circular, downloaded Aadhaar card or e-Aadhaar is a valid and secure electronic document which is at par with the printed Aadhaar letter.

PAN card, too, has been given the same privilege with the issuance of e-PAN. All new applicants of PAN card, whether from UTI-TSL or NSDL-TIN, are being already issued e-PAN on their email ids.

Existing PAN account holders can also obtain their e-PAN by from the websites of their respective issuing agency - UTI or NSDL.

New applicants now have the option of applying only for an e-PAN card which means that in such cases physical PAN card copies will not be issued.

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