India is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and every year many thousands of workers from around the world move to India to start work on a temporary or permanent basis. Trying to understand the tax and administration systems in a new country can be confusing, but one of the key pieces of paperwork which anyone working in India needs is the PAN card, or Permanent Account Number.
Information on a PAN Card
The PAN numbers are issued by the Indian government’s Income Tax Department, and the PAN card application form is online to make it easier for new workers to register. The PAN number is unique to the individual and even if you change name through marriage or move house while you are living in India, the PAN will not change. PAN is not proof of Indian citizenship but can be used as identification as the card has the photo of the holder on it. You will need a PAN number for most financial transactions in India such as opening a bank account, receiving a salary or fees as a consultant, and for selling and buying property or other assets with a high value. PAN numbers are used to check that the correct amount of tax is being paid, and although having a PAN card is not compulsory, it is almost impossible to live and work in India without one. If you have an Aadhaar biometric identity card already, or are in the process of applying for one, you will still have to apply separately for a PAN card, but when completing the PAN card application form there is a section for Aadhaar data to allow the two records to be linked. PAN cards can also be issued to companies, associations, trusts and other organisations to allow them to make financial transactions legally too.
Getting Your PAN Card
A paperless PAN application form which is all completed online is probably the easiest way of applying for your PAN card. The Indian government’s computer system allows you to complete the paperwork digitally, then scan and upload any supporting documentation you have for your PAN application. This will include uploading a scanned photograph, passport, sample signature and other documents such as an employment contract or residence visa. There are different PAN application forms for Indian citizens and foreigners, so make sure you are completing the correct form or it will slow the application process. Also ensure that you are selecting the correct category for your application. If you are already in India, there is also the option of attending a PAN service centre in person, where agents can help with completing the PAN card application form and give guidance on the process and supporting documents. If you need to correct or change any details on a current PAN card, this can also be dome online.
How Long Does a PAN Card Application Take?
Normally, assuming the PAN card application form and supporting documents have been completed and submitted correctly, getting the PAN card back in the post will take between 2 and 3 weeks.
Why Do I Need a PAN Card?
Nobody likes filling in forms – it can be time consuming and confusing, and often just appears to be bureaucracy for the sake of it with no real point. However, if you’re working, paying tax or opening bank accounts in India there are certain administrative hoops which everyone must jump through, and one of these is getting your PAN card. The PAN card is the way in which the Indian financial and tax authorities identify you as an individual, and working and paying tax legally in India is impossible without a PAN card.
Who Needs a PAN Card?
It’s not just Indian nationals who need a PAN card to work, open bank accounts or sign up for a new phone contract, it’s many foreign workers too. The only exceptions are people employed by companies outside India who are only there for a short period and who aren’t eligible to pay tax in India. People who are running their own businesses with turnovers of around £10,000 sterling or more also must register them for a PAN card. PAN cards are needed when opening a bank account, buying or selling assets over a certain value or when paying money for overseas travel. Companies offering services such as mobile phones or rental property are also increasingly asking prospective customers for their PAN card to set up an account.
Applying for your PAN Card
There are two routes you can follow to apply for a PAN card. The first route is to make an appointment at one of the Tax Information Network (TIN) or PAN card information centres which are in most major Indian towns and cities. During the appointment, the adviser will take you through the process and help you with supporting documents which you might require. This is a good option if you are already in India. If you are a foreign worker who has yet to move and are trying to get paperwork in order first, then the PAN Card online method is more appropriate. User the Indian government websites to register as a user, apply for the PAN card online, scan and upload your supporting paperwork and make any updates and changes as required. The PAN card online system also supports credit card payments from people who are currently overseas, and you can ask for your PAN card to be sent to your foreign address, although this will cost more than having it posted to an Indian address. People who have already moved to India may still find it more convenient to follow the PAN Card online application route as the websites are open around the clock and a separate appointment with an adviser is not needed.
Using your PAN Card
PAN Cards are unique to the individual and feature both your signature and photograph. Often you will be asked to show the card as proof of identity, and simply filling in the number on a form is not enough. You will need to show your PAN Card when starting a new job or when depositing or withdrawing money from the bank, so keep it with you at all times.