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.
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.
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.
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.