We provide our Permanent Account Number (PAN) at so many places -- to chartered accountants, to human resource and finance department executives at our workplaces, to mutual fund and insurance agents or bank representatives for Know-Your-Customer (KYC) requirements and also when entering the airport. Be careful next time you produce a copy of your PAN card, anywhere.
Because it is not very difficult for one to take note of your PAN card details, especially name and date of birth - these details are enough for one to check your crucial financial details on the Income Tax (I-T) Department's website.
Says Vaibhav Sankla, director at H&R Block India, a Pune-headquartered tax consultancy firm, "If an individual is not registered with the department's website, you can register the person if you know his full name (as on the PAN card), PAN number and date of birth. Once registered, you can easily view his Form 26AS or tax deduction at source (TDS)." Form 26AS is a consolidated tax statement issued to PAN holders. This statement includes details of TDS, tax collected at source (TCS) and advance tax / self assessment tax / regular assessment tax and so on, paid.
Of course, if one is registered with the I-T department's website then information leakage cannot happen.
Additionally, you can find a PAN number using the department's 'Know-your-PAN' service. It's very helpful for people who find it difficult to remember the 10-digit alpha numeric number. However, there's a catch. Even your good friends and relatives can find out about your PAN number, says Sudhir Kaushik, co-founder of Taxspanner.com, a Delhi-based e-return intermediary (ERI). The 'Know-your-PAN' service, can reveal your PAN number if one knows your date of birth, and (at times, optionally, father's name).
And, it is not uncommon to know your friends' and relatives' official full name, father's name and birthdays.
Does this mean someone can engage in fraud knowing your PAN number? Maybe not, say experts because financial institutions are very stringent about their KYC norms, and, hence, your financial accounts cannot be misused through the use of your PAN number. Experts don't rule out exceptions, though.
However, anyone who lays his hands on your PAN details can definitely get hold of your financial details, including taxes paid and returns filed. "The I-T department facilitates online filing of income tax returns, where one can use their PAN number as their user ID with a password of your choice. The department also provides support over e-mail, if you forget your password. Now, theoretically speaking, any of my friends can access my PAN account, either by registering my PAN number or by getting the password reset just by providing details like my PAN number and date of birth. This can give him / her access to all my I-T returns, and my financial situation," explains Kaushik.
Maybe the overall process of filing returns is not used for mass information leakage. But intrusions cannot be ruled out completely. Hence, experts advocate strengthening the procedure at the I-T department website to safeguard the information.