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What is a PAN number?

The PAN number, also known as the permanent account number has become an essential, though not compulsory document to have in India. It can be closely considered quite similar to the Social Security Number or SSN issued in USA (United States of America). Both are personal identification codes issued by their respective Government organization for the ease of tracking and maintaining financial and other related records.

There are a number of similarities as well as differences between the PAN number issued in India and the SSN issued in America.

These are as follows:

  • The PAN is a ten digit alphanumeric code, which is unique for every individual. On the other hand, the SSN is a nine digit personal identification number.

  • The PAN is issued by the department of income tax, government of India. The SSN is issued by the Social Security Administration of USA.

  • Both the SSN and the PAN serve as important and accepted proof of identification.

  • It is compulsory for every citizen of USA to have SSN. Previously, children above 14 years of age were bound to obtain it. Currently, the law has been modified and children of USA should have their SSN within the first year of their life.

    In India, it is not compulsory for everybody to obtain PAN. However, it is compulsory for everybody who files an income tax return in the country. Even if you do not have taxable income, you can obtain PAN. Finally, minors may or may not have a PAN card, depending on their income.

  • The SSN is the single most important personal identification tool used in the USA. You will have to supply it for every activity – whether you buy a property, get insurance, take out a mortgage or enroll in a college.

    The SSN was primarily created to keep track of the financial activities of individuals, but it has now evolved into personal identification number. The PAN is also created for the same purpose and it too is well on its way to becoming a universally accepted personal identification, though the process is not yet complete. You will have to quote your PAN number for a wide variety of transactions like buying and selling immovable property, buying a car, setting up a demat account or making deposits exceeding Rs. 50000.00 in bank or post office.

  • The Social security code is issued to all American individuals. Non citizens and temporary foreign workers are given special categories of SSN. In India, PAN is issued to all Indians who apply for it. It is also compulsory for the NRI to have PAN if he wants to carry on financial activities in India.

  • The SSN is only issued to individuals. However, PAN is issued to individuals as well as financial organizations like companies and trusts which carry on transactions in the country.

  • It is illegal for a person to have more than one SSN and it is illegal for a person to have more than one PAN.

The significance

From the above comparison, we can say that the SSN seems to be a mature version of the PAN. Keeping in mind the growing importance of PAN, it will probably be made mandatory for all in the coming years and it will begin to serve the same function as SSN.

At present, the PAN is an important document necessary for many transactions, be it making a large deposit or obtaining a land line connection. It is also widely accepted form of photo identity. So, it can be expected that PAN will play a key role similar to SSN in near future.


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