Get an Aadhaar card if you don't have one

by Prasad Krishna last modified Apr 04, 2017 03:39 PM
The Aadhaar number has been made compulsory for filing tax return. With both the government and private parties insisting on it for various activities despite the Supreme Court's assertion that is not mandatory, you need to get one at the earliest.

The article by Priya Nair and Sanjay Kumar Singh was published in the Business Standard on March 27, 2017. Udbhav Tiwari was quoted.

Until now the need for an Aadhaar card arose if someone wanted to avail of the LPG subsidy, or if senior citizens wanted to enjoy a concession on train tickets. This 12-digit number, which is a proof of identity, is largely used by the government to distribute cash benefits and other subsidies under its welfare schemes. Since submitting the Aadhaar card at the time of opening a bank account, investing in a mutual fund, etc is optional (you can submit another proof of identity), many people have still not bothered to get one. That ambivalent attitude will now have to change.  

This year onwards all those filing income tax returns will have to furnish their Aadhaar number. There is a field in the income tax return form for Aadhaar number. Don’t forget to fill it this year. If you do not have an Aadhaar number, you will have to submit the enrolment number of your application for Aadhaar. "In case of failure to intimate the Aadhaar number, the PAN allotted to the person shall be deemed invalid and the other provisions of the Income Tax Act shall apply, as if the person has not applied for allotment of PAN," says Amarpal Chadha, tax partner, people advisory services, EY India.

Experts say that this step has been taken to deal with the problem of duplicate permanent account numbers (PAN) and to control black money. Says Kuldip Kumar, partner and leader-personal tax at PwC India: “Many people have more than one PAN, even though there is a penalty under the Income Tax Act for doing so. The government is linking PAN to Aadhaar to deal with this problem. This step will also help control black money. Whether you invest in stocks, shares, or do any other high-value transaction, over a period of time the tax department will be able to see all this information at the click of a button." Other experts also agree that this step will create an audit trail for various transactions. “Linking of Aadhaar and PAN will throw up any discrepancies in reported transactions and provide a ready database to the revenue authorities for necessary action,” says Vikas Vasal, partner, Grant Thornton India.

Interim problems
This measure is expected to create a slew of problems for people. Many individuals may still not have an Aadhaar card. They should apply for one post-haste. Everyone needs to check if their Aadhaar and PAN details match. If there are discrepancies between the two, get either your Aadhaar or PAN details updated so that you do not face problems at the time of filing returns. Details on how to update the Aadhaar and PAN are available on the web sites of UID and the IT department respectively (see box).  

Non-Resident Indians (NRI) and foreign nationals may also need to obtain an Aadhaar number now. Many NRIs have an income (before claiming any deduction) that exceeds the basic exemption limit of Rs 2.5 lakh, and hence file a tax return in India. Foreign nationals who have spent time in India and earned an income also need to file a tax return. Indian residents who have been sent by their companies to work abroad will also have to scramble for the card. "March is about to end and tax returns will have to be filed by the end of July. Persons who have to file a tax return but are abroad will face a challenge getting the Aadhaar card made in time since you have to be physically present in India for this purpose,’’ says Kumar. The government may possibly grant some leeway to such people.  

Even though the Supreme Court has said that Aadhaar is not mandatory, there are several instances where the authorities are insisting on it. Those applying for domicile proof and those who want to get their property registered are being asked to provide this number. Some telecom providers also insist on it before giving a connection. Schools are asking for it from students. You need it to appear for competitive exams like IIT JEE. Online providers of financial products insist on Aadhaar since it makes KYC easier. With the government moving strongly towards making Aadhaar compulsory, one can't escape complying with this regulation.  

Risks of an Aadhaar-centric system
There are several risks associated with Aadhaar, whose basic purpose is authentication and authorisation. The first problem arises from the fact that it is easily accessible to miscreants. Aadhaar numbers of thousands of people have been uploaded on the Internet. "Since the Aadhaar number has to be given at so many places, it can be misused to pull information about people from the centralised database. In the case of credit and debit cards, we are told not to shares these numbers publicly as the number is the first thing required for carrying out a transaction. That is not the case with Aadhaar. UID's position is that you should treat your Aadhaar number carefully. But the fact is that the Aadhaar number is not used carefully either by consumers or businesses. It is a fairly public number. With Aadhaar too much power is being vested in a number that is quite public,’’ says Udbhav Tiwari, policy officer, Centre for Internet and Society, Bengaluru.

Second, Aadhaar has a centralised database, and all centralised databases are vulnerable to hacking. Third, biometrics are not a very secure form of authentication. "Fingerprints are easy to forge. The UID says that the device (used to check the fingerprint) should not remember the biometrics but should only transfer it to UID which will verify the information. But miscreants could use a device that captures your biometrics," says Tiwari.  

Other documents used for identification like PAN and passport are not easy to duplicate because of their security features. PAN, for instance, has a hologram. The power of the passport lies not in the passport number but in the document. Without the passport one cannot travel internationally. But in case of Aadhaar one can go on the Internet and print a new Aadhaar card. “If somebody has managed to capture my fingerprint and has my Aadhaar number, he can use it wherever Aadhaar is required,’’ says Tiwari.