Permanent Account Number (PAN) is a ten-digit alphanumeric number, issued in the form of a laminated card, by the Income Tax Department, to any "person" who applies for it or to whom the department allots the number without an application.
PAN enables the department to link all transactions of the "person" with the department. These transactions include tax payments, TDS/TCS credits, returns of income, specified transactions, correspondence, and so on. PAN, thus, acts as an identifier for the "person" with the tax department.
PAN was introduced to facilitates linking of various documents, including payment of taxes, assessment, tax demand, tax arrears etc. relating to an assessee, to facilitate easy retrieval of information and to facilitate matching of information relating to investment, raising of loans and other business activities of taxpayers collected through various sources, both internal as well as external, for detecting and combating tax evasion and widening of tax base.
The primary purpose of the PAN is to bring a universal identification to all financial transactions and to prevent tax evasion by keeping track of monetary transactions, especially those of high-net-worth individuals who can impact the economy.
At present, PAN Service Centres are located in India only. However, foreign citizens may find the pseudo online mode of application more inconvenient. Signed physical documents must be sent by postal mail or courier to the NSDL PO Box in Pune (India) or UTIITSL address in Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, or Kolkata