Most folks cannot really tell the difference between an Aadhaar Card and a PAN Card. It is perhaps because these two cards are often used interchangeably in the establishment and validation of the cardholder’s identity. However, other than this identity proof similarity, there’s really nothing else that will make one think that Aadhaar and PAN Cards are one and the same. Here is how to differentiate an Aadhaar Card from a PAN Card.

The PAN Card

First and foremost, the PAN Card is an important instrument in filing income tax returns as well as any other form of tax that are attributed to the economic and financial activities of the person or entity holding the card. As such, the principal purpose of the PAN Card is in making sure that the individual is a law-abiding taxpayer in India.

It is for this reason that the Permanent Account Number Card is considered mandatory for anyone and everyone who is earning any form of income within a given fiscal year. It is a principal document required for any major financial, investment, business, or economic transaction to proceed smoothly and without any legal impediments. It is also for this reason that even foreign individuals and entities conducting business or deriving income in the country are required by law to have a PAN Card.

The PAN Card consists of a string of 10 characters combining letters and numbers to provide a unique alphanumeric identifier for the cardholder. Its principal use is to ensure that the cardholder is paying his taxes correctly and on time. As such it can only be issued by the Income Tax Department and any of its authorized centers.

The Aadhaar Card

On the other hand, the Aadhaar Card is primarily geared for the establishment of the national identity of the bearer of the card. As such it is only made available to Indian nationals, on a voluntary basis, to make sure that only legitimate locals will be given access to many of the government’s socialized or subsidized services such as the provision of food and water rations and fuel or gas subsidies. Many of these services are not available to the country’s poorest. Having these services subsidized means that even the most indigent individuals and families can avail of such services provided they have the Aadhaar Card issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India.

In addition to the usual personal information collected during the application process, Aadhaar Card holders are also required to provide biometric information to be embedded into their cards. The Aadhaar Card features a string of 12 numbers as its main identifier.

The Bottom Line

Differentiating Aadhaar Card from PAN Card is easy. Aadhaar Card is voluntary in nature, is issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India, available only to Indian nationals, and is geared for providing socialized services to bona-fide cardholders. The PAN Card is a mandatory requirement for all taxpayers both locals and foreigners alike. It’s issued by the Income Tax Department and is primarily geared for establishing a record of a taxpayer’s economic and financial activities.